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Clark v. South Dakota

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

September 11, 2015

JONATHAN D. CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTH DAKOTA and MINNEHAHA COUNTY, Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Jonathan D. Clark, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming the State of South Dakota and Minnehaha County as defendants. Clark is an inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The court has "screened" this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and dismisses it for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) & (iii).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On August 5, 2014, Clark pleaded guilty to Failure to Provide Notice of a New Address and was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Docket 5 at 12. In a separate, pending matter, Clark brought claims against the prosecutor and judge from his criminal trial as well as claims against a police officer and corrections officer. See Clark v. Gross, 4:15-cv-04068-KES, Docket 1. Following Magistrate Judge Veronica Duffy's recommendation, the district court dismissed the claims against the prosecutor and judge because they were immune from suit but allowed the claims against the police officer and corrections officer to proceed. Clark v. Gross, 4:15-cv-04068-KES, Docket 18. Clark now files this complaint against different plaintiffs: the State of South Dakota and the County of Minnehaha. Docket 1 at 4.

In Count I of his complaint, Clark claims that the State of South Dakota violated his rights because he was sentenced illegally by the state court. Docket 1 at 4. He claims that he served his sentence, but is being held illegally past his parole date. Id. In Count II, Clark claims that his right of access to the courts is being violated by Minnehaha County. Id. at 5. To cure the illegal sentence he was given, he sent letters to the judge, state's attorney, and court clerk in Minnehaha County, but has not received a satisfactory answer. Id. He claims that if his sentence was corrected he would be released. Id.

Clark claims that he has been injured because of his confinement. Id. at 4. He is stressed, has high blood pressure, cannot sleep, and is being kept from his family. Id. As relief, Clark demands $3, 420, 000. This represents relief for the injuries he suffered from every day he was incarcerated illegally and emotional distress. Id. at 7. For the following reasons, Clark's complaint is dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 because it fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

LEGAL STANDARD

The court must assume as true all facts well pleaded in the complaint. Estate of Rosenberg by Rosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 36 (8th Cir. 1995). Also, "although liberally construed, a pro se complaint must contain specific facts supporting its conclusions." Allen v. Purkett, 5 F.3d 1151, 1153 (8th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). A complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations... [but] requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). If it does not contain these bare essentials, dismissal is appropriate. Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985). Bell Atlantic requires that a complaint's factual allegations must be "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true." Id. at 1965; see also Abdullah v. Minnesota, 261 Fed.Appx. 926, 927 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atlantic noting complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations regarding all material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory).

It has long been recognized that "civil rights pleadings should be construed liberally." Frey v. City of Herculaneum, 44 F.3d 667, 671 (8th Cir. 1995). The complaint, however, must at the very least contain facts which state a claim as a matter of law, and must not be conclusory. Id. Broad and conclusory statements unsupported by factual allegations are not sufficient. Ellingburg v. King, 490 F.2d 1270 (8th Cir. 1974). Finally, although pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, "they must still allege facts sufficient to support the claims advanced." Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004). The court is not required to supply additional facts for a pro se plaintiff, nor construct a legal theory that assumes facts which have not been pleaded. Id. It is with these standards in mind that Clark's complaint is carefully considered.

DISCUSSION

Section 1983 does not confer substantive rights but merely provides a means to vindicate rights conferred by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Gatlin ex rel. Estate of Gatlin v. Green, 362 F.3d 1089, 1093 (8th Cir. 2004). Section 1983 requires a claimant to identify the particular right that has been violated. Id. If the claimant fails to allege a violation of a right secured under the Constitution or laws of the United States, he has not stated a claim upon which relief may be granted under Section 1983. Isakson v. First Nat'l Bank in Sioux Falls, 990 F.2d 1098, 1098 (8th Cir. 1993). Liberally construed, Clark's complaint alleges claims for illegal sentencing and violation of his right of access to the courts.

A. Count I - Illegal Sentencing

Clark claims that the State of South Dakota violated his rights by sentencing him illegally, and he seeks monetary relief as a remedy. Count I only names the State of South Dakota as a party defendant. "The sovereign immunity enjoyed by states and recognized in the Eleventh Amendment bars private parties from bringing actions for damages against unconsenting states in federal courts." Thomas v. St. Louis Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 447 F.3d 1082, 1084 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing Becker v. Univ. of Neb., 191 F.3d 904, 908 (8th Cir. 1999)). The Supreme Court has ruled that § 1983 does not ...


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