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Turner-El v. West

May 27, 2004

[5] JAMES G. TURNER-EL (JAMES TURNER, INMATE NO. N01161), PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MARY WEST, ELISA REA, MAVIS GROSS, AND JONATHAN R. WALLS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County. No. 03-MR-15 Honorable William A. Schuwerk, Jr., Judge, presiding.

[9] Justices: Honorable Gordon E. Maag, J. Honorable Terrence J. Hopkins, J., and Honorable Clyde L. Kuehn, J., Concur

[10]  The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Maag

[11]   James G. Turner-El (the plaintiff) is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections (Department) serving a 60-year term of imprisonment for armed robbery, attempted murder, and unlawful restraint. Public records of the Department, of which we may take judicial notice (see People v. Williams, 328 Ill. App. 3d 879, 887, 767 N.E.2d 511, 519 (2002)), identify the plaintiff as James Turner, inmate No. N01161. Under section 2-401(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-401(b) (West 2002)), the misnomer of a party may be corrected at any time, before or after a judgment. On the court's own motion, the caption of this case has been amended to reflect the plaintiff's proper name and inmate number for record-keeping purposes.

[12]   The plaintiff filed a petition for mandamus relief. The circuit court of Randolph County granted a motion to dismiss filed by Mary West, a paralegal at Menard Correctional Center (Menard), Elisa Rea, a paralegal at Menard, Mavis Gross, a grievance officer at Menard, and Jonathan R. Walls, the warden of Menard (the defendants). The plaintiff appeals and asserts that his petition was sufficient to withstand the motion to dismiss, warranting the reversal of the trial court's order and a remand of the case to the circuit court with directions. Mandamus relief is sought by filing a complaint, not a petition, and thus we will refer to the filing as a complaint for mandamus relief that sought an order of mandamus, not a writ of mandamus. See People ex rel. Braver v. Washington, 311 Ill. App. 3d 179, 181 n.1, 724 N.E.2d 68, 70 n.1 (1999).

[13]   BACKGROUND

[14]   On March 31, 2002, the plaintiff filed a complaint for mandamus relief in the circuit court of Randolph County. He asserted that between July 2001 and February 2002, defendants West and Rea had refused to perform their ministerial duties to provide him with "[X]erox copy/notary and other legal services" and "not to retaliate against plaintiff for pending lawsuits." He also asserted that they continued to refuse to photocopy "numerous pleadings" of an unspecified nature and "grievance complaints" in retaliation for his lawsuits. He did not describe the nature of the pleadings he sought to have copied, the courts in which they were to be filed, the dates upon which they were to be filed, or the dates upon which the defendants refused to make photocopies. He claimed that as a result of West's and Rea's actions, he suffered unspecified detriment in various unnamed federal and state causes of action and was unable to file grievances of an unspecified nature and to pursue them to the point of exhausting his administrative remedies.

[15]   The plaintiff asserted that defendant Gross had failed to perform her ministerial duty to decide grievances or to address unspecified "rewritten grievances from July 2001 through February 2002, etc.," thereby precluding him from exhausting his administrative remedies as a predicate to pursuing unspecified legal remedies. He failed to provide any dates or details about the allegedly unaddressed grievances or what legal remedies he was precluded from pursuing due to Gross's claimed inaction. Defendant Walls was alleged by the plaintiff to have failed to fulfill his ministerial duty to address "all grievances" (the nature, dates, and number of which were not specified) that the plaintiff had forwarded to him as emergency grievances between February 2002 and the date of the filing of the mandamus complaint. All the defendants' actions allegedly violated Department regulations and denied the plaintiff's rights under the constitutions of the State of Illinois and the United States. The plaintiff sought an order of mandamus directing the defendants to photocopy his grievances and legal pleadings in order that he might have access to the courts, to issue decisions on grievances, and to refrain from retaliating against him for filing grievances and complaints.

[16]   On May 7, 2003, the defendants moved pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2002)) to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint for the failure to state a cause of action for mandamus relief. They noted that the fact that the plaintiff was able to file a complaint for mandamus relief demonstrated that the defendants were obviously providing the plaintiff with photocopy service. They went on to contend that the generalized nature of the complaint's allegations relating to access to the court system precluded the grant of relief, because under Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 135 L. Ed. 2d 606, 116 S. Ct. 2174 (1996), the plaintiff was required to establish that an actual injury had accrued to him as a result of their alleged failure to perform a non-discretionary duty. The defendants also contended that mandamus should not issue because the plaintiff failed to provide any specific information about the grievances that he claimed had been ignored by Gross and Walls.

[17]   The plaintiff responded on May 29, 2003, to the defendants' motion to dismiss. He reasserted the allegations of his complaint without elaboration and claimed that the defendants' conduct "caused detriment to all [the plaintiff's] [s]tate and [f]ederal causes of actions" in that they had been dismissed because he could not attach copies of his grievances in order to prove that he had exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing his complaints in those forums. He again failed to provide any information about the specific causes of action that had been affected by the defendants' alleged failure to provide photocopy services to him. The plaintiff asserted, "[E]ven though I did not list case numbers[] or name specific courts, that's [sic] matters for discovery[,] and[] it does not negate this court's ability to grant relief for defendant's [sic] failure to [X]erox his grievances." He also maintained that his failure to plead his grievance-related allegations with specificity was a matter to be addressed in discovery.

[18]   On May 29, 2003, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. It found that the defendants were not refusing to copy the plaintiff's pleadings, that the plaintiff had failed to establish a clear duty for the defendants to copy his grievances, that he had not been denied access to the courts, and that he had failed to establish a clear right to have his grievances heard. Documents in the record filed by the plaintiff after the court's May 29, 2003, order are, we observe, photocopied.

[19]   CONTENTIONS ON APPEAL

[20]   On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the grant of the defendants' motion to dismiss was erroneous. He argues that his complaint was sufficient to state a cause of action for mandamus relief because he needed to do no more at the pleading stage than to allege that defendants West and Rea had refused and continued to refuse to photocopy his legal complaints and grievances and that Gross and Walls refused to address his grievances, thereby violating Department rules and the Illinois and United States Constitutions. He seeks the reversal of the order dismissing his complaint and a remand of the case to the circuit court with directions. We assume that he wants this court to either direct the court to conduct further proceedings on his complaint or order it to grant mandamus relief to the plaintiff.

[21]   DISCUSSION

[22]   Motions to ...


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