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Crockett v. Little Rock Police Department

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

February 4, 2019



          Kristine G. Baker United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Zachary Charles Crockett, who is currently an inmate at the Pulaski County Detention Center, filed a pro se complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, on October 31, 2018, naming as defendants the Little Rock Police Department and Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas (Dkt. No. 2). Pending before the Court is Mr. Crockett's second motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. No. 5).

         I. In Forma Pauperis Application

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), a prisoner who is permitted to file a civil action in forma pauperis still must pay the full statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The only question is whether a prisoner will pay the entire filing fee at the initiation of the proceeding or in installments over a period of time. Ashley v. Dilworth, 147 F.3d 715, 716 (8th Cir. 1998). Even if a prisoner is without assets and unable to pay an initial filing fee, he will be allowed to proceed with his § 1983 claims, and the filing fee will be collected by the Court in installments from the prisoner's inmate trust account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). If the prisoner's case is subsequently dismissed for any reason, including a determination that it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief, the full amount of the $350.00 filing fee will be collected, and no portion of this filing fee will be refunded to the prisoner. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         Mr. Crockett has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (Dkt. No. 5). Accordingly, Mr. Crockett's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. Based on the information contained in Mr. Crockett's account information sheet, the Court assesses an initial partial filing fee in the amount of $5.12. After the filing fee is collected, Mr. Crockett will be obligated to make monthly payments in the amount of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to Mr. Crockett's prison trust account each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00 until the balance of the $350.00 filing fee is fully paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         II. Background

         Mr. Crockett alleges that he was biking to his job at the Greyhound bus station in the predawn hours of July 10, 2018, when he noticed a Little Rock Police Department patrol car (Dkt. No. 2, at 4-5). Eventually, the car stopped behind Mr. Crockett at a stop sign, then followed him for one-and-a-half blocks before pulling him over (Id., at 5). The officer explained that he stopped Mr. Crockett because he observed Mr. Crockett pause at a car with an open window, then ride off after he realized he was being watched (Id.). Mr. Crockett alleges that the officer lacked probable cause to pull him over and maintains that racism and racial profiling prompted the stop (Id., at 5-6).

         Mr. Crockett, who has been convicted of a felony, denied consent for the officer to pat him down and fled on his bicycle; he was in possession of a firearm and feared the officer's reaction if the officer found out (Id., at 6). Apparently, the officer gave chase and ultimately found the firearm, as Mr. Crockett explains that he ended up with three stitches and criminal charges that remain pending (Id., at 6-7). He is currently detained awaiting trial (Dkt. No. 2, at 3). In his request for relief, Mr. Crockett seeks damages, a full investigation, and that all charges against him be dropped (Id., at 8).

         III. Screening

         The PLRA requires federal courts to screen prisoner complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that: (1) are legally frivolous or malicious; (2) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (3) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915A(b). The in forma pauperis statute also imposes these standards for dismissal. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         An action is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In reviewing the sufficiency of a pro se complaint under the Court's screening function, the Court must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). The Court also must weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Although pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, the complaint must allege specific facts sufficient to state a claim. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).

         IV. Discussion

         In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the Supreme Court held that federal courts should abstain from interfering in ongoing state-court proceedings. The Court explained the rationale for such abstention as follows:

[The concept of federalism] represent[s] . . . a system in which there is sensitivity to the legitimate interests of both State and National Governments, and in which the National Government, anxious though it may be to vindicate and protect federal rights and federal interests, always endeavors to do so in ways ...

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