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Metzger v. Dalton

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

January 13, 2020

WESLEY C. DALTON, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff William Joseph Metzger, II for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the filing fee, and will waive the initial partial filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, this action will be dismissed.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)

         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 the Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of his motion, plaintiff has submitted a certified inmate account statement. (Docket No. 3). The statement shows that over a six-month period, plaintiff made deposits totaling only $2.95. As a result, the Court will not require plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) (stating that a prisoner shall not be prohibited from bringing a civil action for the reason the prisoner has “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, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “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 upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must “accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016). See also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372-73 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that court must accept factual allegations in complaint as true, but is not required to “accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction. 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 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 (8thCir. 2004) (stating that federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted 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 is a pro se litigant currently incarcerated at the Central Florida Reception Center in Orlando, Florida. He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint names Judge Wesley C. Dalton, Prosecutor Michael Wright, Judge Keith M. Sutherland, and Prosecutor Jennifer Bartlett as defendants. (Docket No. 1 at 2-3). The defendants are sued in their official capacities only.

         Plaintiff's “Statement of Claim” is contained in a 43-page attachment to the complaint. His claim arises from his contention that he was deprived of his right to a probation revocation hearing before the expiration of his probation on July 6, 2010, and that he was maintained on probation after that date due to a detainer. (Docket No. 1-1 at 1).

         Plaintiff states that on September 1, 2004, he was charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident - injury, property damage or second offense, a felony.[1] (Docket No. 1-1 at 13). He explains that while driving on I-70, “a very fast speeding 18-wheeler” forced him off the road. Claiming that his cell phone battery was dead, that he was shaken, and that he did not know what to do, plaintiff drove off rather than remain at the scene. Eventually, plaintiff was picked up on a warrant in Illinois and extradited back to Warren County. (Docket No. 1-1 at 14).

         Plaintiff was released on a recognizance bond. He went to St. Petersburg, Florida, and missed his scheduled court appearance. (Docket No. 1-1 at 15). A warrant was issued. Plaintiff was picked up in Florida and extradited to Warren County. (Docket No. 1-1 at 16).

         Plaintiff went to court on July 6, 2005, having not yet spoken to an attorney. He pled guilty and was sentenced to four years' imprisonment. (Docket No. 1-1 at 17). The sentence was suspended, and he was given five years of supervised probation. (Docket No. 1-1 at 18). Plaintiff states that his waiver of counsel and his guilty plea was made under duress, and that he was deprived of his right to counsel, as well as his right to prepare a defense. (Docket No. 1-1 at 17).

         After his second meeting with a probation officer, plaintiff used his SSI check to purchase “a very fair[, ] nice car, ” and returned to Florida. (Docket No. 1-1 at 18). At some point thereafter, as plaintiff was exiting I-10 on his way to Highway 275 in Florida, he was pulled over by a state trooper. (Docket No. 1-1 at 18-19). He was arrested for D.W.I. and driving on a suspended license. (Docket No. 1-1 at 19). He was taken to the Alachua County Jail in Gainesville, Florida.

         Prosecutor Wright filed a motion for probation revocation on October 19, 2005. A warrant was issued for his arrest on October 31, 2005, and a detainer placed on him on February 7, 2006. (Docket No. 1-1 at 19-20). While awaiting disposition of his charges in Alachua County, plaintiff filed “several” motions with the Missouri circuit court. (Docket No. 1-1 at 20). His first motion was a “motion for modification of sentence” filed on April 17, 2006. The motion was denied by Judge Sutherland. Plaintiff also filed a motion for “notice of change of address” and a motion for “notice of [inquiry].”

         In July 2006, plaintiff was sentenced to serve two years in the Florida Department of Corrections. During this time period, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.[2] (Docket No. 1-1 at 20-21). The petition was ultimately denied.

         On July 1, 2007, plaintiff finished his Florida sentence. (Docket No. 1-1 at 21). Upon his release, he was taken to the Washington County Jail in Chipley, Florida, to be held pending extradition back to Missouri. He was in the Washington County Jail approximately twenty days before U.S. Marshals came to transport him. (Docket No. 1-1 at 22). According to plaintiff, the U.S. Marshals refused to transport because he is HIV positive. (Docket No. 1-1 at 7-8). Thereafter, plaintiff states that he was released, and then “taken to the county line” by a sheriff's deputy and left at a gas station approximately one-hundred miles from where he “was needing to go.” (Docket No. 1-1 at 22). He states this situation arose ...

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