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United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 12, 2005.

SALVATORE LONGORIA, Inmate #A-81084, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge


Plaintiff, an inmate in the Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint is a rambling monologue filled with vague generalities. After a careful reading, the Court discerns three themes: (1) Plaintiff is dissatisfied with his medical care, (2) Defendants falsify disciplinary tickets, and (3) Defendants have interfered with his access to the courts.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening. — The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. — On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint —
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action is legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.

  From the complaint, the Court gleans that Plaintiff is confined to a wheelchair; he states that the state-issued chair is inadequate and uncomfortable. He suffers from seizures of an unspecified nature, and apparently he has fallen from his chair on many occasions, resulting in assorted cuts, bruises and contusions. He takes several medications, and he claims that at times his medications are withheld, or that he has been given the incorrect medication. Plaintiff is unable to fully control his bodily functions, requiring that he wear diapers and a catheter bag. He states that he is not always provided with sufficient supplies, so he is unable to keep himself as clean as he would like. Finally, he is upset with the Department's policy requiring inmates to make a small co-payment for their medical care.

  The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. See also Jones v. Simek, 193 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 1999); Steele v. Choi, 82 F.3d 175, 178 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 897 (1996).


A prisoner raising an Eighth Amendment claim against a prison official therefore must satisfy two requirements. The first one is an objective standard: "[T]he deprivation alleged must be, objectively, `sufficiently serious.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at ___, 114 S.Ct. at 1977. As the Court explained in Farmer, "a prison official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. The second requirement is a subjective one: "[A] prison official must have a `sufficiently culpable state of mind,'" one that the Court has defined as "deliberate indifference." Id; see Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5, 112 S.Ct. 995, 998, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992) ("[T]he appropriate inquiry when an inmate alleges that prison officials failed to attend to serious medical needs is whether the officials exhibited `deliberate indifference.'"); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 291, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976) ("[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the `unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'").
Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991-992 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1230 (1997). However, the Supreme Court stressed that this test is not an insurmountable hurdle for inmates raising Eighth Amendment claims:
[A]n Eighth Amendment claimant need not show that a prison official acted or failed to act believing that harm actually would befall an inmate; it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm. . . . Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, . . . and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842.

  The Seventh Circuit's decisions following this standard for deliberate indifference in the denial or delay of medical care require evidence of a defendant's actual knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, a substantial risk of harm. The Circuit also recognizes that a defendant's inadvertent error, negligence or even ordinary malpractice is insufficient to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment constitutional violation.


Neglect of a prisoner's health becomes a violation of the Eighth Amendment only if the prison official named as defendant is deliberately indifferent to the prisoner's health — that is, only if he `knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.'
Williams v. O'Leary, 55 F.3d 320, 324 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 993 (1995); see also Steele, 82 F.3d at 179 (concluding there was insufficient evidence of doctor's knowledge of serious medical risk or of his deliberate indifference to that risk; emphasizing that even malpractice is not enough proof under Farmer); Miller v. Neathery, 52 F.3d 634, 638-39 (7th Cir. 1995) (applying Farmer mandate in jury instruction).

  Based on these standards, the allegations in the complaint simply do not present a viable constitutional claim against any named defendant. Although the Court empathizes with him, Plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief may be granted, and his medical care claims are dismissed from this action with prejudice.

  As for the $2.00 medical co-payment plan in the Illinois Department of Corrections, courts have consistently held that such a co-payment plan is not unconstitutional. See Reynolds v. Wagner, 128 F.3d 166, 174 (3rd Cir. 1997) (prisoner co-payment plan does not violate the Eighth Amendment); Shapley v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Commissioners, 766 F.2d 404, 408 (9th Cir. 1985) (nothing per se unconstitutional about charging an inmate $3 for every medical visit; such a charge, by itself, did not constitute deliberate indifference under Estelle); Hudgins v. DeBruyn, 922 F.Supp. 144, 150-52 (S.D.Ind. 1996) (prisoner co-payment plan does not violate the Eighth Amendment); Martin v. DeBruyn, 880 F.Supp. 610, 615 (N.D.Ind. 1995), aff'd, 116 F.3d 1482 (7th Cir. 1997) (Eighth Amendment guarantees only that inmates receive necessary medical care; it does not guarantee free medical care).

  Therefore, his claim regarding the co-payment requirement is also dismissed from this action with prejudice.


  When a plaintiff brings an action under § 1983 for procedural due process violations, he must show that the state deprived him of a constitutionally protected interest in "life, liberty, or property" without due process of law. Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125 (1990). The Supreme Court has held that while a state may create a liberty interest, such state-created liberty interests are limited to "freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force . . . nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483 (1995).

  In the instant case, Plaintiff makes no allegations that he was deprived of any protected liberty interest, at any time, in violation of his right to procedural due process. Therefore, he has not stated a claim upon which relief may be granted, and his claims regarding disciplinary tickets are dismissed from this action with prejudice.


  Plaintiff's final claim, as discerned by the Court, is that the law librarian has hidden from him a legal reference book regarding medical injuries, including spinal injuries. He also claims that he has been denied access to other legal research materials.

  The Seventh Circuit uses a two-part test to decide if prison administrators have violated the right of access to the courts. Smith v. Shawnee Library Sys., 60 F.3d 317 (7th Cir. 1995); Jenkins v. Lane, 977 F.2d 266, 268 (7th Cir. 1992). First, the prisoner must show that prison officials failed "to assist in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Jenkins, 977 F.2d at 268 (quoting Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977)). Second, he must be able to show "some quantum of detriment caused by the challenged conduct of state officials resulting in the interruption and/or delay of plaintiff's pending or contemplated litigation." Alston v. DeBruyn, 13 F.3d 1036, 1041 (7th Cir. 1994); Jenkins, 977 F.2d at 268; Shango v. Jurich, 965 F.2d 289, 291 (7th Cir. 1992); Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639, 642-43 (7th Cir. 1987); Hossman v. Sprandlin, 812 F.2d 1019, 1021 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1987). That means that a detriment must exist, a detriment resulting from illegal conduct that affects litigation. It does not mean that any delay is a detriment. Kincaid v. Vail, 969 F.2d 594, 603 (7th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 113 S.Ct. 1002 (1993). Regardless of the length of an alleged delay, a prisoner must show actual substantial prejudice to specific litigation. Kincaid, 969 F.2d at 603.

  In this case, Plaintiff makes no allegations of any detriment to any specific litigation, whether pending or contemplated. Therefore, he has not stated a claim upon which relief may be granted, and his claims regarding law library materials are dismissed from this action with prejudice.

  In summary, Plaintiff's complaint does not survive review under § 1915A. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED with prejudice, and all pending motions are DENIED as moot. Plaintiff is advised that the dismissal of this action will count as one of his three allotted "strikes" under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).



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