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Owen v. Young

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

November 5, 2015

LANCE G. OWEN, Plaintiff,
v.
DARIN YOUNG, TROY PONTO, JAN WAGNER, ALLCOCK AW at SDSP, Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING MOTION TO AMEND, AND DIRECTING SERVICE OF COMPLAINT

KAREN E. SCHREIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff, Lance G. Owen, filed this pro se lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming Darin Young, Troy Ponto, Jan Wagner, and “Allcock (AW at SDSP)” as defendants. Docket 1. This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy for handling pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and this court’s standing order of October 16, 2014. This case was “screened” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, and Magistrate Judge Duffy recommends dismissal of Owen’s claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1). Docket 8. Owen filed a “supplement, ” which the court construes as a motion to amend his complaint. Docket 9. For the reasons stated below, the report and recommendation is adopted in part, Owen’s motion to amend is granted, and his amended complaint survives screening.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Owen’s complaint, filed March 19, 2015, is the second he has filed regarding the same subject matter. On August 20, 2013, this court dismissed Owen’s first complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See Civ. No. 13-4079, Docket 6. Rather than pursue an appeal, Owen filed a subsequent § 1983 lawsuit. The docket for this lawsuit is unclear because it was originally filed as an amended complaint in his first lawsuit. Owen moved to proceed in forma pauperis. Docket 2. Before the court ruled on that motion, Owen filed a partial filing fee. Docket 6. In the report and recommendation, Magistrate Judge Duffy recommends granting Owen’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Docket 8.

In his complaint, Owen alleged one cause of action but made multiple claims within that cause of action. Docket 1. He alleged defendants denied him equal protection because, although he is a “lifer” at the SDSP, he was not given permission to transfer funds from his “frozen” prison account to (1) his other prison sub-accounts; or (2) outside the prison to his relatives. Id. Owen also implied defendants violated federal law by refusing to release the frozen funds or allow him to use the funds as he wishes. Magistrate Judge Duffy recommends that his complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Docket 8.

Owen filed a “Supplement.” Docket 9. In this supplement, Owen argues that defendants violated his rights by increasing his PLRA debt. Docket 9. Owen attaches account statements for April and May of 2015. Docket 9-1; Docket 9-2. The April account statement states that Owen owes $144 to the court under his PLRA obligation and that he has paid $206 toward this obligation. Docket 9-1. Added together, these figures total $350, the amount of a filing fee for an in forma pauperis filer. His May statement shows that Owen now owes $248.22 and has paid $218 towards his PLRA obligation. Docket 9-2. Added together, these figures total $466.22; it is unclear how this amount was calculated.

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). 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 that 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).

DISCUSSION

Liberally construed, Owen’s supplement constitutes a motion to amend his complaint. In this complaint, he claims defendants violated his due process rights by deducting too much money for filing fees without authority or proper notification. The report and recommendation recommends that Owen’s claim be dismissed. Because Owen has amended his complaint, his original claims have been superseded by the claims in his amended complaint. Thus, Judge Duffy’s recommendations are moot and therefore not adopted.

I. Owen’s Supplement Constitutes a Motion To Amend His Complaint

Owen filed his “supplement” after Magistrate Judge Duffy made her report and recommendation. In his supplement, Owen states a new claim. So, the court will construe it as a motion to amend his complaint. See Kaden v. Slykhuis, 651 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 2011) (on review of § 1915A dismissal, the court construes prisoner’s objections to magistrate judge’s report as motion for leave to amend complaint); Iheme v. Smith, 529 F. App’x 808, 809-10 (8th Cir. 2013) (objections which alleged other constitutional violations should have been treated as a motion for leave to amend the complaint). A motion for leave to amend is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. Bell v. Allstate Life Ins. Co., 160 F.3d 452, 454 (8th Cir. 1998). The court grants Owen’s motion to amend his complaint.

II. Owen’s States a Due Process Claim

In his supplement, Owen claims that defendants added to his PLRA debt without explanation. Construed liberally, Owen’s supplement raises substantive and procedural due process claims. “The two claims are analytically distinct.” Parrish v. Mallinger, 133 F.3d 612, 614 (8th Cir. 1998). Owen argues that ...


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