United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
April 16, 2004.
RONNIE JAMISON, Plaintiff,
Sherriff Michael F. Sheahan, Director Callie Baird, Supt. James Mcguire, officer Rodriguez Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARK FILIP, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Ronnie Jamison, has sued pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in
connection with an alleged prisoner-on-prisoner assault that he suffered
while he was in the custody of the Cook County Department of
Corrections. Plaintiff also has moved for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is
granted. Plaintiff's suit is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted.
I. Plaintiff's Motion To Proceed In Forma Pauperis Is Granted
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Cook County Department of Corrections,
brings this pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court
finds that Plaintiff is unable to prepay the filing fee. The court grants
Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assesses an
initial partial filing fee of $8.22 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1),
The trust officer at Plaintiff's current place of incarceration is
directed to collect, when funds exist, the partial filing fee from
Plaintiff's trust fund account and pay it directly to the clerk of
court. Thereafter, the trust fund officer at the correctional facility
where Plaintiff is held is directed to collect monthly payments from Plaintiff's trust fund account in the amount
of 20% of the preceding month's income credited to the account. Monthly
payments collected from Plaintiff's trust fund account shall be forwarded
to the clerk of court each time the account balance exceeds $10.00 until
the full $150.00 filing fee is paid. Separate deductions and payments
shall be made with respect to each action or appeal filed by Plaintiff.
AH payments shall be sent to the Clerk, United States District Court, 219
S, Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60604, Attention; Fiscal Department, and
shall clearly identify Plaintiff's name and the case number assigned to
this action. The clerk shall send a copy of this order to Elizabeth
Hudson, Supervisor of Inmate Trust Fund Accounts, Cook County Department
of Corrections Administrative Office, Division V, 2700 S. California,
Chicago, IL 60608.
II. Plaintiff's Section 1983 Complaint Is Dismissed For Failure To State
Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed as against all Defendants for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In addition,
Plaintiff's claims against Defendants "Sherriff [sic] Michael F.
Sheahan," "Director Callie Baird," and "Supt. James Mcguire" are
dismissed for the alternative and independent reason that Plaintiff has
not sufficiently alleged that these supervisory personnel could be liable
in their respective individual capacities under g 1983.
A. Plaintiff Has Failed To Allege A Cognizable Constitutional Violation
In This Case By Defendants In Connection With Plaintiff's Attack By
1. Factual Background As Alleged
On November 22, 2003, Plaintiff was standing at the door of his cell
singing through the upper facial opening. One of his cellmates struck him
twice in the back of his head, knocking him unconscious. When Plaintiff regained consciousness, the detainee who
had struck him was standing over him yelling obscenities and threatening
Plaintiff asked his cellmates to get the assigned officer but they
refused, Plaintiff began to yell for Officer Rodriguez but his cellmates
threatened Plaintiff and told him to be quiet. After seeing that
Plaintiff had lost a lot of blood, the cellmates began to call for
Officer Rodriguez, who arrived five minutes later.
Plaintiff told Rodriguez that he needed a paramedic but Officer
Rodriguez insisted that Plaintiff walk to the control tower, Plaintiff
fainted. When Plaintiff regained consciousness, he repeatedly told
Rodriguez that he was dizzy, but Rodriguez did not call for a paramedic
and instead told Plaintiff to walk to the elevator, Plaintiff fainted
again and regained consciousness on a motor cart arriving in the
emergency unit. Plaintiff was treated for a concussion and deep
lacerations to his eyelid, eyebrow, and cheek.
On his return to the jail, Plaintiff was placed in a holding cell. When
he yelled for assistance because of headaches and dizziness, an unknown
person responded, "You'll be alright, shut up." Plaintiff was transferred
to the medical deck and given pain medication,
Plaintiff alleges that supervisory personnel were negligent in failing
to ensure his safety and that Officer Rodriguez did not follow protocol
in seeking medical attention for him. He seeks money damages.
Because Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time of the events in
question, "his § 1983 claim is analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment's
Due Process Clause rather than under the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and
Unusual Punishment Clause." Butera v. Cottey, 285 F.3d 601, 605 (7th Cir. 2002), However, that distinction is without a difference
for this type of claim because precedent teaches that "§ 1983 claims
brought under the Fourteenth Amendment are to be analyzed under the
Eighth Amendment test." Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 844 n.2 (7th
Cir. 1999); see also Butera, 285 F.3d at 605 n.2.
"`[P]rison officials have a duty . . . to protect prisoners from
violence at the hands of other prisoners.'" Lewis v, Richards,
107 F.3d 549, 552-53 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994)); Langston v. Peters, 100 F.3d 1235, 1237 (7th
Cir. 1996). Failure to provide such protection, however, violates the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment only if
"deliberate indifference by prison officials [to the prisoner's welfare]
effectively condones the attack by allowing it to happen[,]" Haley v.
Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 640 (7th Cir. 1996). Thus, to sustain an Eighth
Amendment claim, an inmate must establish that the defendants had "actual
knowledge of an impending harm easily preventable, so that a conscious,
culpable refusal to prevent the harm can be inferred from the defendant's
failure to prevent it." McGill v, Duckworth, 944 F.2d 344, 348 (7th Cir.
1991). "It is not enough that a reasonable prison official would or
should have known that the prisoner was at risk: the official must
actually know of and disregard the risk to incur culpability," Lewis, 107
F.3d at 553 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837-38).
In a failure-to-protect case such as this, the plaintiff must plead
facts tending to show that jail official(s) were aware of a specific,
impending, and substantial threat to his safety. See Pope v. Shafer,
86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996); McGill, 944 F.2d at 348. There is no
indication or allegation in this complaint that any official at Cook
County Jail was on notice that Plaintiff was in danger of being attacked
by his cellmate. Although it was not ideal that it took Officer Rodriguez five minutes to get to the cell and that Officer Rodriguez
chose to have Plaintiff walk instead of calling a paramedic, "[m]ere
negligence or even gross negligence does not constitute deliberate
indifference." Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 1996).
Accordingly, Plaintiff's attack at the hands of a fellow cellmate cannot
he the basis of § 1983 liability as against the Defendants on the facts
B. Plaintiff Has Not Alleged That The Three Supervisory Defendants
Could Be Liable In Their Respective Individual Capacities Under
Plaintiff seeks to hold Michael F. Sheahan, Sheriff of Cook County;
Callie Baird, Director of the Cook County Department of Corrections; and
James McGuire, alleged to be "Superintendent of Division 9, Cook County
Department of Corrections" liable under § 1983. Plaintiff alleges
that these three supervisory defendants were negligent in carrying out
their duty to protect him from harm from other inmates.
Supervisory personnel, however, cannot be held liable in their
respective individual capacities under § 1983 unless they caused or
participated in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Vance v,
Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991 (7th Cir. 1996); Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555,
561 (7th Cir. 1995); Rascan v. Hardiman, 803 F.2d 269, 273 (7th Cir.
1986) (citing Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir.
1983)). Supervisors and others in authority also cannot be held liable
for any alleged wrongdoing on the part of subordinates pursuant to the
doctrine of respondeat superior because that doctrine does not apply in
§ 1983 actions. See, e.g., Sanville v. McCaughty, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th
Cir. 2001); Pacelli v. DeVito, 972 F.2d 871, 878 (7th Cir. 1992). There
is no indication or allegation in Plaintiff's complaint that any of the
supervisory personnel knew and effectively consented to (or were even
aware of) any potential harm that might befall Plaintiff much less that they caused or
participated in it. See, e.g., Gentry, 65 F.3d at 561.
Plaintiff's assertion that the supervisory personnel were negligent in
enforcing the guidelines and regulations of the Cook County Department of
Corrections also appears to be an attempt on Plaintiff's part to hold the
supervisory personnel liable in their respective official capacities. An
official capacity claim is, in essence, a claim against the governmental
entity that employs the defendant. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159,
165 (1985); Chortek v. Milwaukee, 356 F.3d 740, 748 n.4 (7th Cir. 2004),
A local governmental entity is liable for damages only if a plaintiff can
show that the alleged constitutional deprivation occurred as a result of
an official policy, custom, or practice. See Monell v. Dep't of Social
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Chortek, 356 F.3d at 748.
The Seventh Circuit has determined that a municipality can be said to
have violated the rights of a person because of its policy when a
widespread practice, although not authorized by written law or express
municipal policy, is "so permanent and well settled as to constitute a
custom or usage with the force of law." Baxter by Baxter v. Vigo County
School Corp., 26 F.3d 728, 735 (7th Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). Plaintiff has not alleged that the Cook County
Department of Corrections has any express policy that caused or
contributed to the assault from his cellmate; nor has Plaintiff alleged
any widespread practice so permanent or well settled as to constitute a
custom or usage with force of law that caused or condoned the
inmate-on-inmate attack. See, e.g., Garrison v. Burke, 165 F.3d 565, 571
(7th Cir. 1999) (collecting cases). Plaintiff himself states that the
supervisory personnel were negligent in following the regulations and
guidelines of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Such a statement indicates that the Jail had a policy to protect inmates-but
that in Plaintiff's particular case, the policy was not enforced because
of alleged negligence, not because of any permanent or widespread
practice that has effectively become a custom or usage with force of law.
See also Jackson v. Marian County, 66 F.3d 151, 152 (7th Cir. 1995)
(teaching that a single act of misconduct will not suffice to show the
requisite policy or custom).
In the instant case, Plaintiff has not alleged that some policy existed
by which jail officials failed to protect inmates from harm from other
inmates. Rather, he contends that supervisory personnel were negligent in
enforcing the regulations and guidelines of the jail in this particular
instance as things affected him. Although it is unfortunate that
Plaintiff suffered serious injuries at the hands of another inmate, there
is nothing in this complaint that indicates that it is a widespread
practice on the part of jail officials to allow, encourage, or acquiesce
in prisoners' brutalizing of other prisoners. This suit is accordingly dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. If Plaintiff wishes to appeal this
dismissal, he may file a notice of appeal with this Court within 30 days
of the entry of judgment. See Fed.R. App, P. 4(a)(4). If he does so, he
will be liable for the $255 appellate filing fee. Unless Plaintiff is
granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, he will have to pay the fee
immediately. If he cannot do so, the appeal will be dismissed, but he
will remain liable for the fee and it will be deducted from his inmate
trust fund account in installments. See Evam v. Illinois Dept. of
Corrections, 150 F.3d 810, 812 (7th Cir. 1998). If this court finds that
the appeal is not taken in good faith, and the Court of Appeals agrees,
Plaintiff will not be permitted to proceed in forma pauperis and pay the
fee in installments, but instead he will have to pay the fee immediately
or the appeal will be dismissed, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), To avoid a
Finding that the appeal is not taken in good faith, a motion to proceed
in forma pauperis on appeal should explain the grounds for the appeal.
Sea Hyche v. Christensen, 170 F.3d 769, 771 (7th Cir 1999).
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