Braxton v. Joyce et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process on plaintiff's amended complaint because it is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to the extent plainti ff believes his amended complaint contains any state law claims, such claims are subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 4/27/16. (JAB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JENNIFER JOYCE, et al.,
No. 4:15CV1542 JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Before the Court is plaintiffs amended complaint, filed by plaintiff on December 3,
2015. After reviewing the amended complaint, the Court will dismiss the amended complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Additionally, to the extent the amended complaint
contains any state law claims, those claims will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court.is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma
pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a complaint must plead more than "legal conclusions"
and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere
conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
A plaintiff must
demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a "mere possibility of misconduct."
Id. at 679.
"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
Id. at 678.
Determini~g whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
Id. at 679.
The Amended Complaint
In plaintiffs amended complaint, he asserts that he was arrested by the St. Louis Police
Department on January 10, 2014, and charged with two counts of frrst degree sodomy. Plaintiff
states that he was held at the Justice Center for approximately 18 months, pursuant to criminal
case State v. Braxton, No. 1422-CR00012 (22nd Judicial Circuit, St. Louis City). The Court takes
judicial notice of the fact that evidence of a crime was presented against plaintiff in front of a St.
Louis City Grand Jury, an indictment for the crime of sodomy was returned and probable cause
was found for an arrest warrant to be issued against plaintiff. Plaintiff was arrested and held in
the St. Louis City Justice Center until he was tried by a jury and found not guilty of the crimes
for which he was charged on June 3, 2015.
Plaintiff claims Jennifer Joyce, the Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis, should not
have issued an arrest warrant against him because the lab tests run on the alleged victim were "at
best, inconclusive." Plaintiff claims that defendant Joyce also failed to respond to his requests for
speedy trial and for discovery during the pre-trial process.
· Plaintiff also claims that his public defender, David Staley, breached his "duty to timely
bring this matter before the court" by requesting continuances, and then being granted a recusal
by the court, presumably to withdraw from representing plaintiff at some point in the
Plaintiff additionally claims that Leonard Edwards, the Superintendent of the St. Louis
City Justice Center, "falsely imprisoned" him by leaving him "lost in the system" for 18 months.
Plaintiff has not elaborated on this claim or indicated why he believes he was "lost in the
system" while he was staying at the Justice Center awaiting his trial after he was arrested for the
alleged crime of sodomy, for which he stood trial. Plaintiff states only that defendant· Edwards
was ultimately responsible for him being "lost in the system" because he was in charge of the
Justice Center. Plaintiff seeks to hold defendant Edwards responsible through the doctrine of
respondeat superior, claiming that he is responsible for the acts of his agents.
Similarly, plaintiff states that Chief of the City of St. Louis Police, Sam Dotson, should
be held responsible for plaintiffs "alleged unlawful arrest" and for his incarceration for a period
of 18 months. Plaintiff states that he believes defendant Dotson is responsible "through his ·
underlings." He seeks to hold defendant Dotson responsible through the doctrine of respondeat
superior. Plaintiff does not state who the individual police officer was who arrested him, but he
has stated that it was not defendant Dotson.
Last, plaintiff alleges that defendant Richard Gray, the acting Director of Public Safety
for the City of St. Louis should also be held responsible for plaintiffs time in the Justice Center,
which again, he believes to be unlawful. Plaintiff believes that Mr. Gray should be held
responsible as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners, and again, through the doctrine
Plaintiff states that his damages include loss of his parental rights, as well as 18 months
of incarceration, loss of employment, and loss of his residence due to delinquent taxes. Plaintiff
seeks monetary damages in addition to the aforementioned.
At the outset, the Court notes that plaintiff has not alleged the capacity under which he is
suing the defendants in this action. 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.
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 government entity is responsible for the alleged constitutional violation.
Monell v. Dep 't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). The amended complaint does
not contain any allegations that a policy or custom of a government entity was responsible for the
alleged violations of plaintiffs constitutional rights. As a result, the amended complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Even if the Court were to allow plaintiff to amend his complaint to allege the proper
capacity against defendants, his complaint would still be subject to dismissal. Plaintiff has failed
to assert any allegations against defendants Bettye Battle-Turner, David Rudolph, Joseph
Spence, Erwin O.Switzer, Thomas Irwin, Christian Stamper, Antony Boettigheimer or Frances
Slay. "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). As a result, plaintiffs claims against these defendants are subject
to dismissal. To the extent plaintiff believes these individuals can be held liable, in their official
capacity, because they are individual members of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners,
plaintiff is incorrect. See FN.2 infra.
Plaintiffs claims are also legally frivolous with respect to Leonard Edwards, Sam Dotson
and Richard Gray. Plaintiffs allegations against each of these individuals rest on the doctrine of
respondeat superior. As noted above, plaintiff believes that Dotson should be held responsible
because one of his officers arrested him pursuant to a warrant sworn out by prosecutor Joyce.
Plaintiff also believes Edwards should be held responsible for keeping him in the Justice Center
during the 18 months he was awaiting trial on the sodomy charge prosecuted by Joyce. 1
Plaintiff additionally believes that Gray should be held liable for the 18 months he was held for
trial, simply because he is a member of the Board of Police Commissioners. 2 Plaintiffs
allegations sound in respondeat superior, which is inapplicable in § 1983 actions. See Boyd v.
Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995). Accordingly, plaintiffs claims against defendants
Dotson, Gray and Edwards are subject to dismissal.
Plaintiffs amended complaint is legally frivolous as to defendant Joyce because, where
"the prosecutor is acting as advocate for the state in a criminal prosecution,  the prosecutor is
Plaintiff, himself, notes that he was being held in the Justice Center pursuant to a warrant sworn
out by Joyce based oii. lab tests that plaintiff believes were inconclusive "at best."
The Court takes judicial notice of St. Louis City Ordinance 69489 establishing a locally
controlled, municipal police department effective September 1, 2013, pursuant to passage of
Proposition A by the voters of the State of Missouri on November 6, 2012. See Mo.Rev.Stat. §
84.344.4. Pursuant to Ordinance 69489, the City of St. Louis assumed control of the St. Louis
Metropolitan Police Department from the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners and accepted
responsibility, ownership and liability as successor-in-interest for contractual obligations,
indebtedness, and other lawful obligations of the Board of Police Commissioners. This occurred
prior to the date plaintiff asserts he was wrongfully arrested, on January 10, 2014. Accordingly, the
individual members of the Board of Police Commissioners cannot be held liable for any violations
of unconstitutional policies or customs that were continued after the City assumed control of the
Police Department. And, plaintiff has not alleged any official capacity claims, such as an
unconstitutional policy or custom, against the City of St. Louis that would survive review in this
action. See Rogers v. City ofLittle Rock, Ark, 152 F.3d 790, 800 (8th Cir.1998) ("Liability for city
officials in their official capacities is another form of action against the city, and it requires the
same showing that a policy or custom caused the alleged violation.").
entitled to absolute immunity." Brodnicki v. City of Omaha, 75 F.3d 1261, 1266 (8th Cir. 1996).
Thus, plaintiffs feeling that there was insufficient evidence to swear out a warrant against him
has no bearing on whether or not defendant Joyce acted in her discretion in his criminal case
against him. Plaintiff is unable to bring a claim for malicious prosecution against defendant
Joyce under the Constitution.
Similarly, the amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
against plaintiff's public defender, defendant David Staley, because "a public defender does not
act under color of state law when performing a lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to a
defendant in a criminal proceeding." Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981). As a
result, plaintiff's§ 1983 claims against defendant Staley are subject to dismissal.
In light of the aforementioned, plaintiff's § 1983 claims are all subject to dismissal. To
the extent plaintiff believes he has state law claims remaining against the named defendants,
these claims will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process on plaintiff's
amended complaint because it is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to the extent plaintiff believes his amended
complaint contains any state law claims, such claims are subject to dismissal pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
;J.. Z~~of April, 2016.
ED STATES DISTRICT ruDGE
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