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Bell v. Clayton

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

January 10, 2020

CEDRIC BELL, Plaintiff,
CASEY CLAYTON, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of self-represented plaintiff Cedric Bell for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court will grant the motion and waive the initial partial filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint, the Court will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued against the defendants in their individual capacities.

         Initial Partial Filing Fee

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his or her prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10, until the riling fee is fully paid. Id.

         Plaintiff has submitted an application to proceed in the district court without prepaying fees or costs. Where the form application states that an inmate must submit a certified prison account statement with the application, plaintiff wrote: "Refuse by D.C.J.C." The Court interprets this to mean that the institution where plaintiff is being detained, Dunklin County Justice Center, has refused to provide an account statement. In his form application, however, plaintiff states that he has no money in cash or in any checking or savings account. ECF No. 2 at 2. Taking this into consideration, the Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) ("In no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action ... for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee.").

         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, is 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 apro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court accepts the well-plead 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 plaintiffs 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 pro se complaints 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 the pro se plaintiff that assumed facts that had not been pleaded).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the Dunklin County Justice Center ("DCJC"), filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his civil rights against three employees at DCJC: (1) Casey Clayton (supervisor correctional officer); (2) Connor Bishop (correctional officer); and (3) Ruby Unknown (correctional officer). Plaintiff names all three defendants in their individual capacities only.

         Plaintiffs complaint is based on an incident of alleged excessive force by defendants. The statement of his claim is as follows:

On Sept. 9, 2019, 1, Cedric Bell #15329 was handcuffed in cell #125 when c/o Connor Bishop rush[ed] me into the wall, then with evil motives start[ed] choking me. Then Supervisor Casey Clayton instead of interven[ing to] stop[] c/o Connor he deployed his taser and dry-stunned tazed me in the neck and c/o Ruby (unknown last name) came over and place[d] another taser to my leg. I [received a] laceration to my left wrist and pain to my chest. These officers by [doing] this violated my 4th amendment of the Constitution.

ECF No. 1 at 3. Plaintiff summarizes his injuries as "laceration to the left wrist, chest pain, and pain suffering." Id. at 5. For relief, plaintiff seeks ...

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