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Sterling v. Hennepin County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 14, 2014

ADAM LEE STERLING, Plaintiff,
v.
HENNEPIN COUNTY; STATE OF MINNESOTA; LORI SWANSON; LINDA M. FREYER; and MICHAEL O. FREEMAN, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

On September 4, 2014, plaintiff Adam Lee Sterling, a Minnesota state prisoner, filed this action bringing claims against the named defendants in this action, putatively under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Sterling did not pay the required filing fee, but instead applied to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") in this litigation. In an order dated September 5, 2014, this Court denied Sterling's IFP application for two reasons. See ECF No. 9. First, Sterling had failed to provide adequate financial information in his IFP application. Second, Sterling's complaint was "woefully inadequate" and "nearly unintelligible." Id. at 2-3. Accordingly, Sterling was ordered to (1) file an amended complaint, and (2) file an amended IFP application by no later than October 10, 2014, failing which this Court would recommend that Sterling's complaint be dismissed without prejudice for failure to prosecute. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b).

That deadline has now passed, and Sterling has filed neither an amended IFP application nor an amended complaint. He has, however, filed several additional documents in this case, including a certificate from an authorized prison official showing the balance and average monthly deposits in his prison trust account. See ECF No. 11. Although this submission does not fully comply with the Court's previous order requiring that Sterling file an amended IFP application (or with the requirements set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915 for such IFP applications), this Court will nevertheless construe the document filed by Sterling as an amended IFP application.

That said, Sterling has not yet filed any document that could be construed as an amended complaint. Sterling's failure to comply with this Court's previous order that he file an amended complaint would, by itself, justify dismissal of Sterling's complaint without prejudice for failure to prosecute. See Henderson v. Renaissance Grand Hotel, 267 Fed.App'x 496, 497 (8th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) ("A district court has discretion to dismiss an action under Rule 41(b) for a plaintiff's failure to prosecute, or to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or any court order.").

Leaving that aside, however, an IFP application will be denied, and the action will be dismissed, when an IFP applicant has filed a complaint that fails to state a cause of action on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Atkinson v. Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1128 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam). In reviewing whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, this Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Aten v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 511 F.3d 818, 820 (8th Cir. 2008). Although the factual allegations in the complaint need not be detailed, they must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint, the court may disregard legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, but they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced. See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004).

As explained in this Court's previous order, Sterling's original complaint is nearly unintelligible.[1] For example, in the section of his complaint headed "statement of the claim, " Sterling writes the following: "Baby phonetime Beyond a reasonable doubt 100 times staff infection caused by the state this ties all together." Compl. at 6 [ECF No. 1]. This is the entirety of the substantive allegations made in the "statement of the claim" section of Sterling's complaint. Needless to say, these allegations are insufficient to state a claim for relief under § 1983 or any other cause of action.

The many letters Sterling has submitted since filing his complaint do not shed any light on the claims he seeks to raise in this litigation. Simply put, Sterling has not adequately alleged in any of the documents submitted in connection with this litigation how he has suffered any harm whatsoever at the hands of the named defendants, much less how that harm amounts to a deprivation of his constitutional rights sufficient to state a claim under § 1983. In the absence of comprehensible allegations showing how the specific defendants named in the complaint violated Sterling's rights, this litigation cannot proceed. Accordingly, it is recommended that this action be summarily dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

RECOMMENDATION

Based on the foregoing, and on all of the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED THAT:

1. The complaint [ECF No. 1] be SUMMARILY DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
2. Plaintiff Adam Lee Sterling's motion for unspecified relief [ECF No. 5] be DENIED AS MOOT.

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