Hester v. St. Louis City et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. [Doc. 2] IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause process to issue upon the complaint because the complaint is legally frivolous or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or both. An order of dismissal will accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge Charles A. Shaw on 6/11/2013. (KSH)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
EDISON CARL HESTER,
ST. LOUIS CITY, et al.,
No. 4:13-CV-893 CAS
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff, a pretrial detainee undergoing a
competency evaluation at Fulton State Hospital, for leave to commence this action without payment
of the required filing fee. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that plaintiff does not have
sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee and will waive the filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, based upon a review of the complaint, the Court finds that the complaint
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 must 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 from a defendant who is immune from such relief. An action is frivolous
if it “lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989).
An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and not
for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F. Supp. 458, 461-63
(E.D.N.C. 1987), aff’d 826 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987).
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, 195051 (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 conclusion is the most plausible or whether it is more likely that no
misconduct occurred. Id. at 1950, 51-52.
Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee currently being held at Fulton State Hospital, brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights. Seeking monetary damages and
injunctive relief, plaintiff asserts in a general fashion that a multitude of his rights have been violated
during the past two years while he has been waiting for his state criminal matter to proceed.
Plaintiff claims that he was detained in the City of St. Louis in October of 2010. He first
asserts in his complaint that “apparently a warrant had been issued for the accused,” but later states
that he was not sure “whether he was being held on a warrant.” He asserts that he was held for
questioning relating to several burglaries that had taken place in the North side of St. Louis. He
claims in a conclusory manner that during the questioning, an unnamed defendant “leaped on top
of the table to assault me.” Plaintiff never claims, however, to actually have been assaulted by a
Plaintiff then states, also in a generalized manner, that he was “denied the opportunity to
obtain counsel of any sort,” but he fails to state whether he requested counsel during the questioning
process or provide any factual allegations surrounding this statement. Plaintiff states in his
complaint that he was appointed counsel at a later point in the process, but he claims to be
dissatisfied with his appointed attorney, asserting that he was “prejudiced and biased on every turn
in defending his underlying charges” and that he “took the initiative to file [a] fast and speedy trial
motion.” Plaintiff claims that “after having been revocated [sic] on November 16, 2011, [he] wound
up confined at St. Louis City Justice Center.”
During plaintiff’s time at the St. Louis City Justice Center, he claims that “defendants,”
broadly, “sought to misuse and abuse the very policy and Court order for use and access to the law
library.” Plaintiff also contends that defendants McMorris and Smith “knowingly participated in
the violation of Court order and their own policy for access and use of law library,” but he does not
state that he was actually denied access to the law library or that he was impeded in any legal case
as a result of a failure to access legal materials. Plaintiff also asserts that he was denied access to
the use of registered and certified mail for four months by Jazreall Brown and Sandy Jones, who are
not named as defendants, but he fails to state what he needed to use the registered or certified mail
for. Moreover, plaintiff states he was told by defendant Smith “via these mailroom workers” that
this type of mailing no longer existed at the Justice Center.
He also claims that his speedy trial rights were “hi-jacked” by his appointed attorney, he was
“assaulted” by an unnamed St. Louis City Sheriff for moving out of the “well” of the Court during
a Court proceeding, and “coerced” by the Judge and the Prosecutor into a plea deal that he refused
Plaintiff additionally complains that he was subjected to a biased competency exam by an
unnamed Missouri Department of Mental Health psychiatrist and was told by Patricia Irby, a person
at Biggs Mental Hospital who is not named as a defendant, that if he didn’t give blood, “Dave
Henderson says we will force you to.” He complains generally that being placed in Fulton State
Hospital violated his due process rights and he seeks release from Fulton and an “unbiased”
competency exam. He claims he was sent to Fulton with punitive intent, although he fails to
articulate the particular defendant he believes had such an intent.
Plaintiff also complains that he was subjected to excessive bail, but in the next sentence he
amends his statement to claim that he was provided no bail at all, given that he is currently awaiting
trial at a state psychiatric hospital pending a full and complete competency evaluation. Plaintiff
claims generally a denial of his right to speedy trial, defamation by unnamed and unidentified
defendants, and an abuse of state process.
Plaintiff has not named either the Judge or the Prosecutor as defendants in this action. To
the extent he should attempt to do so, his claims would be subject to dismissal under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Where “the prosecutor is acting as advocate for the state in a criminal prosecution,  the
prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity.” Brodnicki v. City of Omaha, 75 F.3d 1261, 1266 (8th
Cir. 1996). Furthermore, a judge is “entitled to absolute immunity for all judicial actions that are
not ‘taken in a complete absence of all jurisdiction.’” Penn v. United States, 335 F.3d 786, 789 (8th
Cir. 2003) (quoting Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991)).
In his prayer for relief, plaintiff seeks an injunction or “immediate stay in any and all state
proceedings,” and “equitable relief in the form of an injunction or order requiring the immediate
independent competency evaluation conducted by an independent, private practice professional to
determine competency of [plaintiff] to stand trial for the underlying criminal charges.” Plaintiff
additionally requests monetary relief. Named as defendants are: St. Louis City; St. Louis City
Commission; St. Louis Sheriff’s Office; St. Louis Police Department; Department of Corrections;
Keith Schafer, as agent or representative of the Missouri Department of Mental Health; Willie
McMorris, an officer or jailor at St. Louis City Justice Center; Julius Smith, a caseworker at St.
Louis City Justice Center; and various unidentified John and Jane Does.
As a general rule, a federal court may not intervene either by injunction or declaratory
judgment in a pending state criminal proceeding except under extraordinary circumstances where
there is a threat of irreparable injury which is both great and immediate. See Younger v. Harris, 401
U.S. 37, 46 (1971) (injunctive relief); Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 73 (1971) (declaratory
relief). Plaintiff's allegations fail to indicate that he will suffer "great and immediate" irreparable
injury. Thus, his allegations relating to any civil rights violations that may have occurred during or
after his arrest or incarceration should be raised in his ongoing criminal action in state court and are
subject to dismissal in the instant action.
Regarding plaintiff's request for "immediate release," habeas corpus is the proper mechanism
for an inmate to challenge either the fact or length of his confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411
U.S. 475, 490 (1973). In the instant action, plaintiff is challenging the validity of his confinement,
a claim cognizable under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, given that plaintiff is a pretrial detainee currently being
held at Fulton State Hospital. Plaintiff already has a habeas action brought pursuant to § 2241 in
this Court. See Hester v. Martin-Forman, 4:13-CV-455 AGF (E.D. Mo.). Thus, his habeas claims
in the instant action will be dismissed as duplicative.
Last, the following allegations are too conclusory to state a claim for relief under § 1983.
Plaintiff states that he was: (1) “not sure he was being held on a warrant,” when he was first arrested;
(2) an unidentified defendant “leaped on top of a table to assault him” when he was first being
interviewed; (3) he was generally (without any additional facts) “denied the opportunity to obtain
counsel”; (4) his state-appointed counsel was “biased and prejudiced”; (5) defendants “sought to
misuse and abuse the very policy and Court order for use and access to the law library”; (6) he was
“denied access to registered or certified mail for four months” (without stating additional facts
relating to his supposed use or need for such mail);2 (7) he was told that he would be forced to give
blood; (8) his placement in Fulton was a “pretrial punishment that violates the Due Process Clause”;
(9) he was subjected to excessive bail;3 and (10) he was generally subjected to “defamation and
“To state a claim [for denial of meaningful access to the courts], inmates must assert that
they suffered an actual injury to pending or contemplated legal claims.” Myers v. Hundley, 101
F.3d 542, 544 (8th Cir. 1996). Although plaintiff makes general and conclusory allegations
regarding the mail system and defendants’ failure to comply with their own policies relating to use
of the law library, he has failed to allege an actual injury to a pending or contemplated legal claim.
As such, any access to courts claim he might be asserting against defendants fails to state a claim
under § 1983.
The Eighth Amendment provides, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines
imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII, § 1. “The
touchstone of the constitutional inquiry under the Excessive Fines Clause is the principle of
proportionality: The amount of the [fine] must bear some relationship to the gravity of the offense
that it is designed to punish.” United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321, 334 (1998). For excessive
fine claims, a plaintiff must allege: (1) gross disproportionality; and (2) the disproportionality is of
“such a level of excessiveness that . . . the punishment is more criminal than the crime.” United
States v. Dodge Caravan, 387 F.3d 758, 763 (8th Cir. 2004) (quoted case omitted). Plaintiff has
abuse of process.” All of the aforementioned are broad statements or legal conclusions not entitled
to the assumption of truth that fail to state a plausible claim for relief under § 1983 when the Court
views the assertions in the complaint in their entirety. See Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950-51.4
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis is
GRANTED. [Doc. 2]
failed to allege any facts relating to his conclusory claims of excessive bail. And in fact, as plaintiff
himself points out, at this time plaintiff is not being held by the Missouri Department of Corrections
but is instead being held by the Missouri Department of Mental Health in a state psychiatric hospital
pending a competency evaluation for fitness to stand trial.
Additionally, the Court notes that many of the defendants named in this action are not
subject to suit under § 1983. The complaint is frivolous against the St. Louis Sheriff’s Office and
St. Louis Police Department because police departments are not suable entities under § 1983.
Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (1992). A suit against the Missouri
Department of Corrections is, in effect, a suit against the State of Missouri. The State of Missouri,
however, is absolutely immune from liability under § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dept. of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63 (1989). In general, fictitious parties, such as John and Jane Does, may not
be named as defendants in a civil action. Phelps v. United States, 15 F.3d 735, 739 (8th Cir. 1994).
An action may proceed against a party whose name is unknown, however, if the complaint makes
sufficiently specific allegations to permit the identity of the party to be ascertained after reasonable
discovery. Munz v. Parr, 758 F.2d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 1985). The complaint does not contain
allegations sufficiently specific to permit the identity of the numerous John and Jane Does that
plaintiff describes as “as yet unidentified defendants, perhaps employed by the St. Louis Sheriff’s
Office, Justice Center St. Louis Center Jail, Metropolitan Police Department, Missouri Department
of Mental Health.” See Estate of Rosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 37 (8th Cir. 1995) (suit naming
“various other John Does to be named when identified” not permissible). As a result, the complaint
is legally frivolous as to these defendants. Although plaintiff has named Keith Schafer as an
individual defendant in this action, he has failed to make any specific allegations of wrongdoing
against defendant Schafer. “Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility
for, the alleged deprivation of rights.” Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990);
see also 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). As such, plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim with respect
to defendant Schafer.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause process to
issue upon the complaint because the complaint is legally frivolous or fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted, or both.
An order of dismissal will accompany this Memorandum and Order.
CHARLES A. SHAW
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 11th day of June, 2013.
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