Siers v. State of South Dakota et al
ORDER Dismissing Case and granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Signed by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier on 2/26/2014. (KC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
DONOVAN CRAIG SIERS,
STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA; and
STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA
UNIFIED JUDICIAL SYSTEM,
ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Donovan Craig Siers, is an inmate at Mike Durfee State Prison
(MDSP) in Springfield, South Dakota. Siers has filed a pro se civil rights
lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested leave to proceed in
forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Dockets 1, 9.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), a prisoner who “brings a
civil action or files an appeal in forma pauperis . . . shall be required to pay
the full amount of a filing fee.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The court may,
however, accept partial payment of the initial filing fee where appropriate.
Therefore, “ ‘[w]hen an inmate seeks pauper status, the only issue is whether
the inmate pays the entire fee at the initiation of the proceedings or over a
period of time under an installment plan.’ ” Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d
481, 483 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604
(6th Cir. 1997)).
The initial partial filing fee that accompanies an installment plan is
calculated according to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), which requires a payment of
20 percent of the greater of:
the average monthly deposits to the prisoner’s account; or
the average monthly balance in the prisoner’s account for the 6month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint or
notice of appeal.
Siers has not submitted a formal accounting of his prisoner trust account,
but reports having $78.73 in a checking or savings account. Docket 9. Siers
has also paid the $350 filing fee. Docket 11. Based on this information, the
court grants Siers leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
But the inquiry does not end there. The PLRA requires the court to
screen Siers’s complaint to determine whether any claims should be
dismissed. Pursuant to the PLRA, the court must dismiss an action or any
portion thereof if the prisoner has raised a claim that “(i) is frivolous or
malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii)
seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.”
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)–(iii).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A claim “is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore,
dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is “based on an indisputably meritless
legal theory” or where the factual contentions “are clearly baseless.” Id. at
327. The court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim when “it
appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of
his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,
45–46 (1957). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, “[t]he court must
presume that the factual allegations in the complaint are true and accord all
reasonable inferences from those facts to the [pleader].” Valiant-Bey v. Morris,
829 F.2d 1441, 1443 (8th Cir. 1987) (citing Holloway v. Lockhart, 792 F.2d
760, 762 (8th Cir. 1986)).
Pro se complaints, “ ‘however inartfully pleaded,’ [are] held to ‘less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’ ” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)); see also Frey v. City of Herculaneum, 44 F.3d 667, 671 (8th Cir. 1995)
(noting that “civil rights pleadings should be construed liberally”).
Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must comply with the minimal requirements
set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which specifically require
pleadings to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although a pro se
complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain “more
than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). Simply stated, a pro se complaint must “allege facts sufficient to
support the claims advanced.” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir.
2004). The court is not required to “supply additional facts, nor will [it]
construct a legal theory that assumes facts that have not been pleaded.” Id.
(citing Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989)). If the complaint
does not contain these bare essentials, dismissal is appropriate. Beavers v.
Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985).
“[T]o state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
sufficient facts to show ‘(1) that the defendant(s) acted under color of state
law, and (2) that the alleged wrongful conduct deprived the plaintiff of a
constitutionally protected federal right.’ ” Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 848
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Schmidt v. City of Bella Villa, 557 F.3d 564, 571 (8th
Cir. 2009)). In the instant case, Siers claims that defendants have wrongfully
imprisoned him in “clear violation of the United States Constitution and the
South Dakota Constitution.” Docket 1 at 1. More specifically, Siers claims
that he is being held for violating SDCL 32-23-10—a state law that he alleges
violates Section 9 of the South Dakota Constitution and the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution. To remedy this alleged
constitutional violation, Siers requests that he be released from prison.
The primary issue raised by Siers’s complaint relates to the legality of
his confinement. As the United States Supreme Court has noted, “habeas
corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or
duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even
though such a claim may come within the literal terms of § 1983.” Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S.
475, 488–90 (1973)). Therefore, because Siers seeks to invalidate his allegedly
illegal sentence, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted pursuant to § 1983. His sole remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that Siers’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis
(Docket 9) is granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Siers’s complaint (Docket 1) is
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
Dated February 26, 2014.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Karen E. Schreier
KAREN E. SCHREIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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