United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
September 15, 2004.
GREGORY J. TURLEY, Plaintiff,
CATCHINGS, ET AL., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES NORGLE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The Plaintiff, currently an inmate at Menard Correctional
Center, brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that the defendants, officials at
Stateville Correctional Center, violated his constitutional
rights by retaliating against him after he filed a lawsuit. For
the reasons stated in this order, the motion is denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as
true all well-pleaded facts and must draw all reasonable
inferences from those allegations in plaintiff's favor; a
complaint shall only be dismissed if it is beyond doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no facts which would entitle him to relief.
MCM Partners, Inc. v. Andrews-Bartlett & Assoc., Inc.,
62 F.3d 967, 972 (7th Cir. 1995). Furthermore, when confronted with a
pro se complaint, the court must employ a more liberal standard
of review than would be used where an attorney prepared the
complaint. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Whitford v.
Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 535 (7th Cir. 1995). Despite this liberal
review of pleadings, federal rules still require that the
complaint allege facts which would provide an adequate basis for each claim. Gray v.
Dane County, 854 F.2d 179, 182 (7th Cir. 1988). On a motion to
dismiss, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact are taken
as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the
plaintiff's favor. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics
Intelligence and Coordination Units, 507 U.S. 163 (1993);
Swofford v. Mandrell, 969 F.2d 547, 549 (7th Cir. 1992).
Additionally, as long as they are consistent with the allegations
of the complaint, a party may assert additional facts in his or
her response to a motion to dismiss. Travel All Over the World,
Inc. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1428 (7th Cir.
1996); Highsmith v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 18 F.3d 434, 439-40
(7th Cir. 1994). Furthermore, the court can take judicial notice
of matters of public record without converting a motion to
dismiss into one for summary judgment. Henson v. CSC Credit
Services, 29 F. 3d 280, 284 (7th Cir. 1984).
Plaintiff, formerly an inmate at Stateville Correctional
Center, sued officials at that institution on a variety of
claims. In a December 15, 2003 order of this court, all claims
were dismissed except the claim for retaliation against defendant
Robert Catchings, Assistant Warden of Programs, and defendants
Louis Kovach and Joshua Slaughter, both Internal Affairs
Reading Plaintiff's complaint and accompanying pleadings in the
light most favorable to him, we take the following facts as true,
for the purpose of this motion to dismiss. Plaintiff claims that
defendants removed him from his job in the prison law library in
retaliation for his having filed a lawsuit in this court dealing
with inadequate medical care at the prison. Further, he states
that he exhausted administrative remedies prior to filing this
suit. He states that defendant Catchings was responsible for
overseeing the law library and the medical unit at the prison and that he was aware of Plaintiff's lawsuit dealing with his
allegations of inadequate medical care at Stateville. Further,
Plaintiff alleges that he was an informant working for the
superintendent and the warden, and that Catchings was involved in
gang issues in the law library that Plaintiff was apparently
investigating. Additionally defendants Kovach and Slaughter
disliked the superintendent to whom Plaintiff was reporting.
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Defendants first argue that Plaintiff failed to exhaust
administrative remedies prior to filing this suit, in violation
of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). (Defendants provide the wrong citation
subsection). In support of this position, they submit evidence in
the form of an affidavit. Such evidence, not appropriate for a
motion to dismiss, could be allowed and the case converted to a
motion for summary judgment, if the evidence was a matter of
public record, but it is not. They further argue that Plaintiff
failed to file any grievances specifically against these
defendants and that he must have done so to properly exhaust his
Next defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a
claim for retaliation, arguing that since the medical suit
Plaintiff filed was not against these defendants, therefore there
is no basis for a retaliation claim. In support of this position
they cite only two cases, one from 1987 and one from 1988.
Defense counsel might not be aware that subsequently, the law on
retaliation has been greatly developed. The court will examine
current case law to evaluate the retaliation claim.
Finally, defendants cite the doctrine of qualified immunity,
claiming that it should apply to them.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies According to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), "[n]o action shall be
brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of
this title . . . by a prisoner . . . until such administrative
remedies as are available are exhausted." See Porter v. Nussle,
122 S. Ct. 983 (2002); Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d 641 (7th
Cir. 2001); Johnson v. Litscher, 260 F. 3d 826 (7th Cir.
2001). Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he did exhaust
administrative remedies. Further, in his complaint and response
to the motion to dismiss, he attaches copies of his grievances,
and states in the response that he did exhaust on the issue of
At this point the court could do one of two things: deny
defendants' motion on this issue because their evidence cannot be
considered in a motion to dismiss, or convert the motion into one
for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 12(c), and give
Plaintiff the required LR56.1 warning and give him time to
respond appropriately. The court denies defendants' motion to
dismiss as to the failure to exhaust claim. Defendants' arguments
that he must have specifically stated the names of the defendants
in his grievances is not an accurate depiction of what is
required in an inmate grievance. As the Seventh Circuit made
clear in Strong v. David, 297 F. 3d 646, 649 (7th Cir.
When the administrative rulebook is silent, a
grievance suffices if it alerts the prison to the
nature of the wrong for which redress is sought. As
in a notice-pleading system, the grievant need not
lay out the facts, articulate legal theories, or
demand particular relief. All the grievance need do
is object intelligibly to some asserted shortcoming.
Additionally, and contrary to defendants' assertions, Plaintiff
need not specify by name each person against whom he addresses
his grievance. Murray v. Artz, 2002 WL 31906464, *4, referring
to the quoted language from Strong:
[T]his language does not require a prisoner to have
named a prospective defendant in his grievance, even if the prospective defendant was
known to the prisoner when the grievance was written.
Finally, in Higgs v. Carver, 286 F. 3d 437, 439 (7th Cir.
2002), the Seventh Circuit made clear:
Higgs has not alleged a chronology of events from which
retaliation can be inferred. But as the Supreme Court and this
court have emphasized, there are no special pleading rules for
prisoner civil rights cases (citations omitted). . . . All that
need be specified is the bare minimum facts necessary to put the
defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer.
Beanstalk Group, Inc. v. AM General Corp., 283 F.3d 856, 863
(7th Cir. 2002). `All that's required to state a claim in a
complaint filed in a federal court is a short statement, in plain
(that is, ordinary, non-legalistic) English, of the legal
claim. . . . The courts keep reminding plaintiffs that they don't
have to file long complaints, don't have to plead facts, don't
have to plead legal theories.' Kirksey v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco
Co., 168 F.3d 1039, 1041 (7th Cir. 1999). Had Higgs merely
alleged that the defendants had retaliated against him for filing
a suit, without identifying the suit or the act or acts claimed
to have constituted retaliation, the complaint would be
insufficient, cf. Muick v. Glenayre Electronics, 280 F.3d 741,
743 (7th Cir. 2002), because the defendants would not have known
how to respond. But Higgs specified both the suit and the act of
retaliation (namely placing him in lockdown segregation for 11
days), and this specification was enough to enable the defendants
to file an answer. See, e.g., Johnson v. Stovall, 233 F.3d 486,
489 (7th Cir. 2000).
Similarly, Plaintiff has attached as exhibits to his complaint,
as well as to his response, copies of grievances which, contrary
to defendants' characterization, actually do allege retaliation.
He raised the issue of retaliatory action against him by
Defendant Catchings in his grievance of January 23, 2003 and
various letters including one dated May 8, 2003. He thus claims
he was disciplined and lost his prison job after he filed a
medical care lawsuit in this court and filed grievances. It
matters not that the medical suit was not against these same
defendants. Plaintiff has met the requirements of what must be
included in a grievance, and therefore, did properly exhaust.
While Defendants' have factual disputes on both the sufficiency
of the grievances and the issue of exhaustion, the factual
disputes are not properly before the court. The issue here is only whether Plaintiff alleged that he
exhausted his administrative remedies and that he his grievances
were proper. From the face of his complaint and exhibits, the
answer is yes. Should defendants continue to want to pursue a
factual dispute on these issues, they must do so with the proper
pleadings and proof.
2) Retaliation Claim
Actions that would normally be permissible may not be done to
retaliate against a prisoner for the exercise of his fundamental
constitutional right, and seeking relief through the courts is
such a right. Black v. Lane, 22 F. 3d 1395, 1399 (7th Cir.
1994); Geder v. Godinez, 875 F. Supp. 1334 (N.D. Ill. 1995).
The First Amendment protects an inmate's right to file grievances
and lawsuits, and prison officials may not retaliate against him
for exercising that right. See DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607,
618 (7th Cir. 2000); Babcock v. White, 102 F.3d 267, 275 (7th
Cir. 1996). The ultimate question in a retaliation claim is
whether events would have transpired differently absent the
retaliatory motive, see Mt. Healthy City School District v.
Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977), it is not enough for Plaintiff
to show that the retaliation played a substantial part in
defendants' action. Babcock v. White, 102 F. 3d at 275. It
remains to be seen whether Plaintiff can prove any of the
elements of his claim. But at this stage of the litigation, it
matters only that he states the claim.
Defendants argue that a chronology of events must be pleaded in
the complaint in order to state a retaliation claim. This is a
misstatement of current law. Such a chronology is unnecessary
(and indicative of a heightened pleading standard inapplicable to
civil rights claims) as long as the complaint sufficiently
notifies the defendants and the court of the nature of the
claims. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002);
Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1008-09 (7th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff's allegations of retaliatory
conduct by prison officials, therefore, satisfied the liberal
pleading requirement. Defendants' motion to dismiss based on
failure to state a claim for retaliation is denied.
3) Qualified Immunity
Finally, defendants argue that the case should be dismissed
because all defendants are protected by qualified immunity. The
doctrine of qualified immunity often operates to shield public
officials from liability for civil damages. In Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982), the Supreme Court held
that "government officials performing discretionary functions
generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar
as their conduct does not violated clearly established statutory
or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known." See also, Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002):
Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574 (1998). In order to
survive a defense motion to dismiss on qualified immunity
grounds, a plaintiff must show (1) that he has asserted a
violation of a constitutional or statutory right, and (2) that
the applicable legal standards were clearly established at the
time the defendants acted. Harrell v. Cook, 169 F. 3d 428, 431
(7th Cir. 1999); see also Kelley v. Myler, 149 F. 3d 641,
648 (7th Cir. 1998).
Defendants deny Plaintiff's factual allegations and state that
they acted legally, attempting to negate the first point above
described. However, this is a question of fact and factual
matters are to be decided by the court. The issue for qualified
immunity is whether Plaintiff's complaint asserts, not proves,
that defendants violated clearly established law such that his
constitutional rights were violated. Because Plaintiff has
asserted the violation of a constitutional right taking away
his prison job because he exercised his First Amendment right to
file grievances and a lawsuit and because the law on retaliation is indeed clearly
established, and because Plaintiff did set forth all the elements
of a retaliation claim, therefore, the doctrine of qualified
immunity does not apply in this case.
Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied.  Defendants shall
answer the complaint within 30 days.
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