Ballard v. City of St. Louis et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 2 ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed in formapauperis [Doc. #2] is GRANTED. 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 appropriate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum andOrder.. Signed by District Judge Henry E. Autrey on 11/1/13. (CEL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al.,
No. 4:13CV1773 HEA
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff for leave to
commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915. Upon consideration of the financial information provided with the motion, the
Court finds that plaintiff is financially unable to pay any portion of the filing fee. As
a result, plaintiff will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915. Additionally, the Court has reviewed the complaint and will dismiss
it pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
Plaintiff’s motion to certify a class action will be denied. Under Rule 23(a)(4),
a class representative must “fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.”
He cannot do so acting as a pro se litigant. Rather, a litigant may bring his own
claims to federal court without counsel, but not the claims of others. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1654; see also 7A Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 3d
§ 1769.1 (“class representatives cannot appear pro se.”).
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, 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 conclusion is the most plausible or whether it is more
likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 1950, 51-52.
Plaintiff brings this “human and civil rights complaint” against: the City of St.
Louis: the St. Louis Department of Public Safety; Medium Security Institution
(“MSI”)/the Workhouse; the St. Louis City Justice Center; Captain Unknown Diggs;
C.O. Martin Badge #1017; C.O. K. Byas; L.T. Johnson; C.O. Patton; and the St.
Louis City Bond Commission.
Plaintiff states that he was incarcerated in MSI and the St. Louis City Justice
Center from June of 2009 until April of 2013 wherein he was subjected to
overcrowding. He asserts that one of the reasons for the alleged overcrowding is the
“environment of excessive bonds,” which plaintiff believes is set by the St. Louis City
Plaintiff claims that on several occasions in January, February and April of
2012, he had to sleep on bunk-a-stack/plastic removable beds that were placed on the
floors of cells at both MSI and at the St. Louis City Justice Center. He claims that he
slept in a cell with two and four persons, respectively, that were made for one
Plaintiff additionally complains that he was denied writing supplies and paper,
as well as his own legal materials, during a stay in administrative segregation in
January of 2012 at MSI. Plaintiff asserts that he was denied a pen on one occasion
by defendant C.O. Martin Badge # 1017, and on another occasion by Captain Diggs.
Plaintiff states that Diggs told him that he was being denied writing materials because
inmates “keep writing graffiti on the walls in disciplinary segregation.”
Plaintiff states that in February of 2013 while he was in disciplinary
segregation at MSI, defendant Johnson confiscated a “personal folder” that happened
to contain “legal documentation, material and mail.” Plaintiff states that he was told
that he “can’t have legal work or writing pen in the hole.” Plaintiff asserts that in
March of 2013 he was against denied “access to his legal-material and legal mail
when [he was] re-assigned housing classification.” Plaintiff claims that defendant
Patton told him that he could not have “any writing supplies while assigned to Pod
#4,” and plaintiff asserts that this included his own legal material, legal mail and
writing supplies. Plaintiff claims that he was denied his supplies for a total of 15
days. Plaintiff believes that defendant Johnson’s, as well as defendant Patton’s, acts
violated his First Amendment rights.
Plaintiff states he was later told by defendant Byas that defendant Diggs should
not have told him that he couldn’t have “legal materials” and writing supplies while
in disciplinary segregation.
Plaintiff’s claims against the City of St. Louis Department of Public Safety, the
St. Louis City Justice Center, the St. Louis City Bond Commission and the
MSI/Workhouse are legally frivolous because these defendants are not suable entities.
See Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 81 (8th Cir. 1992)
(departments or subdivisions of local government are “not juridical entities suable as
“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 that defendant was personally
involved in or directly responsible for the incidents that injured plaintiff); Boyd v.
Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995) (respondeat superior theory inapplicable in
§ 1983 suits). In the instant action, plaintiff has not set forth any facts indicating that
defendant Byas was directly involved in or personally responsible for the alleged
violations of his constitutional rights. Rather, plaintiff merely states that defendant
Byas told him that defendant Diggs was wrong in telling him that he couldn’t have
legal materials and writing supplies in disciplinary segregation. There is nothing in
this alleged statement by defendant Byas that states a constitutional violation. As a
result, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted with
respect to defendant Byas.
The complaint is silent as to whether the remaining individual defendants Diggs, Martin, Johnson and Patton - are being sued in their official or individual
capacities. Where a “complaint is silent about the capacity in which [plaintiff] is
suing defendant, [a district court must] interpret the complaint as including only
official-capacity claims.” Egerdahl v. Hibbing Community College, 72 F.3d 615, 619
(8th Cir. 1995); 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, in this case, the City of St. Louis. 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, plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the municipality is
responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep’t of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Although plaintiff believes he has alleged
that there was a policy of denying writing materials to individuals in disciplinary
segregation, he has not alleged that this policy was unconstitutional under the First
Thus, to the extent that plaintiff is attempting to assert an
access-to-the-courts claim under a policy theory, the complaint is legally frivolous.
Plaintiff does not claim that there was a policy of denying legal materials and writing
materials to those inmates who provided the prison with proof that they had an
ongoing legal case. Moreover, and most importantly, he has not shown that he,
himself, suffered "actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing
litigation," see Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 348 (1996), which he is required to do
to show a First Amendment violation. As such, he has not shown a violation of his
First Amendment rights.
Last, plaintiff’s allegations of overcrowding fail to state an Eighth Amendment
violation in this instance. To state a claim for unconstitutional conditions of
confinement under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must show that the alleged
deprivations denied him the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities and that
defendants were deliberately indifferent to excessive risk to his health or safety. E.g.,
Seltzer-Bey v. Delo, 66 F.3d 961, 964 (8th Cir. 1995) (“Eighth Amendment does not
absolutely bar placing an inmate in a cell without clothes or bedding.”). Plaintiff has
failed to allege details relevant to either prong of the Eighth Amendment analysis.
Moreover, plaintiff’s generalized and conclusory allegations of overcrowding
and his theories of “excessive bonds” and their contribution to the purported
overcrowded conditions at MSI and the Justice Center fail to reach a the level of
plausibility and common sense this Court is required to use to review plaintiff’s
pleadings under Iqbal. As such, plaintiff’s claims are subject to dismissal for failure
to state a claim.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma
pauperis [Doc. #2] is GRANTED.
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 appropriate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and
Dated this 1st day of November, 2013.
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
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?