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Beckett v. United States Marshal Service

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

September 5, 2019




          Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge

         Before me are two pro se cases filed by plaintiff Kelsey Beckett.[1] In the first (C18-0117-LTS, Doc. No. 1-1) Beckett raises claims pursuant to both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging that officers used excessive force during his arrest. In the second (C19-2039-LTS, Doc. No. 1-1) Beckett and plaintiff Jacob Snay make four claims: 1) they were not provided adequate nutrition at the Fayette County Correctional Center; 2) defendants were deliberately indifferent because it is too cold to sleep at Fayette County Correctional Center; 3) they were denied access to the courts because the Fayette County Correctional Center does not have adequate legal resources; and 4) Beckett was subject to excessive force when defendants used a taser on him while he was lying on the floor.


         A. Plaintiff Beckett

         In both cases Beckett did not submit the statutory filing fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) (requiring filing fee). In order for a court to authorize the commencement of an action without the prepayment of the filing fee, a person must submit an affidavit that includes a statement of all the assets the person possesses. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In addition, a prisoner must submit a certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint, obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at which the prisoner was or is confined. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2).

         Beckett, who, as noted above, is incarcerated, filed motions to proceed in forma pauperis in both cases. C18-0117-LTS, Doc. No. 1 and C19-2039-LTS, Doc. 1. Beckett failed to provide a copy of his prisoner account statement with his motion in C18-0117 LTS. However, because he filed a complete motion in C19-2039-LTS, Doc. No. 1, I will consider that motion as applicable to both cases. That motion substantially complies with the requirements set out above. Because it is clear that Beckett does not have the assets necessary to pay the filing fee his applications will be granted. However, even though the court deems it appropriate to grant a prisoner-plaintiff in forma pauperis status, that plaintiff is required to pay the full $350.00 filing fee by making payments on an installment basis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); see also In re Tyler, 110 F.3d 528, 529- 30 (8th Cir. 1997) (“[T]he [Prisoner Litigation Reform Act] makes prisoners responsible for their filing fees the moment the prisoner brings a civil action or files an appeal.”). The full filing fee will be collected even if the court dismisses the case because it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks money damages against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Plaintiff must pay an initial partial filing fee in the amount of twenty percent of the greater of his average monthly account balance or average monthly deposits for the six months preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Based on the documents that Beckett submitted, it appears he has no money in his prison account, and he has not made any deposits into his prison account. See C19-2039-LTS, Doc. No. 1 at 3. Accordingly, the institution having custody of Beckett is directed to monitor his account, and, at such time that it is possible, provide an initial partial filing fee as calculated by pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) for each of the above captioned cases.

         In addition to the initial partial filing fee, plaintiff must “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 statute places the burden on the prisoner's institution to collect the additional monthly payments and forward them to the court. Specifically:

[a]fter payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner shall be required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. The agency having custody of the prisoner shall forward payments from the prisoner's account to the clerk of the court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10 until the filing fees are paid.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). Therefore, after plaintiff pays in full the initial partial filing fees, the remaining installments shall be collected by the institution having custody of the plaintiff. The clerk's office shall send a copy of this order and the notice of collection of filing fees to the appropriate official at the place where plaintiff is an inmate.

         B. Plaintiff Snay

         Plaintiff Snay did not pay the filing fee in C19-2039-LTS and filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Id. at Doc. No. 1. However, Snay did not file a prison account statement along with his motion. Accordingly, I will grant Snay thirty days from the date of this order to either pay the $400 filing fee or file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis which complies with the requirements set out above. If Snay fails to either pay the filing fee or file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis within thirty days, he will be dismissed from C19-2039-LTS with no further order of the court. The clerk's office is directed to send Snay the standard motion to proceed in forma pauperis form.


         A pro se complaint must be liberally construed. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Smith v. St. Bernards Reg'l Med. Ctr., 19 F.3d 1254, 1255 (8th Cir. 1994); see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004). However, the Court may dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant that is immune from a monetary judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) (requiring the Court to do an initial review of prisoner complaints).

         In reviewing a prisoner or in forma pauperis complaint, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless, they must be weighed in favor of the plaintiff. See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). Pro se complaints, however, must allege sufficient facts to support the plaintiff's claim. Stone, 364 F.3d at 914. A claim is “frivolous” if it “lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); accord Cokeley v. Endell, 27 F.3d 331, 332 (8th Cir. 1994). In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), courts generally rely on the standards articulated pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6). Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Atkinson v. Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1128-29 (8th Cir. 1996) (applying Rule 12(b)(6) standard to a dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), a court may review the complaint and dismiss sua sponte those claims that fail “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” Id. at 555., or that are premised on meritless legal theories or clearly lack any factual basis, see Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325.


         A. Bivens Standard

         Beckett's first case, C18-0117-LTS, is brought, in part, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).

As a general rule, Bivens claims and § 1983 claims are almost identical and involve the same analysis. See Gordon, 168 F.3d at 1113 (“An action under Bivens is almost identical to an action under section 1983, except that the former is maintained against federal officials while the latter is against state officials.” (citation omitted)); Duffy v. Wolle, 123 F.3d 1026, 1037 (8th Cir. 1997) (recognizing that the § 1983 body of law applies to Bivens actions).

Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 789 fn.7 (8th Cir. 2015); see also Wright v. United States, 813 F.3d 689, 695 (8th Cir. 2015) (applying excessive force standards in a Bivens action against the U.S. Marshals Service).

         B. § 1983 Standard

          The remainder of the claims in the two cases are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . .

§ 1983 was designed to provide a “broad remedy for violations of federally protected civil rights.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 685 (1978). However, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides no substantive rights. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994); Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989); Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 617 (1979). “One cannot go into court and claim a ‘violation of [42 U.S.C.] § 1983' - for [42 U.S.C.] § 1983 by itself does not protect anyone against anything.” Chapman, 441 U.S. at 617. Rather, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a remedy for violations of all “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws [of the United States].” 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also Albright, 510 U.S. at 271 (42 U.S.C. § 1983 “merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.”); Graham, 490 U.S. at 393-94 (same); Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 4 (1980) (“Constitution and laws” means 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides remedies for violations of rights created by federal statute, as well as those created by the Constitution.). 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) the alleged deprivation of that right was committed by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         C. Claims in C18-0117-LTS

         In his first case, Beckett makes a relatively straightforward excessive force claim. Beckett alleges that following a high-speed chase, he was taken into custody by the Cedar Rapids Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service, who handcuffed him and placed him on the ground. Beckett alleges that after he was on the ground, the arresting officers allowed a K-9 unit to bite him, and those bites resulted in serious medical issues.

         The Supreme Court has set a high bar for dismissing excessive force claims brought by pretrial detainees claims on initial review. Reversing a grant of summary ...

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