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Garrett v. Minchin

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

January 6, 2020

SUSAN MINCHIN, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon review of a complaint filed by plaintiff Mason Ibra Garrett, who presently resides at the Metropolitan St. Louis Psychiatric Center (“MSLPC”).[1] For the reasons explained below, the Court will allow plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis in these proceedings, and will dismiss the complaint without prejudice.

         This action originated in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, where the instant complaint was filed on or about November 21, 2019. On December 2, 2019, the Honorable Greg Kays entered an order transferring the case to this Court on the basis of venue. Judge Kays also granted plaintiff provisional leave to proceed in forma pauperis. This Court has reviewed plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and the financial information therein, and has determined to allow plaintiff to continue proceeding in forma pauperis in this action.

         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, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. An action is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded facts, but need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         This Court must liberally construe complaints filed by laypeople. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). This means that “if the essence of an allegation is discernible, ” the court should “construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.” Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). However, even pro se complaints must 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). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that are not alleged, Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15, nor are they required to interpret procedural rules so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following defendants, all of whom are employed either by the SLMPC or the Missouri Department of Mental Health (“MDMH”): treating psychiatrist Dr. Susan Minchin, social workers Emily Kamp and Jeff Moellen, dietician Rachel Pulley, Rehabilitation Services Director Jon Petri, psychologist Erik Hazebrouck, music therapist Chris Buchmann, quality management employee Matthew Smigell, forensic psychologist Laura Rosen, Director of Psychology Debra Luechtefeld, Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Feaman, Eastern Region Executive Officer Laurent D. Javois, Division of Behavioral Health Director Richard N. Gowdy, Director Mark Stringer, and nurse Leah Kaiser. Plaintiff also names Governor Michael L. Parson as a defendant. Plaintiff sues all of the defendants in their official capacities.

         Plaintiff claims that his due process rights were violated when the “Department of Mental Health” requested an extension of time within which to perform a mental health examination. (ECF No. 1 at 7). Plaintiff alleges this was done “in the name of Michael L. Parson, Mark Stringer, Richard N. Gowdy, Laurent D. Javois, Kimberly Feaman, and upheld by Debra Luechtefeld, Matthew Smigell, after being presented by the treatment team Dr. Susan Minchin, Chris Bachmann, Rachel Pulley, Jon Petri, Leah Kaiser, [and initiated] by Laura Rosen.” Id.

         In support of this claim, plaintiff alleges he had a “court order on a case that bears the case no. 18PU-CR01206-01[2] which stated that no later than 6 months from 5/22/2019 the Director of the D.M.H., or qualified designee, shall examine defendant to ascertain (1) whether the defendant is mentally fit, (2) if not, if the defendant will attain the mental fitness to proceed.” Id. at 8. Plaintiff writes: “now if ascertain means to find out with certainty, then how can one know with certainty whether I am mentally fit or not without taking the competency test within the permitted time stipulated within the court order?” Id. Plaintiff writes “thus infringing upon the 14th Amendment of the due process of law” by purposely and knowingly ignoring “procedural law when the D.M.H. requested an extension of time without examining to ascertain within the 6 months provided in the court order.” Id. As relief, plaintiff seeks dismissal of case number 18PU-CR01206-01, “a sum of money not exceeding 10 million but no less than 5 million, ” and release from confinement. Id. at 9.


         Plaintiff seeks to hold the defendants liable under § 1983 for violating his due process rights by requesting an extension of time to perform a mental health examination. The Court will consider whether plaintiff's allegations state a plausible procedural or substantive due process claim.

         To establish a procedural due process violation, plaintiff must show a protected interest, and he must also show that he was deprived of that interest without sufficient process. Swipies v. Kofka, 419 F.3d 709, 715 (8th Cir. 2005) (quotations and citations omitted). “The due process clause ensures every individual subject to a deprivation the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.” Id. “The circumstances of the deprivation dictate what procedures are necessary to satisfy this guarantee.” Id. Here, the Court will presume that plaintiff's allegations show a protected interest. However, plaintiff's allegations do not establish he was deprived of that interest without sufficient process. Plaintiff's allegations establish that the State court ordered the mental health examination to be performed by November 22, 2019, and that the “Department of Mental Health” requested a single extension of time within that period. Plaintiff alleges nothing permitting the inference he was denied the opportunity to be ...

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