Watson v. Harris
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motions to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. #3 and #4] are GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that because plaintiff is a civil detainee, he shall not be required to pay a filing fee at this ti me. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to the extent that there are any state law claims encompassed in the complaint, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them. See 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 2/4/2016. (KMS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
BRUCE L. WATSON,
No. 4:15CV1601 JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon the motions of plaintiff Bruce Watson, a civil
detainee at Fulton State Hospital, for leave to commence this action without payment of the
required filing fee. See Doc. #3 and #4. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant
plaintiffs motions to proceed in forma pauperis. Furthermore, based upon a review of the
complaint, the Court will dismiss plaintiffs complaint based on the foregoing. See 28 U.S.C. §
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 is malicious when it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing
litigants 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."
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 plaintiffs proffered conclusion is the most
plausible or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 1950, 1951-52.
Plaintiff, who is currently being civilly detained at Fulton State Hospital in Fulton,
Missouri, brought this action on October 19, 2015. In his complaint, brought pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, he complains about being "forcibly medicated."
From the court records available on Missouri.Case.Net, as well as plaintiffs complaint,
the Court has been able to ascertain that plaintiff was charged with robbery in the first degree
and armed criminal action, which apparently occurred on or about July 11, 2009. See State v.
Watson, Case No. 1122-CR02338 (22nd Judicial Circuit, St. Louis City).
Prior to trial in the criminal action, a commitment order was entered on August 4, 2014
after a mental exam was done on petitioner in July of 2014, by the Missouri Department of
Mental Health. Plaintiff asserts that he began to be forcibly medicated as soon as he was declared
As part of the commitment order, the Court certified, pursuant to Mo.Rev.Stat. §
552.020(9) that the Director of the Department of Mental Health, or his designee, should
evaluate plaintiffs mental ability and his capacity to proceed in his criminal case and submit a
progress report stating such within six months of the commitment order.
The Department of Mental Health received an extension to file the case review and for
the psychiatric evaluation.
A motion for order finding defendant permanently incompetent,
along with a copy of the Department of Mental Health's evaluation was filed by the state
prosecutor on December 3, 2015.
On January 26, 2015, February 5, 2015 and again on December 7, 2015, plaintiff filed
pro se motions for hearings seeking to avoid taking his psychotropic medication and asking for a
new psychiatric exam. Although plaintiffs first requests to avoid taking his medication were
denied, the Court appears to have scheduled a hearing, set for February 5, 2016, on the state's
motion to have plaintiff declared incompetent. At that time it appears the Court will also hear
plaintiffs request for new psychiatric exam, as well as plaintiffs request to stop the Department
of Mental Health from forcibly medicating him.
In the action before this Court, plaintiff appears to seek an order from the Court to
"discharge him from his convictions" and "grant him relief in punitive damages" and
"investigate the Circuit Court system" on methods they use to declare him incompetent.
Plaintiff also wants this Court to intervene in his state criminal action and have him
declared competent and stop the forcible medication that began when he was first declared
incompetent by the psychiatric examination by the Missouri Department of Mental Health in
This Court is not a court of appeals for state court criminal actions. Postma v. First Fed.
Sav. & Loan, 74 F.3d 160, 162 (8th Cir. 1996). "Review of state court decisions may be had
only in the Supreme Court." Id. As a consequence, the Court will deny plaintiffs request to
enjoin his state court criminal action.
Additionally, plaintiffs complaint requests to discharge his convictions. These are claims
that arise under habeas corpus. In order to pursue such claims, plaintiff must bring an action in
habeas corpus after/or if, he has been convicted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411U.S.475, 500 (1973). In the meantime, the present case will be dismissed for the
Even if plaintiffs claims were not legally frivolous in the present context1, this Court
would have to abstain from hearing this action as a result of plaintiffs ongoing state criminal
action pursuant to the Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 53-54 (1971).
The Missouri State Statute dealing with competence hearings in state criminal trials is quite
clear, and this Court must allow the state court to proceed with the competency determination in
order to comport with plaintiffs due process rights. See Mo.Rev.Stat. 552.020 et.seq. If the
court first deems the accused mentally unfit to proceed, the court must suspend the criminal
proceedings and commit the accused to the custody of DMH, where the accused will then be
subject to a review of his competence after six months.§ 552.020.9, .11(1). If the six-month
review concludes that the accused remains mentally unfit to proceed, the report must contain an
opinion "as to whether there is a substantial probability that the accused will attain the mental
fitness to proceed in the foreseeable future."§ 552.020.11(1). After the report is filed, both
parties again have the option of seeking an additional examination at their own expense. §
552.020.11 (2). "If neither the state nor the accused nor his counsel requests a second
examination," the court again has the discretion to render a decision on the report alone or to
hold a hearing on the matter.§ 552.020.11(3). If the opinion is contested, however, the court is
required to hold a hearing, with the same rights and burdens as identified in§ 552.020.8. Jd.
If the court determines that the accused lacks mental fitness to proceed, but that there is a
substantial probability that the accused will attain mental fitness in the reasonably foreseeable
future, the court may order one additional period of commitment lasting no more than six
months.§ 552.020.11(5). If, however, the court determines that the accused lacks mental fitness
and there is no substantial probability that mental fitness will be attained in the reasonably
foreseeable future, the court must dismiss the criminal charges without prejudice, "but only if
In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. at 46, the Supreme Court directed federal courts to abstain
from hearing cases where "the action complained of constitutes the basis of an ongoing state
judicial proceeding, the proceedings implicate important state interests, and an adequate
opportunity exists in the state proceedings to raise constitutional challenges." Harmon v. City of
Kansas City, Missouri, 197 F.3d 321, 325 (8th Cir. 1999); see also, Fuller v. Ulland, 76 F.3d
957, 959 (8th Cir. 1996). Having carefully reviewed the case at bar, the Court concludes that the
Younger criteria are satisfied and that abstention from this matter is warranted.
Moreover, the Court finds that to some extent, plaintiffs case is styled as though it is a
petition for writ of mandamus, brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651. Plaintiff appears to ask
this Court to instruct the state court judge in his criminal case to declare him competent and stop
the forcible medication that is occurring by the Missouri Department of Mental Health. This
Court has no basis for granting such a request.
This Court is authorized to issue writs of mandamus or other extraordinary writs only in
aid of its jurisdiction, either existing or potential. See 28 U.S.C.A. § 1651(a); Middlebrooks v.
Thirteenth Judicial Dist. Circuit Court, Union County, 323 F.2d 485, 486 (8th Cir.1963). The
actions of the defendant state court judge in this case are not within the jurisdiction of this Court.
See Middlebrooks, 323 F.2d at 486; Veneri v. Circuit Court of Gasconade Co., 528 F.Supp. 496,
498 (E.D.Mo.1981) (federal courts have no superintending control over, and are without
authority to issue writ of mandamus to direct, state court or its judicial officers in performing
duties). The better action is for plaintiff to pursue this line of inquiry in his state court criminal
proper proceedings have been filed under chapter 632 or chapter 475." § 552.020.11(6).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motions to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc.
#3 and #4] are GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that because plaintiff is a civil detainee, he shall not be
required to pay a filing fee at this time.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to the extent that there are any state law claims
encompassed in the complaint, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
them. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 4th day of February, 2016.
TED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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