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Samuels v. Nigh

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

September 7, 2017

BRANDE LEE SAMUELS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT NIGH; RYAN McDONALD; STEVE KUNZWEILER; ISAAC SHIELDS; STUART SOUTHERLAND, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CLAIRE V. EAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On July 7, 2017, Plaintiff, a prisoner in custody at the Tulsa County Jail and appearing pro se, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint (Dkt. # 1). By Order filed July 12, 2017 (Dkt. # 7), the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and directed him to pay an initial partial filing fee of $8.10 on or before August 11, 2017. The Court also denied Plaintiff's motions for class action certification and for appointment of counsel and directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Id.

         On July 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint (Dkt. # 13). To date, Plaintiff has failed to pay the initial partial filing fee. However, on August 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response (Dkt. # 14) regarding his failure to pay the initial partial filing fee, explaining that he has “other obligations” and needs additional time to make the payment.

         For the reasons discussed below, the amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and is dismissed without prejudice. Even though the amended complaint is dismissed, Plaintiff remains obligated to pay the full $350 filing fee in monthly installments when he has sufficient funds.

         A. Screening/Dismissal standards

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify any cognizable claim and dismiss any claim which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must present factual allegations, assumed to be true, that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A court must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, even if doubtful in fact, and must construe the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at 555. However, “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a [plausible] claim of entitlement to relief, ” the cause of action should be dismissed. Id. at 558. Twombly articulated the pleading standard for all civil actions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). The Court applies the same standard of review for dismissals under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) that is employed for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007).

         A pro se plaintiff's complaint must be broadly construed under this standard. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The generous construction to be given the pro se litigant's allegations “does not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Notwithstanding a pro se plaintiff's various mistakes or misunderstandings of legal doctrines or procedural requirements, “if a court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so . . . .” Id. A reviewing court need not accept “mere conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” (quotations and citations omitted)). The court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).

         B. Causes of action raised in the amended complaint

         The Court finds that the amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff describes the nature of the case as follows:

Tulsa County Public Defender's Office court appointed counsel fails to provide effective assistance of counsel to the indigent appointed and State fails to provide adequate remedy to address issue. Tulsa County District Attorneys Office fails to comply with ABA Standards violating the constitutional rights of indigent defendants through prosecutorial misconduct and other unethical methods.

(Dkt. # 13 at 3). Plaintiff identifies four (4) grounds for relief as follows:

Count I: The indigent defendant was denied right to a fair an[d] impartial trial process. Indigent defendant was denied constitutional protections under the provisions of law in accordance with the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments.
Count II: Indigent defendant was denied the right to effective assistance of counsel when appointed counsel failed to provide Plaintiff with copies of discovery denying the defendant the right to participate and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against me. In violation of the Sixth Amendment, due process and equal protection of the law in accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment.
Count III: Indigent defendant was denied the right to effective assistance of counsel when appointed counsel fails to file and argue proper motions and ...

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