Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wilson v. Lorts

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 6, 2020

STEVE LORTS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the amended complaint of self-represented litigant Anthony Russell Wilson, II. Doc. 12. The Court previously granted plaintiff in forma pauperis status and reviewed his § 1983 complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Doc. 9. Based on that review, the Court directed plaintiff to file an amended complaint on a Court-provided form and in compliance with the Court's instructions. The Court warned plaintiff that his amended complaint would also be reviewed under § 1915. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will partially dismiss the amended complaint and will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the non-frivolous portions of the amended complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a self-represented litigant's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true, White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984), and liberally construes the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A “liberal construction” means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the district court should construe the plaintiff's complaint in a way that permits his or her claim to be considered within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). However, even complaints filed by self-represented litigants are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). See also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (refusing to supply additional facts or to construct a legal theory for a self-represented plaintiff that assumed facts not pleaded).


         Plaintiff was a federal pretrial detainee when he brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his complaint, plaintiff named six defendants associated with Phelps County Jail, in both their individual and official capacities: (1) Phelps County Jail Administration; (2) Sergeant Unknown Lorts; (3) Sergeant Unknown Dowdi; (4) Correctional Officer Unknown Jones; (5) Correctional Officer Unknown Reed; and (6) Lieutenant Unknown Shultz.

         Plaintiff alleged that on or around May 3, 2018, Sergeant Lorts found plaintiff guilty of a disciplinary violation based on accusations of Correctional Officer Jones without “any fair evaluation of the facts.” Doc. 4 at 2. After the finding, plaintiff was locked in a suicide cell “with no bedding, no property (other than the clothing [he] was wearing), no hygiene, no toilet, no sink, no shower, no food and 24 hour lighting” for five days. Id. Plaintiff also asserted that while confined at Phelps County Jail, he was “treated differently than the other inmates and taunted and threatened by Sergeant Dowdi [and] Sergeant Lorts.” Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleged his five-day suicide cell placement was in retaliation for the many grievances he had previously filed about the conditions at Phelps County Jail. Plaintiff described his legal claims as: “cruel and unusual punishment, deliberate indifference, and denied civil liberties and due process at Phelps County Jail.” Id.

         As to defendant Phelps County Jail Administration, plaintiff also alleged he was deprived of his liberty and due process when it “violated their federal contract according to title 18 U.S.C.A. § 4013, title 18 U.S.C.A. § 4806, and also title 28 C.F.R. § 40 standards for Inmate Grievance Procedure, Subpart A and Subpart B; where they have not exercised any firm effort to fully comply with the standards.” Doc. 4 at 4.

         The Court reviewed plaintiff's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and found many allegations failed to state a claim. See Doc. 9. Plaintiff's official capacity claims were subject to dismissal because he did not allege Phelps County Jail Administration had an unconstitutional policy or custom, or was deliberately indifferent in failing to train its employees. Additionally, Phelps County Jail Administration was subject to dismissal because a jail is not a suable entity. As to plaintiff's individual capacity claims, the Court found plaintiff did not clearly state which specific factual allegations were being made against each individual defendant. Because the plaintiff is self-represented, the Court directed him to file an amended complaint to cure the pleading deficiencies.

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff filed his amended 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint on October 22, 2019, against the same six defendants with spelling changes and the inclusion of full names: (1) Sergeant Steve Lorts; (2) Sergeant Scott Dowdy; (3) Correctional Officer Charlene Jones; (4) Correctional Officer Sarah Reed; (5) Lieutenant Matt Shults; and (6) Phelps County. Defendants Lorts, Dowdy, Reed, and Jones are named in their individual capacities only. Defendant Shults is named in both his individual and official capacities.

         Plaintiff asserts similar allegations as in his initial complaint. According to plaintiff, on May 3, 2018, he was placed into a suicide cell by defendants Dowdy, Lorts, Reed, and an unknown officer. Once there, Lorts read a disciplinary report to plaintiff accusing him of a conduct violation based on accusations of defendant Correctional Officer Jones. Lorts “informed [plaintiff] that [he] was guilty of the accusation(s) in the disciplinary report and immediately sentenced [him] to an incalculable amount of days in disciplinary segregation and/or administrative segregation.” Doc. 12 at 5 ¶ 1. “Lorts demanded that [plaintiff] sign the accused disciplinary report or either be denied the opportunity to appeal.” Id. Plaintiff requested and was denied a “fair evaluation of the facts.” Id. Subsequently, plaintiff was locked in a suicide cell for “approximately 5 days with no bedding, no property (other than the clothes [he] was wearing at the time [he] was placed in the suicide cell), no hygiene, no toilet, no sink, no shower, no food, and a 24 hour lighting with nothing but a sewage hole in the floor.” Id. Plaintiff states he was allowed out of the suicide cell on the third day when Lorts brought him upstairs to the Sheriff's Department to be interviewed by a Deputy Sheriff Jones.[1] Id. at 6 ¶ 2. Plaintiff was then placed back in the suicide cell under the same conditions for another two days until he was removed, allowed to shower, and placed in a “regular” cell. Id. at 6 ¶¶ 2a-3. Approximately two weeks and two days later, plaintiff was moved to a cell “within the closet area of housing unit G, ” so defendants Lorts and Jones could allegedly “keep him isolated outside the normal operations of Phelps County Jail.” Id. at 7 ¶ 4a.

         Plaintiff alleges Lorts violated his due process rights by finding him guilty on the disciplinary violation “without a hearing, ” where plaintiff could have prepared or presented exculpatory evidence in his defense, presented witnesses in his defense, and possibly presented the Phelps County Jail's videotaped footage of the event in question. Id. at 5 ¶ 1b, 7 ¶ 4. As for his five days in the suicide cell, plaintiff alleges the conditions were “serious deprivations of basic human needs and the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, ” such that the conditions constituted an “atypical and significant hardship.” Id. at 5 ¶ 1a.

         Plaintiff's allegations as to the “deliberately indifferent” five-day suicide cell placement are directed at all five of the individual defendants despite the fact defendant Shults was not present when plaintiff was initially found “guilty” of the violation and placed in the cell. Id. at 5 ¶ 1-1a, 6 ¶ 2a. Plaintiff alleges Shults and the other four individual defendants were aware of the deprivations he was suffering and none of them did anything to “remedy the unconstitutional conditions.” Id. at 6 ¶ 2a. Plaintiff also alleges Shults violated his “liberty interest” by “establish[ing] disciplinary hearing procedures for Phelps ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.