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William v. Tenhaken

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

September 24, 2019




         Plaintiff, Christopher William, the Living Man, filed a pro se civil rights law suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 5 U.S.C. § 552 (Freedom of Information Act). Doc. 12. William has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. 2. William also filed a motion to receive electronic filings and a motion to serve summons at the United States Court's expense. Docs. 3, 8. William includes AAA Collections, LLC, in his amended complaint. Doc. 12. This Court grants William leave to amend his complaint to add AAA Collections, LLC, as a defendant. Thus, this Court's § 1915A screening focuses on William's amended complaint, Doc. 12.

         I. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         A federal court may authorize the commencement of any lawsuit without prepayment of fees when an applicant submits an affidavit stating he or she is unable to pay the costs of the lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). "[I]n forma pauperis status does not require a litigant to demonstrate absolute destitution." Lee v. McDonald's Corp., 231 F.3d 456, 459 (8th Cir. 2000). But in forma pauperis status is a privilege, not a right. Williams v. McKenpe, 834 F.2d 152, 154 (8th Cir. 1987). Determining whether an applicant is sufficiently impoverished to qualify to proceed in forma pauperis under § 1915 is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. Cross v. Gen. Motors Corp., 721 F.2d 1152, 1157 (8th Cir. 1983).

         According to William's application to proceed in district court he reported his gross pay and his take-home pay as $0.00. Doc. 2 at 1. Further, William reports that the amount of money he has in cash and checking is $0.00. Id. at 2. William's application shows insufficient funds to pay the filing fee. Id. Thus, William's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) is granted.

         II. Allegations of Amended Complaint

         William claims that on November 18, 2018, he submitted a message to Sioux Falls Mayor Paul Tenhaken claiming that they "had a friend in common, and that this person knew his whole family." Doc. 12 at ¶ 1. William claims this was a "friendly heads up." Id. William alleges that City Attorney Kooistra called him and when William returned the call Kooistra allegedly warned "that he should no longer send such a personal message to Mr. Ten Haken [sic]." Id. at ¶ 2. William claims that in this message Kooistra "intended to conspire with defendant Ten Haken [sic] to violate his inalienable right of free speech." Id. at ¶ 3.

         William claims that on March 10, 2019, he sent copies of a document to seventy-two city workers that included the following language: " 'I bet the first person to say, 'You can't fight . city hall' was a person who worked for city hall who was tired of people fighting city hall all the time. I say, you can fight city hall, you just need a bigger gun, better bullets and harder armor, -Christopher, The Living Man.' " Id. at ¶ 4. William claims that Kooistra contacted him again and "warned him to remove this quote from the document before sending it to anyone else, essentially presenting once again, that he intended to conspire with the defendant, Mr. Ten Haken [sic], to violate the claimant's inalienable right to free speech." Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.

         William claims that around December 29, 2018, he sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the City of Sioux Falls, Inc., "a business run by Mr. Paul Ten Haken [sic]" and asked for "all information available on record for a brand[-]new technology currently being installed within the limits of 'The City of Sioux Falls, Inc.' -The 5G Cell Phone upgrade; and the plan to make Sioux Falls a 'Smart City' [] as well as all information about its new LED lighting system, " Id. at ¶ 7. William claims he received an email in response asking about incurring a record search cost and he replied "That's fine. Go ahead." Id. at ¶ 8-9. William claims the FOIA request was "largely not answered" and he was charged with "$115.82, for "14 hours of 'Multi-Media Support.' " Id. at ¶ 10. William alleges he "offered to settle this unlawful bill in the form of the only recently discoverable means of making this payment lawfully that he was aware of: coffee beans, at a rate of 1 whole bean per dollar." Id. at ¶ 11.

         William claims on April 2, 2019, he received a bill of $116.00 from AAA Collections, LLC, addressed to a "dead corporate entity" known as "CHRISTOPHER BRUCE." Id. at ¶ 13. William alleges that on April 16, 2019, he attempted to serve notice of a cease and desist letter on Paul TenHaken's "personal secretary." Id. at ¶ 14. William claims that when he approached City Hall a security officer called him "Mr. Bruce, " and William contends that he has not gone by this name for four years and believes that the guard must have been on the lookout for him. Id. at ¶14.

         William claims he received another bill from AAA Collections, LLC, on April 24, 2019, addressed to the same "dead corporate entity" for the amount of $120.90. Id. at ¶ 15. William alleges he filed an amended complaint and sent it to TenHanken and argues that "someone of the Clerk's office, or possibly a judge [] contacted] Mr. Ten Haken [sic] to tell him about his filing before I had chance to email it to him." Id. at ¶ 17. Further, William claims that two hours after sending the amended claim sheriffs broke down his door, guns drawn, and arrested him for "a single misdemeanor stalking charge" against TenHaken. Id. at ¶ 18. William notes that this "violation of my rights, will be filed separately." Id. William asks for monetary damages (paid in gold or silver) as well as injunctive relief. See Id . at 4-6.

         III. Screening and Dismissal Standards

         A 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). Civil rights and pro se complaints must be liberally construed. Erichon v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Bediako v. Stein Mart, Inc., 354 F.3d 835, 839 (8th Cir. 2004). Even with this construction, "a pro se complaint must contain specific facts supporting its conclusions." Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985); Ellis v. City of Minneapolis, 518 F.App'x 502, 504 (8th Cir. 2013). Civil rights complaints cannot be merely conclusory. Davis v. Hall, 992 F.2d 151, 152 (8th Cir. 1993); Parker v. Porter, 221 F.App'x 481, 482 (8th Cir. 2007).

         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). 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 555; see also Abdullah v. Minnesota,261 Fed.Appx. 926, 927 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly noting complaint must contain ...

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