Jones v. Missouri Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause process to issue, because the complaint is legally frivolous and fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B).A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge Jean C. Hamilton on 5/8/14. (CSG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on transfer from the United States District
Court for the Western District of Missouri. The record reflects that plaintiff was
assessed, and has paid, an initial partial filing fee of $1.50. After reviewing the
complaint, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that this action should
be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e)(2)(B).
28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e)
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court may dismiss a complaint
filed in forma pauperis if the action is frivolous, 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. An action is frivolous if Ait lacks an arguable basis in
either law or in fact.@ Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead Aenough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.@ Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
In reviewing a pro se complaint under ' 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must give
the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520 (1972). The Court must also weigh all factual allegations in favor of the
plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504
U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, brings this 42
U.S.C. ' 1983 action for monetary relief for alleged constitutional violations that
occurred at the Southeast Correctional Center ("SECC") in 2013.
defendants are the Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC"), George A.
Lombardi (Director, MDOC), and SECC correctional officers J. Whit and Unknown
Woods. Plaintiff alleges that Whit and Woods strip-searched him at SECC on July
29, 2012, and his "knees was [sic] cut and bruised do [sic] to being face down on the
ground by "forced" [sic]." He claims that he was sexually assaulted, because
defendants Whit and Woods "placed there [sic] hand between [his] buttocks and
groin (hand on anus and genitalia)." In addition, plaintiff alleges that defendant
Lombardi violated prison policies and was negligent in failing to investigate the
Having carefully reviewed the complaint, the Court concludes that dismissal
is warranted under 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e)(2)(B). Plaintiff=s claims against defendant
MDOC are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S.
781, 782 (1978). Moreover, a suit against the MDOC is, in effect, a suit against the
State of Missouri; however, the State of Missouri is not a Aperson@ for purposes of a
' 1983 action and is absolutely immune from liability under ' 1983. See Will
Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63 (1989). For these reasons, the
complaint will be dismissed as legally frivolous as to the MDOC.
Furthermore, the Court notes that plaintiff is bringing this action against the
individual defendants, Lombardi, Whit, and Woods, in their official capacities. See
Egerdahl v. Hibbing Community College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995) (where a
complaint is silent about defendant=s capacity, Court must interpret the complaint as
including official-capacity claims); Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir.
Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the
equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the official, in this case the
State of Missouri. See Will, 491 U.S. at 71. A[N]either a State nor its officials
acting in their official capacity are >persons= under ' 1983.@ Id. As a result, the
complaint is legally frivolous and fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted as to defendants Lombardi, Whit, and Woods.
As additional grounds for dismissing this action, the Court notes that
supervisors, such as George Lombardi, cannot be held vicariously liable under '
1983 for the actions of a subordinate. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1948
(2009); see also Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990) (liability
under ' 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged
deprivation of rights); Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (claim
not cognizable under ' 1983 where plaintiff fails to allege defendant was personally
involved in or directly responsible for incidents that injured plaintiff); Boyd v. Knox,
47 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995) (respondeat superior theory inapplicable in ' 1983
suits); Keeper v. King, 130 F.3d 1309, 1314 (8th Cir. 1997) (noting that general
responsibility for supervising operations of prison is insufficient to establish
personal involvement required to support liability under ' 1983); Rivera v. Goord,
119 F.Supp.2d 327, 344 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (allegations that inmate wrote to prison
officials and was ignored insufficient to hold those officials liable under ' 1983);
Woods v. Goord, 1998 WL 740782, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Oct.23, 1998) (receiving letters
or complaints does not render prison officials personally liable under ' 1983);
Watson v. McGinnis, 964 F.Supp. 127, 130 (S.D.N.Y.1997) (allegations that an
official ignored a prisoner's letter are insufficient to establish liability). Moreover,
mere negligence does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Daniels
v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)
(mere negligence is not cognizable as Eighth Amendment violation); Morton v.
Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 188 n.3 (8th Cir. 1986) (Fourteenth Amendment Due Process
Clause is not implicated by state official=s negligent act causing unintended loss of
or injury to life, liberty, or property).
For the above-stated reasons, the Court will dismiss this action under 28
U.S.C. ' 1915(e)(2)(B).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause
process to issue, because the complaint is legally frivolous and fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. See 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e)(2)(B).
A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 8th Day of May, 2014.
/s/Jean C. Hamilton
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?