Stevens et al v. Towns et al
ORDER directing the Clerk to mail a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint form to each Plaintiff with this Order. If Plaintiffs wish to amend their Complaint, they must file such within twenty one days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff's Complaint, as it now stands, contains deficiencies which may result in the dismissal of some of their claims. Service is not appropriate at this time. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 5/27/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
BRANDON LEE STEVENS, #652517;
CHRISTOPHER WALRAVEN, #141110
TOWNS; et al.
Brandon Stevens and Christopher Walraven (“Plaintiffs”) filed this lawsuit pro se pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiffs, however, have failed to state a claim on which relief
may be granted against three defendants, and one of the Plaintiffs makes no claims at all.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires federal courts to screen prisoner complaints
seeking relief against a governmental entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court
must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that: (a) are legally
frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (c) seek
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A)(b).
An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can 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).
The factual allegations must be weighted in favor of Plaintiff. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). “In other words, the § 1915(d) frivolousness determination,
frequently made sua sponte before the defendant has even been asked to file an answer, cannot serve
as a factfinding process for the resolution of disputed facts.” Id. But regardless of whether a
plaintiff is represented or appearing pro se, his “complaint must contain specific facts supporting its
conclusions.” See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).
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. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement,” but it asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts
that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility
and plausibility” of entitlement to relief. Id. at 557.
Title 42 of the United States Code, section 1983 allows an individual to bring suit against
persons who, under color of state law, have caused him to be “depriv[ed] of any rights, privileges,
or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1996).
Section 1983 itself “creates no substantive rights; it merely provides remedies for deprivation of
rights established elsewhere.” City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985) (citations
omitted). In order to state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential
elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and
(2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
The Court begins by noting that Mr. Walraven, though listed as a plaintiff, is only mentioned
in the Statement of Claim in a list of witnesses (Doc. No. 1 at 7). In the absence of specific
allegations against named defendants, Mr. Walraven has failed to state a claim upon which relief can
The allegations against Defendant Beck fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
Defendant Beck receives no specific mention in the Statement of Claim. Rather, he is implicated
only in an alleged meeting of “all the defendants” during which it was allegedly decided to reveal
to other inmates Mr. Stevens’s past history as an informant (Doc. 1 at 4).
While the Court construes pro se filings liberally, a complaint must amount to more than
vague or conclusory allegations or unsupported generalizations. Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657,
663 (8th Cir. 1985). All complaints, including those filed pro se, must contain specific facts
supporting their conclusions. Allen v. Purkett, 5 F.3d 1151, 1153 (8th Cir. 1993).
Other than the alleged meeting of all defendants, Plaintiffs’ sole allegation against Defendant
Coleman is that he is engaged in sexual misconduct with Defendant Scales (Doc. No. 1 at 7). This
allegation fails to state a cognizable claim pursuant to § 1983.
Finally, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Towns dismissed Stevens from his maintenance job
(Id. at 5-6), and that Towns asked Stevens how many times he had been sent to prison (Id. at 6). Mr.
Stevens interpreted this question as a threatening suggestion to “just ignore all of this.” (Id.) Neither
of these allegations implicate constitutional misconduct. Prisoners have no constitutional right to
a particular prison job. Lomholt v. Holder, 287 F.3d 683, 684 (8th Cir. 2002). The question by
Towns, on its own, does not violate Stevens’s constitutional rights. Notably, Plaintiffs do not allege
that any retaliatory conduct was actually taken against them for filing grievances or initiating this
Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
against three defendants. In addition, Plaintiff Walraven makes no claims against any of the
defendants. Plaintiffs, if they choose, may submit to the Court, within twenty-one (21) days of the
entry date of this Order, a superseding Amended Complaint which contains all of their claims against
all defendants they are suing in a single document.
Plaintiffs are cautioned that an Amended Complaint renders their original Complaint without
legal effect. Only claims properly set out in the Amended Complaint will be allowed to proceed.
Therefore, Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint should 1) name all the parties they believe deprived them
of their constitutional rights and whom they wish to sue in this action; 2) provide specific facts
against each named defendant in a simple, concise, and direct manner, including dates, times, and
places, if applicable; 3) indicate whether they are suing each defendant in his/her individual or
official capacity, or in both capacities; 4) how Plaintiffs were harmed; and 5) state whether they were
incarcerated at the time as pretrial detainees.
The Court is sensitive to the fact that pro se litigants like Plaintiffs are not trained in the law
and will give deference to a pro se plaintiff where the law requires. However, all parties, including
pro se litigants, must comply with substantive and procedural law. Brown v. Frey, 806 F.2d 801,
804 (8th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted). Accordingly, the Court will only consider claims properly
pled in a complaint or in a superseding amended complaint. Additionally, the Court will not
consider claims stated in notices or other pleadings not filed in compliance with the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.
Plaintiffs must also comply with the Local Rules of the Court. Of particular note to pro se
plaintiffs is Rule 5.5(C)(2), which states:
Parties appearing pro se. It is the duty of any party not represented by counsel to
promptly notify the Clerk and the other parties to the proceedings of any change in
his or her address, to monitor the progress of the case, and to prosecute or defend the
action diligently. A party appearing for himself/herself shall sign his/her pleadings
and state his/her address, zip code, and telephone number. If any communication
from the Court to a pro se plaintiff is not responded to within thirty (30) days, the
case may be dismissed without prejudice. Any party proceeding pro se shall be
expected to be familiar with and follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Loc. R. 5.5(C)(2).
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that:
The Clerk shall mail a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint form to each Plaintiff with this
Order. If Plaintiffs wish to amend their Complaint, they may complete a new complaint form in its
entirety in accordance with this Order, mark it as “Amended Complaint,” and file it within twentyone (21) days of the date of this Order.
Plaintiffs’ Complaint, as it now stands, contains deficiencies which may result in the
dismissal of some of their claims after twenty-one days of the date of this Order.
Service is not appropriate at this time.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 27th day of May, 2014.
JOE J. VOLPE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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