High Bear v. Dooley
ORDER Dismissing Case. Signed by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier on 6/11/2013. (KC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
MRS. SHELLEY RAE HIGH BEAR,
ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Shelley Rae High Bear, filed a pro se civil rights lawsuit
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and requests leave to proceed in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Docket 1; Docket 4. High Bear also requests the
appointment of counsel. Docket 3.
A federal court may authorize the commencement of any lawsuit without
prepayment of fees when an applicant submits an affidavit stating he or she is
unable to pay the costs of the lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). “[I]n forma
pauperis status does not require a litigant to demonstrate absolute
destitution.” Lee v. McDonald’s Corp., 231 F.3d 456, 459 (8th Cir. 2000). But in
forma pauperis status is a privilege, not a right. Williams v. McKenzie, 834 F.2d
152, 154 (8th Cir. 1987). Therefore, determining whether an applicant is
sufficiently impoverished to qualify to proceed in forma pauperis under § 1915
is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. Cross v. Gen. Motors
Corp., 721 F.2d 1152, 1157 (8th Cir. 1983).
According to High Bear’s affidavit, she has been unemployed since March
2013, and she derives monthly income from disability benefits. Docket 4 at 2.
High Bear’s monthly expenses exceed her monthly income. Id. at 4–5. High
Bear has thus made the requisite financial showing to qualify for in forma
pauperis status. But the inquiry does not end there. Under § 1915, the court is
required to screen High Bear’s complaint to determine whether any claims
should be dismissed. The court must dismiss an action or any portion thereof if
the plaintiff has raised a claim that “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state
a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.” § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)–(iii).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A claim “is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore,
dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is “based on an indisputably meritless
legal theory” or where the factual contentions “are clearly baseless.” Id. at 327.
The court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim when “it appears
beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45–46 (1957).
In reviewing a complaint under this standard, “[t]he court must presume that
the factual allegations in the complaint are true and accord all reasonable
inferences from those facts to the [pleader].” Valiant-Bey v. Morris, 829 F.2d
1441, 1443 (8th Cir. 1987) (citing Holloway v. Lockhart, 792 F.2d 760, 762 (8th
Pro se complaints, “ ‘however inartfully pleaded,’ [are] held to ‘less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’ ” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)); see also Frey v. City of Herculaneum, 44 F.3d 667, 671 (8th Cir. 1995)
(noting that “civil rights pleadings should be construed liberally”). Nonetheless,
a pro se complaint must comply with the minimal requirements set forth in the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which specifically require pleadings to contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Moreover, although a pro se complaint need not
contain detailed factual allegations, it must “allege facts sufficient to support
the claims advanced.” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004). The
court is not required to “supply additional facts, nor will [it] construct a legal
theory that assumes facts that have not been pleaded.” Id. (citing Dunn v.
White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989)). Finally, a pro se complaint must
contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007). If the complaint does not contain these bare essentials,
dismissal is appropriate. Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir.
“[T]o state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
sufficient facts to show ‘(1) that the defendant(s) acted under color of state law,
and (2) that the alleged wrongful conduct deprived the plaintiff of a
constitutionally protected federal right.’ ” Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 848
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Schmidt v. City of Bella Villa, 557 F.3d 564, 571 (8th
Cir. 2009)). In the instant case, High Bear claims that Warden Dooley violated
her due process rights by temporarily suspending her visitation rights with her
husband, who is currently incarcerated at Mike Durfee State Prison in
Springfield, South Dakota. Docket 1 at 1. To remedy the alleged violation, High
Bear requests that Dooley be discharged from his current position and from his
upcoming appointment. Id. at 3. Furthermore, High Bear requests that her
visitation rights be reinstated, and that she be awarded $83,000—$3,000 for
the cost of phone calls she has placed in the absence of visitation, and $80,000
for emotional anguish and severe depression. Id. at 3–4.
The facts asserted in High Bear’s complaint do not state a claim on
which relief may be granted. High Bear alleges that defendant unjustifiably
removed High Bear from her husband’s visitation list for an act she did not
commit. Docket 1 at 3. More specifically, High Bear represents that her
husband was found wearing a ring that prison officials believe was given to him
by High Bear. Id. According to High Bear, however, the ring her husband was
wearing “was from inmate Sam Herrald, who [High Bear] had called in a
complaint that he was demanding [High Bear] place money on his prison phone
account for the ring.” Id.
Even accepting these allegations as true, the court finds that High Bear
has failed to state a violation of a constitutionally protected federal right
because there is no constitutional right to visitation. Ware v. Morrison, 276
F.3d 385 (8th Cir. 2002). Accordingly, the court finds that High Bear has failed
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and the instant complaint is
dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). It is
ORDERED that High Bear’s motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis (Docket 4) is granted. The filing fee is waived.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that High Bear’s complaint (Docket 1) is
dismissed without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that High Bear’s motion to appoint counsel
(Docket 3) is denied as moot.
Dated June 11, 2013.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Karen E. Schreier
KAREN E. SCHREIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE