United States District Court, D. North Dakota
ORDER RE § 1915A SCREENING
Charles S. Miller, Jr., Magistrate Judge
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This
matter is now before the undersigned for initial review as
required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
initiated this action on July 13, 2018, with the filing of a
complaint dated July 4, 2018. (Doc. No. 6). On August 13,
2018, plaintiff filed another document dated August 4, 2018,
containing additional allegations against the defendants.
(Doc. No. 10). The court will treat both plaintiff's
initial filing and the supplement as the operative complaint.
Consequently, unless otherwise stated, the reference to
plaintiff's complaint in what follows includes both the
initial July 4, 2018 pleading and the August 4, 2018
action, plaintiff is attempting to sue two separate groups of
defendants. One group consists of the City of Moorhead (the
county seat of Clay County, Minnesota) and three
individuals-Brian Melton, Robert Matheson, and Lori
Conroy-who, presumably, are Minnesota residents. Melton and
Conroy are Clay County prosecutors. Matheson is a Moorhead
police officer. This first group will be referred to
collectively as the “Minnesota defendants.”
second group of named defendants consists of the City of
Fargo (the county seat for Cass County, North Dakota) and
three individuals-Tristan Jones Van De Streek, Brent Malone,
and Phillip Swan-who, presumably, are all North Dakota
residents. Van De Streek is a Cass County prosecutor. Malone
and Swan are Fargo police officers. The second group will be
referred to collectively as the “North Dakota
difficult to determine from plaintiff's complaint exactly
what he is contending amounted to a federal constitutional
violation by each of the defendants. In substantial part,
this is due to plaintiff's disjointed and conclusory
allegations that appear to involve multiple criminal
proceedings-at least one of which was (and, perhaps, still
is) pending in Clay County, Minnesota and another that began
in June 2017 in Cass County, North Dakota, and resulted in a
conviction that is now on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme
relief that plaintiff seeks is money damages against each of
the named defendants in varying amounts. The complaint is
silent in terms of whether plaintiff is suing the
individually-named defendants in their individual as opposed
to their official capacities.
STANDARDS GOVERNING INITIAL REVIEW
enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995
(“PLRA”) to address the burden imposed by
prisoner suits that are too often frivolous and without
merit. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 203-04 (2007);
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006). One of the
reforms enacted as part of the PLRA for cases in which
prisoners are seeking to sue a governmental entity, officer,
or employee requires courts to conduct an early screening to
weed out claims that clearly lack merit. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. In conducting the screening, the court is required to
identify any cognizable claims and to dismiss the complaint,
or any part of it, that is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim, or seeks monetary relief from an immune
screening a pro se prisoner complaint, the court is
obligated to construe it liberally and hold it to a less
stringent standard than what normally would be required of
attorneys. Id.; see also Federal Express Corp.
v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 402 (2008); Solomon v.
Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (“When
we say that a pro se complaint should be given liberal
construction, we mean that if the essence of an allegation is
discernible . . . then the district court should construe the
complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to
be considered within the proper legal framework.”)
(internal quotation marks omitted). This does not mean that
the court must accept everything or anything that is filed by
a prisoner proceeding pro se, however. In enacting
the screening requirement, Congress obviously expected it to
be more than an a ritualistic exercise and that courts would
only allow to go forward those claims that are cognizable,
that seek relief from a non-immune party, and that are not
clearly frivolous or malicious.
the minimal pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) for stating
a cognizable claim, something more is required than simply
expressing a desire for relief and declaring an entitlement
to it. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 556 n.3 (2007) (“Twombly”). The
complaint must state enough to “‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Also, it must state
enough to satisfy the “plausibility standard” for
stating a cognizable claim as established in Twombly
and further amplified by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-84 (2009)
(“Iqbal”). And, even though a pro
se prisoner complaint is entitled to a liberal
construction, these minimal pleading requirements must still
be satisfied. E.g., Story v. Foote, 782
F.3d 968, 969 (“To state a claim, . . . [the pro
se prisoner's] complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.”) (internal quotation
marks omitted and citing Twombly and
Iqbal). Complaints that offer nothing more than
labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the
elements are not sufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680-81. Frivolous claims are
those that are clearly baseless, fanciful, fantastic, or
delusional. See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
normally allege a violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or the laws of the United States and that the
alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under
color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988); Walker v. Reed, 104 F.3d 156, 157 (8th Cir.
1997). Even under liberal pleading standards, a pro
se litigant must, at the very least, invoke rights under
the Constitution or federal law in order to plead a §
1983 claim. Walker v. Reed, 104 F.3d at 157-58.
Also, the pleading must allege a sufficient causal link
between the alleged violation and the basis upon which the
particular defendant is to be held responsible, keeping in
mind that persons sued in their individual capacities must be
personally involved or directly responsible since § 1983
does not impose respondeat superior liability.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-77; Gordon v.
Hansen, 168 F.3d 1109, 1113 (8th Cir. 1999).
the court is not required to ignore facts that are pled by a
prisoner when they undermine the prisoner's claim. The
court may accept as true all facts pled in the complaint and
conclude from them that there is no claim as a matter of law.
E.g., Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of ...