Bell v. Ste. Genevieve County et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 23 MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis under 42:1983 (prisoner) filed by Plaintiff Joshua Aaron Bell; motion is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall pay an initial filing fee of $3.27 within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to make his remittance payable to "Clerk, United States District Court," and to include upon it: (1) his name; (2) his prison registration number; (3) the case number; and (4) that the remittance is for an original proceeding. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause process to issue, because the pleadings are legally frivolous and fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B).A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.(Initial Partial Filing Fee due by 11/25/2015.) Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 10/26/15. (CSG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JOSHUA AARON BELL,
STE. GENEVIEVE COUNTY, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on review of plaintiff’s amended complaint
[Doc. #22] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e). In addition, plaintiff has filed a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. #23], as well as a certified inmate
account statement [Doc. #24]. Based on plaintiff’s financial information, the Court
will grant him in forma pauperis status and will assess an initial partial filing fee of
$3.27. Moreover and for the reasons set forth below, this case will be dismissed,
without prejudice, under 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 Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To determine whether an action fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must engage in a two-step inquiry.
First, the Court must identify the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to
the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009). These
include Alegal conclusions@ and A[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.@ Id. Second, the Court
must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at
680-82. This is a Acontext-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on
its judicial experience and common sense.@ Id. at 681. The plaintiff is required to
plead facts that show more than the Amere possibility of misconduct.@ Id. The
Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint Ato determine if they
plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.@
Id. at 681-82. When faced with
alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the Court may exercise its
judgment in determining whether plaintiff=s proffered conclusion is the most
plausible or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred.
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,
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Maryville Treatment Center, brought this action in
June 2014, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983, when he was a pretrial detainee at the Ste.
Genevieve County Jail.
Plaintiff alleged that he was the subject of an
unconstitutional search and arrest at his home in Ste. Genevieve County on April 7,
The Court took judicial notice that plaintiff's April 7 arrest was followed by
state criminal proceedings. More specifically, prior to the instant case being filed,
an underlying state criminal case was filed against plaintiff in Ste. Genevieve
County, wherein he was charged with possession of a controlled substance, unlawful
use of drug paraphernalia - amphetamine/methamphetamine, resisting arrest,
endangering the welfare of a child (two counts), delivering/attempting to
deliver/possess/deposit/conceal a controlled substance at a jail, and unlawful use of
drug paraphernalia. See State of Mo. v. Bell, No. 14SG-CR00180-01 (24th Judicial
Relying on Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007), this Court held that further
consideration of plaintiff=s ' 1983 claims should be stayed until the underlying
criminal charges pending against him were resolved. In addition, this Court noted
that it was too early to determine whether a conviction in the criminal action relating
to plaintiff=s April 2014 arrest would bar some or all of plaintiff=s claims pursuant to
the principles of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994).
On September 8, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion to reopen this case [Doc. #17].
Plaintiff states that he entered Alford guilty pleas to two counts of possession of
Plaintiff states that he was sentenced to seven years’
imprisonment on each count, to run consecutively. A review of Missouri CaseNet
indicates that the Alford pleas were entered on August 18, 2015. Plaintiff states
that this action constituted a final disposition of his underlying state criminal
charges. As such, the Court granted plaintiff’s motion to reopen this case and
instructed him to file an amended complaint.
II. The Amended Complaint
In the amended complaint, plaintiff names the following defendants: Ste.
Genevieve County, St. Francis County, Allen Wells, Michael Bauer, and Chris
Roemer. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Wells “pinged [his] cell phone without a
warrant,” and defendants Bauer and Roemer searched his home without a warrant
and used excessive force in arresting him. Plaintiff further alleges that Bauer
manufactured false evidence and committed perjury at trial.
Plaintiff brings this action against defendants 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. 1989). Official-capacity suits are tantamount to suits brought directly
against the public entity of which the official is an agent.
473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985).
Kentucky v. Graham,
To state a claim against a public entity or a
government official in his or her official capacity, a plaintiff must allege that a
policy or custom of the public entity was responsible for the alleged constitutional
violation. Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 473 (1985); Monell v. Department of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Because plaintiff does not claim
that a public entity=s policy or custom was responsible for the violation of his
constitutional rights, the amended complaint is legally frivolous and fails to state a
claim or cause of action under ' 1983 against defendants.
As additional grounds for dismissing this action, the Court finds that
plaintiff's claims are presently barred under the Supreme Court’s holding in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court held that, in order to
recover damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or sentence, or for
harm caused by actions that would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983
plaintiff must first prove that his conviction or sentence has been reversed,
expunged, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or called into question by a federal
court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.
In the case at bar, plaintiff's claims are Heck-barred in light of plaintiff's
recent Alford pleas. See Havens v. Johnson, 783 F.3d 776, 777, 784 (10th Cir.
2015). In other words, success on plaintiff's § 1983 claims necessarily would
impugn the validity of his Alford guilty-plea convictions/sentences. The Heck
doctrine derives from the existence of a valid conviction, not the mechanism by
which the conviction was obtained (such as admissions by the defendant), so it is
irrelevant that plaintiff entered an Alford plea. See id; Ballard v. Burton, 444 F.3d
391, 397 (5th Cir. 2006) (“[W]e hold that a conviction based on an Alford plea can be
used to impose Heck's favorable termination rule.”); Smithart v. Towery, 79 F.3d
951, 952 (9th Cir. 1996) (applying Heck to the plaintiff's Alford plea to assault with a
deadly weapon); Carbajal v. Hotsenpiller, 524 Fed.Appx. 425, 428 (10th Cir.2013)
(“We agree with the district court that [the plaintiff's] abuse of process, false
imprisonment, and conspiracy claims are barred by Heck. All three claims rest on
[the plaintiff's] allegation that the charges for which he entered an Alford plea were
false.”); Green v. Chvala, 567 Fed.Appx. 458, 459 (7th Cir.2014) (“Like any plea,
an Alford plea results in a conviction to which Heck applies.”). As such, before
proceeding with his claims, plaintiff must show that his state convictions/sentences
have been reversed, expunged, or called into question, which, to date, he has not
alleged or demonstrated. This he has failed to do.
For these reasons, the Court will dismiss this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
In accordance with the foregoing,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff=s motion to proceed in forma
pauperis [Doc. #23] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall pay an initial filing fee of
$3.27 within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to
make his remittance payable to AClerk, United States District Court,@ and to include
upon it: (1) his name; (2) his prison registration number; (3) the case number; and (4)
that the remittance is for an original proceeding.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause
process to issue, because the pleadings are legally frivolous and fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(e)(2)(B).
A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 26th day of October, 2015.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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