Page v. Warren County Police Department et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion seeking leave to commence this action without prepaying fees or costs (ECF No. 3 ) is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff must pay an initial filing fee of $1.0 0 within thirty days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to make her remittance payable to Clerk, United States District Court, and to include upon it: (1) her name; (2) her 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 Clerk is directed to mail to Plaintiff a copy of the Court's prisoner civil rights complaint form. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff must file an amend ed complaint within thirty days from the date of this Order. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (ECF No. 2 ) is DENIED without prejudice. Plaintiff's failure to timely comply with this order may result in the dismissal of this case, without prejudice and without further notice. (Amended/Supplemental Pleadings due by 3/18/2021.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephen R. Welby on 2/16/2021. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment Courts prisoner civil rights complaint form)(JMP)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
SHALONDA NICHOLE LASHE PAGE,
WARREN COUNTY POLICE
DEPARTMENT, et al.,
No. 4:20-CV-1651 SRW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff Shalonda Nichole Lashe Page
for leave to commence this civil action without prepaying fees or costs. The Court has reviewed
the motion, and has determined to grant it and assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00.
Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will give Plaintiff the opportunity to file
an amended complaint.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis
is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in 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 her account. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly
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payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00, until the
filing fee is fully paid. Id.
Plaintiff has not submitted a prison account statement as required by 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(2). Nevertheless, the Court has determined to assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00.
See Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 484 (8th Cir. 1997) (when a prisoner is unable to provide
the Court with a certified copy of her prison account statement, the Court should assess an
amount “that is reasonable, based on whatever information the court has about the prisoner’s
finances”). If Plaintiff is unable to pay the initial partial filing fee, she must submit a copy of her
prison account statement in support of her claim.
Legal Standard on Initial Review
This 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 may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). 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 fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does
not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw upon judicial
experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded
facts, but need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action,
supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
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This Court must liberally construe complaints filed by laypeople. Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976). This means that “if the essence of an allegation is discernible,” the court
should “construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson’s claim to be considered
within the proper legal framework.” Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). However, even pro se complaints
must 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). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that are not
alleged, Stone. 364 F.3d at 914-15. Nor are they required to interpret procedural rules so as to
excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S.
106, 113 (1993).
Plaintiff filed the complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following nine
defendants: Warren County Police Department; Warrenton Police Department; Warren County
Prosecuting Attorney Kelly King; Warren County and City Family Services; Warrenton Mayor
Eric Schleuter; and correctional officers Jason Edwards, Mark Strozer, Jesse Deathridge, and
Julie Unknown. Plaintiff sues the individual defendants in their official and individual capacities.
Plaintiff begins the statement of claim by writing: “They fail[ed] to do [their] jobs a[nd]
violated all my rights as a woman!” (ECF No. 1 at 4) (emphasis in original). The remainder of
the complaint is a long narrative concerning numerous unrelated events that occurred beginning
in 2017. The events include police failing to investigate crime, being wrongfully deprived of
custody of her children, corrections officers failing to report wrongdoing, and corrections
officers beating her, sexually abusing her, and verbally abusing her. She also appears to indicate
she was denied medical treatment while incarcerated. As relief, Plaintiff seeks mental health
treatment, and monetary relief in the amount of $10,000.
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Because of the manner in which Plaintiff has prepared the complaint, the Court is unable
to discern her actual claims for relief without engaging in improper speculation. While it appears
Plaintiff may seek to vindicate a wrongful denial of medical care and harm she suffered at the
hands of corrections officers, her allegations are wholly conclusory and fail to state a plausible
claim for relief against any named defendant. Additionally, the Warren County Police
Department and the Warrenton Police Department are not entities subject to suit under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. See Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992). Plaintiff
has also named “Warren County and City Family Services” as a defendant, which is an apparent
reference to a local office of the Missouri Department of Social Services. However, state
agencies such as the Missouri Department of Social Services are generally entitled to Eleventh
Amendment immunity. Texas Community Bank, N.A. v. Missouri Dept. of Social Services, Div.
of Medical Services, 232 F.3d 942, 943 (8th Cir. 2000).
The complaint also advances multiple claims against multiple defendants concerning
unrelated events that occurred beginning in approximately 2017. This is an impermissible
pleading practice. Rule 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs joinder of
defendants, and provides:
Persons . . . may be joined in one action as defendants if: (A) any
right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the
alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction,
occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (B) any
question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the
Therefore, a plaintiff cannot join, in a single lawsuit, multiple claims against different defendants
related to events arising out of different transactions or occurrences. Unrelated claims against
different defendants belong in different suits, partly to ensure that prisoners pay the required
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filing fees. Rule 18(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs joinder of claims, and
A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim,
counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as
independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal,
equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.
Therefore, multiple claims against a single defendant are valid.
The Court will not dismiss this action at this time and will instead give Plaintiff the
opportunity to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff is advised that the amended complaint will
replace the original. See In re Wireless Telephone Federal Cost Recovery Fees Litigation, 396
F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005) (“It is well-established that an amended complaint supersedes an
original complaint and renders the original complaint without legal effect.”). Plaintiff must type
or neatly print the amended complaint on the Court’s prisoner civil rights complaint form, which
will be provided to her. See E.D. Mo. L.R. 2.06(A) (“All actions brought by self-represented
plaintiffs or petitioners should be filed on Court-provided forms where applicable.”).
In the “Caption” section of the complaint form, Plaintiff should write the name of the
defendant she intends to sue. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) (“The title of the complaint must name all
the parties.”). Plaintiff must avoid naming anyone as a defendant unless that person is directly
related to her claim. Plaintiff must also specify the capacity in which she intends to sue the
defendant. In the “Statement of Claim” section, Plaintiff should begin by writing the defendant’s
name. In separate, numbered paragraphs under that name, Plaintiff should set forth a short and
plain statement of the facts that support her claim or claims against that defendant. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a). Each averment must be simple, concise, and direct. See id. Plaintiff must state her
claims in numbered paragraphs, and each paragraph should be “limited as far as practicable to a
single set of circumstances.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). If Plaintiff names a single defendant, she
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may set forth as many claims as she has against that defendant. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a). If
Plaintiff names more than one defendant, she should only include claims that arise out of the
same transaction or occurrence, or simply put, claims that are related to each other. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 20(a)(2).
It is important that Plaintiff allege facts explaining how the defendant was personally
involved in or directly responsible for harming her. See Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203,
1208 (8th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff must explain the role of the defendant, so that the defendant will
have notice of what he or she is accused of doing or failing to do. See Topchian v. JPMorgan
Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (The essential function of a complaint “is to
give the opposing party fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim.”). Furthermore,
the Court emphasizes that the “Statement of Claim” requires more than “labels and conclusions
or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” See Neubauer v. FedEx Corp., 849
F.3d 400, 404 (8th Cir. 2017).
Plaintiff has also filed a motion to appoint counsel. The Court will deny the motion at this
time, without prejudice. “A pro se litigant has no statutory or constitutional right to have counsel
appointed in a civil case.” Stevens v. Redwing, 146 F.3d 538, 546 (8th Cir. 1998). When
determining whether to appoint counsel for an indigent pro se litigant, the Court considers
factors such as the complexity of the case, the litigant’s ability to investigate the facts, the
existence of conflicting testimony, and the litigant’s ability to present her claims. Id.
After considering these factors, the Court concludes that the appointment of counsel is
unwarranted at this time. There is no indication this case is legally or factually complex, or that
Plaintiff will be unable to investigate the facts or clearly present her claims. Also, the motion is
premature. The Court will therefore deny the motion for the appointment of counsel without
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prejudice, and will entertain future motions for the appointment of counsel, if appropriate, as this
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion seeking leave to commence this
action without prepaying fees or costs (ECF No. 3) is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff must pay an initial filing fee of $1.00 within
thirty days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to make her remittance payable to
“Clerk, United States District Court,” and to include upon it: (1) her name; (2) her prison
registration number; (3) the case number; and (4) the statement that the remittance is for an
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk is directed to mail to Plaintiff a copy of the
Court’s prisoner civil rights complaint form.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff must file an amended complaint within
thirty days from the date of this Order.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion to appoint counsel (ECF No. 2) is
DENIED without prejudice.
Plaintiff’s failure to timely comply with this order may result in the dismissal of this
case, without prejudice and without further notice.
Dated this 16th day of February, 2021.
/s/ Stephen R. Welby
STEPHEN R. WELBY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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