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Curry v. State

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 3, 2018




         Before the Court is Steven Duane Curry's Complaint (Doc. 1), supplemented by approximately 21 appendices, affidavits, and similar filings. Also before the Court is Curry's Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 9, 10). Curry is an inmate at the Otero County Detention Center. He appears to raise civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After reviewing the matter sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court will grant the in forma pauperis application, deny the Motion for Summary Judgment, dismiss the Complaint, and grant leave to file an amended complaint.

         I. In Forma Pauperis Motion

         As an initial matter, Curry filed an in forma pauperis motion seeking to prosecute this civil action without prepaying the $400.00 filing fee. In forma pauperis motions are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which provides:

Subject to subsection (b), any court of the United States may authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets such prisoner possesses that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor. Such affidavit shall state the nature of the action, defense or appeal and affiant's belief that the person is entitled to redress.

28 U.S.C. 1915(a)(1). Subsection (b) adds that where, as here, a prisoner files a civil action, the Court cannot waive the fee in its entirety. Instead, in forma pauperis status reduces the fee to $350.00 and allows the prisoner to pay in installments.

         Curry's financial information reflects that he is unable to prepay the filing fee in this action. The Court will therefore grant the in forma pauperis motion and waive any requirement for an initial partial payment. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Going forward, Curry is still “required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account” until he pays the full $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         II. Section 1915 Review

         A. Standards Governing Sua Sponte Review

         The Court has discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte under § 1915(e)(2) “at any time if . . . the action . . . is frivolous or malicious; [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” The Court may also dismiss a complaint sua sponte under Rule 12(b)(6) if “it is patently obvious that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged, and allowing [plaintiff] an opportunity to amend [the] complaint would be futile.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991) (quotations omitted). The plaintiff must frame a complaint that contains “sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         When evaluating an in forma pauperis complaint, the Court has the unusual power to pierce the veil of the factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). This means that a court is not bound, as it usually is when making a determination based solely on the pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations. See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). Instead, the Court may go beyond the pleadings and consider any other materials filed by the parties, as well as court proceedings subject to judicial notice. Id.

         Finally, in reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court liberally construes the factual allegations. See Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants, and a pro se plaintiff must abide by the applicable rules of court. See Ogden v. San Juan Cty., 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994). The Court is not obligated to craft legal theories or supply factual allegations to support the plaintiff's claims, nor may the Court assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant. Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.

         B. Factual Allegations

         Curry alleges that the State of the New Mexico and other state actors violated his constitutional rights in connection with his arrest and prosecution for aggravated assault on a peace officer. (See Doc. 1 at 1.) See also State v. Curry, D-1215-CR-2017-00473.[1] The Complaint alleges ...

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