Thomas v. St. Louis County Justice Center et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 2 ) is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff must pay an initial partial filing fee of $7.37 within twenty-one (21) da ys of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to make his remittance payable to "Clerk, United States District Court," and to include upon it: (1) his name; (2) his prison registration number; (3) the case number; and (4) the s tatement that the remittance is for an original proceeding. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice. A separate order of dismissal will be entered herewith. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (Docket No. 5 ) is DENIED as moot. IT IS HEREBY CERTIFIED that an appeal from this dismissal would not be taken in good faith. Signed by District Judge Ronnie L. White on April 21, 2017. (BRP) Modified on 4/21/2017 (BRP).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
ROBIN ANTHONY THOMAS ,
ST. LOUIS COUNTY JUSTICE
CENTER, et al. ,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon the motion of pro se plaintiff Robin Anthony
Thomas ' s motion for leave to proceed informa pauperis. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the
financial information plaintiff submitted in support, the Court determines that he is unable to pay
the full amount of the filing fee . The motion will therefore be granted. In addition, for the
reasons explained below, the complaint will be dismissed.
28 u.s.c. § 1915(b)(l)
Pursuant to 28 U.S .C. § 1915(b)(l), a prisoner bringing a civil action informa pauperis
is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his or
her prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an
initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the
prisoner' s account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner' s account for the prior sixmonth period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make
monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner' s
account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these
monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner' s account exceeds
$10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.
In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an affidavit and an inmate account
statement showing an average monthly balance of $36.86. The Court will therefore assess an
initial partial filing fee of $7 .3 7, twenty percent of plaintiffs average monthly balance.
Legal Standard on Initial Review
Under 28 U.S .C. § 1915(e)(2), this Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed informa
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, inter alia, draw upon judicial
experience and common sense. Id. at 679.
When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit
of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
However, this does not
mean that pro se complaints may be merely conclusory. Even pro se complaints are required to
allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623
F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004)
(federal courts are not required to "assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional
factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint"). In addition, affording a pro se
complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary
civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without
counsel. See McNeil v. U S. , 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges as follows . He was
incarcerated at the St. Louis County Justice Center ("Justice Center") from November 13, 2012
through September 10, 2014. On September 5, 2014, he was sentenced to a ten year term of
imprisonment, and he began preparing to be transferred to the Missouri Department of
Corrections (MODOC) facility in which he would serve his term. Plaintiff met with defendant
Christine Hattler to designate a person who would be authorized to receive his personal property
that was being held in the Justice Center property room. This personal property consisted of a
MasterCard bank card/debit card ("bank card"). Hattier gave plaintiff a property release form
and plaintiff completed it, designating one Michael Roberts as the person authorized to receive
the bank card. Hattler entered this information into the computer system, and allowed plaintiff to
verify that it was correctly entered.
Plaintiff was transferred to MODOC on September 10, 2014. On that day, defendant
Jane Doe was in charge of releasing the personal property of Justice Center inmates.
"unlawfully, negligently and/or deliberately released my personal property (bank card) to the
unauthorized individual, Lionel Hardy." (Docket No. 1 at 14). Plaintiff alleges that Doe failed
to follow the correct protocol and procedure when releasing the bank card.
On or about
September 11 , 2014, Hardy fraudulently used the bank card to make purchases.
Plaintiff claims that he spent several months, beginning in November of 2016, "trying to
gather information regarding this matter." (Id. at 14). In June of 2016, plaintiff contacted
defendant Gene Fitzgerald, a case worker, to inquire about the release of his bank card to Hardy.
Fitzgerald verified that the bank card should not have been released to Hardy, but "deliberately
ignored" plaintiffs request for computer data and copies of all of the documents related to the
release of the bank card.
(Id. at 18). Plaintiff also called Judy Lang to request the name of the
officer who released the bank card to Hardy, but Lang did not return his calls, and she spoke
rudely to a MODOC caseworker who called her on plaintiffs behalf.
Plaintiff claims he suffered the loss of money from his account, as well as psychological
As relief, plaintiff seeks a total of $3 ,000,000.00 in compensation for the funds
fraudulently taken from his account and for emotional injury. He also seeks equitable relief.
To state a claim under 42 U .S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish: (1) the violation of a
right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) that the alleged deprivation
of that right was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42, 48 (1988). Depriving a prisoner of his property may implicate the Due Process Clause and
form the basis for a § 1983 action. Here, plaintiff alternately claims that Doe intentionally and
negligently released the bank card to Hardy. Plaintiffs claim that Doe intentionally released the
bank card does not establish a violation of the Due Process Clause because the state of Missouri
provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy, including an action for conversion, and plaintiff
does not allege that such remedies were inadequate. See Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S . 517, 53121 (1984) (If the deprivation of property by prison officials is intentional and the state provides
an adequate post-deprivation remedy, there is no Due Process violation). To the extent plaintiff
alleges Doe negligently released the property to Hardy, his claim simply fails to implicate the
Due Process Clause. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986) (the "Due Process
Clause is simply not implicated by a negligent act of an official causing unintended loss of or
injury to life, liberty, or property") (emphasis in original). Because plaintiff does not establish
the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, he fails to state a
claim under § 1983.
Plaintiff also alleges that Doe violated Justice Center prison policy/regulations when she
released the bank card to Hardy. However, because plaintiff had no federal constitutional liberty
interest in having Doe follow Justice Center regulations, these allegations fail to state a claim
under § 1983 . See Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing Kennedy v.
Blankenship, 100 F.3d 640, 643 (8th Cir. 1996)); see also Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430
(8th Cir. 1997) (failure to follow prison policy is not basis for § 1983 liability). Plaintiff also
alleges that Fitzgerald and Lang ignored his repeated messages and requests for information, and
that Lang was rude when speaking to a caseworker on the telephone. These allegations also fail
to state claims of constitutional dimension.
Even if plaintiff had stated claims of constitutional dimension, the complaint would be
subject to dismissal as legally frivolous. Plaintiffs claims against the St. Louis County Justice
Center would be legally frivolous because jails and local government detention centers are not
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 such"); see
also Ballard v. Missouri, No. 4: 13CV528 JAR, 2013 WL 1720966, at *3 (E.D. Mo. April 22,
2013) (holding that "[p]laintiffs claims against the City of St. Louis Department of Public
Safety, the St. Louis County Justice Center, the City of St. Louis Justice Center, and
MSI/Workhouse are legally frivolous because these defendants are not suable entities"); Wallace
v. St. Louis City Justice Ctr ., No. 4:12CV2291JAR, 2013 WL 3773971, at *2 (E.D. Mo. July 17,
2013) (dismissing claims against the St. Louis City Justice Center because it is not a suable
Regarding defendants Battler, Fitzgerald, Lang and Doe, the complaint fails to specify
the capacity in which they are being sued, and this Court must therefore 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). Official-capacity
suits are tantamount to suits brought directly against the public entity of which the official is an
agent. Kentucky v. Graham , 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). To state a claim against a public entity
or a government official in his or her official capacity, a plaintiff must allege that a policy or
custom of the public entity was responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v.
Dept. of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978).
complaint contains no such allegations, it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
against the individual defendants in their official capacities.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to proceed m forma pauperis
(Docket No. 2) is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff must pay an initial partial filing fee of $7.37
within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this Order.
Plaintiff is instructed to make his
remittance payable to "Clerk, United States District Court," and to include upon it: (1) his name;
(2) his prison registration number; (3) the case number; and (4) the statement that the remittance
is for an original proceeding.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice. A
separate order of dismissal will be entered herewith.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (Docket No. 5)
is DENIED as moot.
IT IS HEREBY CERTIFIED that an appeal from this dismissal would not be taken in
Dated this 21st day of April, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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