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Lester v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 12, 2019

DEVIN T. LESTER et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF MICHIGAN et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         This action was filed in the name of Devin T. Lester, but the complaint was signed by Sherry K. McKay. Ms. McKay signed the documents on Plaintiff Lester's behalf under a durable power of attorney. Plaintiff Lester is presently detained in the Cass County Jail pending trial on multiple assault counts relating to an incident on October 22, 2018.

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Ms. McKay, however, is not a prisoner. The Court has granted Ms. McKay leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2) the Court must also dismiss any action she files as a pauper if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         The complaint names as Defendants the State of Michigan, the Cass County Sheriff, Shannon Kenyon, the principal victim of the assault and mother of Bentley, and Shannon's mother and father, Laura and Richard Kenyon, who were present at the time of the alleged assault. Plaintiff Lester is alleged to be the father of Bentley.

         The complaint alleges that Defendant Richard Kenyon committed the assaults of Shannon for which Plaintiff Lester has been charged. Additionally, the complaint states that Defendant Cass County Sheriff's treatment of Lester during his arrest and detention is cruel and unusual punishment. The complaint does not elaborate as to the nature of the cruel and unusual punishment that the sheriff's officers or the sheriff inflicted upon Plaintiff beyond stating that Plaintiff Lester was placed in segregation for seven months.

         The complaint seeks an order directing the state to hold the Kenyons' property to be sold and the proceeds sent to Plaintiff Lester. The complaint also seeks damages in the amount of 2.5 million dollars for mental anguish resulting from the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted upon Plaintiff Lester by the sheriff and other officers in Cass County.

         II. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).

         III. Plaintiff McKay Lacks Standing, Authority, or a Cognizable Claim

         The complaint was signed by Ms. McKay on Plaintiff Lester's behalf under a durable power of attorney. Even assuming a valid power of attorney existed that authorized Ms. McKay to institute a lawsuit as agent on behalf of Plaintiff Lester, she would not have the authority to practice law by representing him in this lawsuit without an attorney. A party in federal court must proceed either through a licensed attorney or on her own behalf. 28 U.S.C. § 1654; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a) (“Every pleading, written motion, and other paper shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's individual name, or, if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall be signed by the party”). A power of attorney does not authorize a non-lawyer to prosecute a case in federal court on behalf of another person. Johns v. County of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997) (affirming dismissal of complaint with prejudice that was filed pursuant to a general power of attorney); J.M. Huber Corp. v. Roberts, No. 88-6160, 1989 WL 16866, at *1 (6th Cir. Feb. 17, 1989) (notice of appeal signed by a nonlawyer pursuant to a power of attorney ineffective to give rise to appellate jurisdiction); Walsh v. Internal Revenue Serv., No. 1:08-cv-1132 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 12, 2009) (report and recommendation), adopted by 2009 WL 4261212 (W.D. Mich. Nov. 24, 2009); Kapp v. Booker, No. Civ. A. 05-402-JMH, 2006 WL 385306, at *3 (E.D. Ky. Feb.16, 2006). In short, Plaintiff McKay cannot present claims in this Court on Plaintiff Lester's behalf. Moreover, Plaintiff lacks standing to present the claims of Plaintiff Lester on his behalf. Newsom v Norris, 888 F.2d 371, 381 (6th Cir. 1989); Raines v. Goedde, No. 92-3120, 1992 WL 188120, at *2 (6th Cir. Aug. 6, 1992). Any claims she purports to bring on Plaintiff Lester's behalf are properly dismissed.

         If it were Plaintiff McKay's intent to bring a claim on her own behalf for injuries caused to her, the allegations in the complaint do not suffice to give rise to such a claim. She does not allege that any of the Defendants caused her compensable injury. For the reasons set forth above, the Court will dismiss with prejudice any claims Plaintiff McKay has raised against the Defendants.

         With respect to the claims of Plaintiff Lester, if Ms. McKay had sufficiently stated Lester's claims, the Court would consider providing Plaintiff Lester the opportunity to sign the complaint on his own behalf. The ...


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