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Arnzen v. Baldwin

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

July 1, 2015

JOHN W. ARNZEN, III, DANNY ROE, DAVID WHETSTONE, DEREK BLAISE AND CORY WEST, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN BALDWIN, GAIL HUCKINS, JILL HUBBARD, BRAD HOENIG, BETH BARNHILL, JIM FELKER, LETA HASIER, JEFF CRANE, JERRY BARTRUFF, BARRY ANDERSON, KATHY KHOMMANYVONG, SONYA SELLMEYER AND MATT CARLSON, Defendants.

INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

Donald E. O’Brien, Senior Judge

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

This matter is currently before the Court on Plaintiff John Arnzen, Derek Blaise, David Whetstone, Danny Roe and Cory West’s [hereinafter the Plaintiffs] Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, Docket No. 1; Motion for Appointment of Counsel, Docket No. 2; and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Complaint, Docket No. 1, Att. 1.

The Plaintiffs are involuntarily committed patients at the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders (CCUSO) in Cherokee, Iowa.[1]

II. IN FORMA PAUPERIS

The filing fee for a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 petition is $350. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). The doctrine of in forma pauperis allows a plaintiff to proceed without incurring filing fees or other Court costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, prisoners must meet certain requirements in order to have their filing fee waived. 28 U.S.C. 1915(a)-(b). A prisoner is defined as “any person incarcerated or detained in any facility” for “violations of criminal law . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h). Under the statute, prisoners are required to pay filing fees over time and are not entitled to proceed in forma pauperis as to filing fees. Id. However, CCUSO is not a prison facility; it “provides a secure, long term, and highly structured environment for the treatment of sexually violent predators.”[2]Moreover, the Iowa Code specifies that the types of persons confined at CCUSO are not prisoners. They are civilly committed patients who suffer from a “mental abnormality.” I.C.A. § 229A (generally); I.C.A. § 229A.2(11). Accordingly, individuals held due to civil commitment under I.C.A. § 229A are not prisoners and are not subject to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)-(b). See Kolocotronis v. Morgan, 247 F.3d 726, 728 (8th Cir. 2001), stating that those committed to state hospitals are not prisoners as defined under 28 U.S.C. § 1915; Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 321-22 (1982), stating that individuals who are involuntarily committed “are entitled to more considerate treatment than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish;” and Michau v. Charleston County, S.C., 434 F.3d 725 (4th Cir. 2006), cert. denied Michau v. Charleston County, S.C., 126 S.Ct. 2936 (2006), stating that:

[h]owever, [plaintiff] is presently being detained under the SVPA, [3] which creates a system of civil, not criminal, detention. ... see also Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 365-69 ((997) (concluding that Kansas’s Sexually Violent Predators Act established civil rather than criminal detention scheme). Because [plaintiff’s] detention under the SVPA is not the result of a violation of criminal law, or of the terms of parole, probation, or a pretrial diversionary program, he does not meet the PLRA’s definition of [a prisoner].[4] See ... Page v. Torrey, 201 F.3d 1136, 1139-40 (9th Cir. 2000) (concluding that a person detained under state’s civil sexually violent predator act is not a prisoner within meaning of PLRA). Accordingly, the PLRA provides no basis for the dismissal of [plaintiff’s] complaints.

Id. at 727-28. (Some internal citations omitted.)

In order to qualify for in forma pauperis status, a plaintiff must provide this Court an affidavit[5] with the following statements: (1) statement of the nature of the action, (2) statement that plaintiff is entitled to redress, (3) statement of the assets plaintiff possesses, and (4) statement that plaintiff is unable to pay filing fees and court costs or give security therefor. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In this case, the Plaintiffs have filed a Motion to for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis that substantially complies with the requirements set out above. Accordingly, the Clerk of Court shall file Plaintiffs’ Complaint. No filing fee will be assessed.

However, once any portion of a filing fee is waived, a court must dismiss the case if the allegations of poverty prove untrue or the action in question turns out to be frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

III. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 INITIAL REVIEW STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Pro se complaints, no matter how “inartfully pleaded are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings as drafted by a lawyer.” Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (internal citations omitted).

Although it is a long-standing maxim that a complaint’s factual allegations are to be accepted as true at the early stages of a proceeding, this does not require that a court must entertain any complaint no matter how implausible. The facts pled “must [still] be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In other words, the claim to relief must be “plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A claim is only plausible if a 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Where the complaint does “not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]’ - that the pleader is ...


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