United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
August 9, 2004.
CHRISTOPHER RILEY, SR., a/k/a CHRISTOPHER COVINGTON, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL J. SHEAHAN, individually and in his official capacity as Cook County Sheriff, C/O FOREMAN, Star No. 4245, individually and in his official capacity, SGT. DEANS, Star No. 1028, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN GOTTSCHALL, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In his Second Amended Complaint, plaintiff Christopher
Covington charges defendants Sheriff Michael Sheahan,
Correctional Officer Foreman, and Sergeant Deans in their
official and individual capacities with violating his rights
under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Covington also seeks to recover damages from Foreman under
state law for battery and intentional infliction of emotional
distress. Before the court is defendant Deans's motion to dismiss
the claims against him in both his official and individual
capacities and defendant Sheahan's motion to dismiss the claim
against him in his individual capacity. See FED. R. CIV. P.
12(b)(6).*fn1 For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.
In January 2003. Covington was a pretrial detainee at the Cook
County Department of Corrections ("Cook County Jail"), where
Foreman was a Correctional Officer, Deans was a Sergeant, and
Sheahan was the Cook County Sheriff. Covington alleges that on
January 5, 2003, in preparation for taking a shower, he put on a
shower cap and shower shoes. Around the same time, Officer
Foreman called Covington into the foyer area of the jail and
asked him in a "hostile, intimidating, and aggressive manner" why
he was wearing a shower cap and shower shoes. Covington replied
that he was about to take a shower. Officer Foreman then
allegedly confiscated Covington's shower cap and verbally berated
him. Covington immediately requested that he be permitted to
speak to a "white shirt" a higher-ranking corrections officer
about the confiscation of his shower cap.
Foreman responded to Covington's request by ordering him to
walk from the foyer into the hallway. As Covington walked into
the hallway and past Foreman, Foreman allegedly struck him on the
back of the head "without warning and without provocation" and
"with tremendous, unjustified and unreasonable force." Covington
claims that the blow was so forceful that he suffered
overwhelming and semi-permanent physical pain and temporarily
lost control of his bladder. Immediately after the blow, which
was witnessed by several Cook County Jail inmates, Foreman asked
Covington in a threatening manner "Do you want to fight?".
Covington alleges that Foreman's unprovoked attack was not
immediately memorialized in writing. Instead, it was only after Foreman met
with Sergeant Deans to discuss the matter that Deans directed
Foreman to prepare an incident report. Covington claims that
although Sergeant Deans and Sheriff Sheahan were not directly
involved in the attack, they nevertheless "knew of the misconduct
and facilitated it, approved it, condoned it or turned a blind
eye to" it. He further alleges that the abuse he suffered while a
pre-trial detainee at Cook County Jail was the result of a
municipal policy or custom allowing officers to commit unprovoked
attacks on pretrial detainees.
In considering a motion to dismiss under FED. R. CIV. P.
12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in
plaintiff's complaint and draws all inferences from the complaint
in plaintiff's favor. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l
Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). However, the
court "will not strain to find inferences favorable to the
plaintiff which are not apparent on the face of this . . .
complaint." Coates v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ.,
559 F.2d 445, 447 (7th Cir. 1977).
A. Sergeant Deans
Covington attempts to hold Deans liable in both his official
and individual capacities for violating his Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. A plaintiff states a claim against an officer
in his individual capacity under § 1983 if he alleges that the
defendant "was personally responsible for the deprivation of a
constitutional right." Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561
(7th Cir. 1995). In this case, Covington admits that Deans was
not directly involved in Foreman's attack, but claims that Deans
ordered Foreman to write an incident report after discussing the incident with him.
According to Covington, Deans may be held individually liable
under § 1983 because he allegedly directed Foreman to prepare the
incident report without affording Covington due process. Even
under liberal federal pleading standards, this allegation is
insufficient to hold Deans individually responsible for a
violation of Covington's constitutional right to due process.
While Covington asserts that Deans violated his due process
rights by instructing Foreman to write an "incident report" after
the alleged attack, that allegation does not assert a
constitutional deprivation. Plaintiff does not assert that Deans
was involved in the battery. Nor does he allege that the incident
report which Deans instructed Foreman to write was false. Nor
does he allege that, assuming Foreman's incident report was
false, Deans instructed Foreman to write a false report or even
knew Foreman was writing a false report. While the court guesses
that plaintiff intended to make one or all of these allegations
of improper conduct against Deans, he has not done so.*fn2
Nor does plaintiff allege that he suffered any injury on
account of Deans' alleged conduct. While Covington argues that
the court may infer from this allegation that Dean ordered
Foreman to write an incident report that Deans was attempting to
impose unjustified punishment on plaintiff, plaintiff has not
alleged that Deans' actions resulted in any punishment being imposed upon him. In order to plead that
his constitutional rights were violated, Covington must allege
that the actions of the defendant officers in fact resulted in
his being punished without adequate process. See Jones v.
Brown, 300 F.Supp. 2d 674, 679 (N.D. IN 2003) (stating that
pre-trial detainee's claim for violation of due process after
being found guilty of an offense without notice of the charge
should be dismissed if he was never punished based on that
finding). Covington alleges neither that a disciplinary report
was written nor that disciplinary action was taken. Absent any
allegation that Deans's instructions to Foreman to write an
incident report after the attack caused any harm to plaintiff,
plaintiff has not alleged a constitutional deprivation.
While the requirements to Rule 8 are not stringent, the court's
review of plaintiff's complaint leaves it with no idea of the
basis on which he seeks to hold Deans liable. A short, plain
statement of the claim minimally requires notice to each party of
what wrong he or she is charged with committing. This complaint,
as to Deans, fails this modest requirement. Deans' motion to
dismiss the individual capacity claim against him is granted.
Nor can Covington's official capacity claim against Deans
stand Claims against a public official in his official capacity
are equivalent to claims against the governmental authority of
which the official is an agent. See Tapia v. City of Greenwood,
965 F.2d 336, 338 (7th Cir. 1992). To the extent that
Covington has a claim against the governmental entity which makes
policy for the jail, he is asserting that claim against Sheriff
Sheahan. An official capacity claim against a jail sergeant, even
if it made any sense (there is no allegation and no reasonable likelihood that Deans is any kind of
a policymaker whose actions are the actions of the county), would
be redundant. The official capacity claim against Deans is
therefore also dismissed.
B. Sheriff Sheahan in his Individual Capacity
Covington asserts that Sheriff Sheahan is personally liable for
the deprivation of his constitutional rights. As noted above, to
state a claim against a government official in his individual
capacity a plaintiff must allege that the defendant "was
personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional
right." Gentry, 65 F.3d at 561. Here, there are no allegations
in Covington's complaint suggesting that Sheahan was personally
involved in the alleged deprivation of his constitutional rights.
Covington alleges that Foreman attacked and threatened him and
Deans instructed Foreman to write an incident report. The court
cannot infer from these allegations that Sheahan was individually
involved in or in any way responsible for depriving Covington of
his constitutional rights. See Coates, 559 F.2d at 447. III. CONCLUSION
The motion to dismiss is granted. The claims against Sergeant
Deans in his individual and official capacities are dismissed.
The claims against Sheriff Sheahan in his individual capacity are