Ramsey v. St. Louis County Police Department et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. #3] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall docket this case as Arnett Ramsey v. St. Louis County Police Department, Un known Patrice, and Thomas A. Dittmeier. IT IS FURTHER 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. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel [Doc. #2] is DENIED as moot. A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 3/4/2013. (JMC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE
DEPARTMENT, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon the motion of Arnett Ramsey (registration
no. B-82889) for leave to commence this action without payment of the required
filing fee. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiff’s motion and will
not assess an initial partial filing fee in this action. In addition, the Court will dismiss
this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
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 Court each time the amount in the
prisoner’s account exceeds $10, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.
Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit and a certified copy of his prison account
statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the submission of his
complaint. A review of plaintiff’s account indicates an average monthly deposit of
$0.00 and an average monthly balance of $0.00. Accordingly, the Court will not
assess an initial partial filing fee in this action.
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 “it 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 “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). 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, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950-51 (2009). These
include “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 1949. Second, the
Court must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at
1950-51. This is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on
its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 1950. The plaintiff is required to
plead facts that show more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. The Court
must review the factual allegations in the complaint “to determine if they plausibly
suggest an entitlement to relief.”
Id. at 1951.
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. Id. at 1950-52.
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, 3233 (1992).
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Danville Correctional Center in Danville, Illinois,
seeks monetary relief in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against defendants St. Louis
County Police Department, Unknown Patrice (St. Louis County Detective), and
Thomas A. Dittmeier (St. Louis County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney). Plaintiff
alleges that Marshonda Benoit, who is not a defendant in this action, filed a false
police report on July 11, 2010, in order “to get [him] locked up so that she [could]
have someone break into [his] home.”
Without conducting an investigation,
defendants Unknown Patrice and Thomas Dittmeier “put these charges on [plaintiff].”
While plaintiff was in jail, Marshonda and her boyfriend allegedly broke into
plaintiff’s home and “took all [his] things.” The charges against plaintiff were later
dropped, after he produced a letter from Marshonda stating she was going to break
into his home. Plaintiff complains that, after he was released, defendants Unknown
Patrice and Thomas Dittmeier would not allow plaintiff to file charges against
Plaintiff brings this action against Unknown Patrice and Thomas Dittmeier 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). Naming a government official in his or her
official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the
official. Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). To state a
claim against a municipality or a government official in his or her official capacity,
a plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the government entity is responsible
for the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep’t of Social Services, 436 U.S.
658, 690-91 (1978). The instant complaint does not contain any allegations that a
policy or custom of a government entity was responsible for the alleged violations of
plaintiff’s constitutional rights. As a result, the complaint is legally frivolous and
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as to defendants Unknown
Patrice and Thomas Dittmeier.
As an additional ground for dismissing this action against Thomas Dittmeier,
the Court notes that a prosecutor is absolutely immune from suit for damages under
§ 1983 for alleged violations committed in "initiating a prosecution and in presenting
the state's case." Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31 (1976); Myers v. Morris,
810 F.2d 1437, 1448 (8th Cir. 1987). This immunity extends to allegations of
vindictive prosecution. Myers v. Morris, 810 F.2d at 1446.
The complaint is also legally frivolous as to the St. Louis County Police
Department, because police departments are not suable entities under § 1983. See
Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992); see also De
La Garza v. Kandiyohi County Jail, 2001 WL 987542, at *1 (8th Cir. 2001) (sheriff's
departments and police departments are not usually considered legal entities subject
to suit under § 1983; local governments can be liable under § 1983 only if injury
stems from official policy or custom).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma
pauperis [Doc. #3] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall docket this case
as Arnett Ramsey v. St. Louis County Police Department, Unknown Patrice, and
Thomas A. Dittmeier.
IT IS FURTHER 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.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for appointment of
counsel [Doc. #2] is DENIED as moot.
A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 4th Day of March, 2013.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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