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Howard v. Miller County Court

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

October 25, 2018



          Susan O. Hickey United States District Judge.

         This case is before the Court for preservice screening under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Pursuant to the PLRA, the Court must screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Cody S. Howard originally filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Eastern District of Arkansas. (ECF No. 1). On August 13, 2018, the matter was transferred to this Court. (ECF No. 2). The original Complaint listed the Miller County Court, Miller County Jail, and Miller County DHS Office as Defendants. On August 14, 2018, the Court entered an order directing Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint on the court approved form for this District. The Court's order advised Plaintiff that the originally named Defendants are buildings and not persons who are subject to suit. The Order further stated:

Plaintiff must write short, plain statements telling the Court: the constitutional right Plaintiff believes was violated; the name of the Defendant (individual) who violated the right; exactly what the Defendant did or failed to do; how the action or inaction of that Defendant is connected to the violation of the constitutional rights; and what specific injury Plaintiff suffered because of the misconduct of that Defendant. Plaintiff must repeat this process for each person he has named as a Defendant. Plaintiff is CAUTIONED that he must affirmatively link the conduct of each named Defendant with the specific injury he suffered. If he fails to do so, the allegations against that Defendant will be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

(ECF No. 5) (internal citations omitted).

         On August 30, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff names the following Defendants to the action: Jeffie Walker, Warden, Miller County Detention Facility; Jackie Runion, Sheriff, Miller County; Krista Kirkwood, Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) Investigator; Caron Estell, DHS Caseworker; Stephanie Black, Prosecutor; David Cotton, Prosecutor; Connie Mitchell, Prosecutor; Chuck Black, Prosecutor; Dorothy Jackson, Caseworker, DHS; Keshia Baker, DHS; Rachel Speights, DHS; Kenoshia Brown, DHS; Laurie L. Alexander-Stephens, DHS; Zach White, Detective; Brian Tribble, Detective; David Parker, Detective; Joshua Jones, Detective; Kayla Cigainero, Detective; Jason Mitchell, Public Defender; Kerry Wood, Public Defender; Brent Haltom, Judge.

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint states two claims. Plaintiff's first claim is for “slandering of name, false imprisonment, defamation of character, mental anguish, loss of wages, racial profiling, punitive damages, and pain and suffering.” (ECF No. 6, p. 4). Under Plaintiff's description of the claim, he alleges that “the parties involved” refused to properly investigate false allegations that led to his false imprisonment. Plaintiff asserts his first claim against Defendants Walker, Runion, Black, Cotton, Mitchell, Black, Estell, Kirkwood, Jackson, Baker, Alexander-Stephens, Speights, Brown, Parker, Haltom, White, Tribble, Jones, and Cigainero.

         Plaintiff's second claim is for “ineffective assistance of counsel.” (ECF No. 6, p. 5). Plaintiff asserts this claim against Defendants Wood and Mitchell, both Public Defenders. (ECF No. 6, p. 5). Plaintiff states that Defendant Mitchell assigned Defendant Wood to be his attorney. Plaintiff further alleges that he has not received proper attention and counseling from Defendant Wood. Plaintiff seeks to be assigned another attorney.


         Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen the case prior to service of process being issued. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (1) are frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         A claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded . . . to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). However, even a pro se plaintiff must allege specific facts sufficient to support a claim. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).


         As discussed above, Plaintiff asserts two claims. The Court will first address Plaintiff's claim of slander, defamation, and false imprisonment. The Court will then address ...

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