Mitchell v. St. Louis County et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 2 ] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED without prejudice. An Order of Dismissal will be filed separately. Signed by District Judge Henry Edward Autrey on 5/3/16. (KJS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
KRISTINA MARIE MITCHELL,
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, et al.,
No. 4:16CV390 HEA
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. The motion is granted. Additionally, this action is dismissed.
Standard of Review
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
alleged.” Id. at 678. Determining 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
common sense. Id. at 679.
Plaintiff brings this action against St. Louis County, the St. Louis County Courthouse, the
St. Louis County Police Department, and John and Jane Doe. John and Jane Doe are alleged to
be security officers at the St. Louis County Courthouse.
Plaintiff alleges that as she entered the Courthouse on court-related business, John Doe
grabbed her arm and asked her if she had business there. She says that she was kept “in the
security area for a period of time talking to [Jane Doe, who] [a]scertain[ed] that she did indeed
have court business to attend to.”
Plaintiff’s claim against St. Louis County is frivolous. To state a claim against a local
government, 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 factual allegations showing that a policy or
custom of St. Louis County caused a constitutional violation.
Plaintiff’s claims against the Courthouse and the Police Department are legally frivolous
because they cannot be sued. Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir.
1992) (departments or subdivisions of local government are “not juridical entities suable as
An excessive force claim “is analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s ‘objective
reasonableness’ standard.” Kuha v. City of Minnetonka, 328 F.3d 427, 434 (8th Cir.2003) (citing
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed.2d 443 (1989)). This test “is
not capable of precise definition or mechanical application.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559,
99 S. Ct. 1861, 60 L. Ed.2d 447 (1979). “[T]he ‘reasonableness’ inquiry in an excessive force
case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are ‘objectively
reasonable.’” Graham, 490 U.S. at 397. In sum, “the nature and quality of the intrusion on the
individual’s Fourth Amendment interests [must be balanced] against the importance of the
governmental interests alleged to justify the intrusion.” United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696,
703, 103 S. Ct. 2637, 77 L. Ed.2d 110 (1983).
There are no non-conclusory factual allegations showing that the actions of John and Jane
Doe were not objectively reasonable. The act of grabbing her arm and holding her to ascertain
whether she should be let in to the courthouse are objectively reasonable in light of the need for
courthouse security. She does not allege that she was injured or hurt in any way. As a result, the
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF
No. 2] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED without prejudice.
An Order of Dismissal will be filed separately.
Dated this 3rd day of May, 2016
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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