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McATEE v. SNYDER

October 21, 2005.

RONNIE L. McATEE, Inmate #B36520, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD N. SNYDER, ROGER E. WALKER, JONATHAN R. WALLS, EUGENE M. McADORY, WILLIAM SPILLER, DR. F. AHMED, PAM GRUBMAN, MAVIS GROSS, DOUGLAS CRAVENS, ROBERT S. GALES, and E. WINE, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM STIEHL, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered.

To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f) and 10(b), the Court finds it appropriate to break the claims in plaintiff's pro se complaint and other pleadings into numbered counts, as shown below. Although these counts do not correspond directly to the legal claims as described by Plaintiff, they are based on the Court's determination of the claims that arise out of the facts stated in Plaintiff's complaint. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. COUNT 1: Against defendants Grubman and Ahmed for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

 
COUNT 2: Against all defendants for violation of the Rehabilitation Act
COUNT 3: Against defendants Spiller, Wine, Gales, Walls, McAdory, Gross, Cravens, and Snyder for cruel and unusual conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
COUNT 4: Against all defendants for violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
COUNT 5: Against all defendants for violation of his due process rights in connection with his long-term confinement in segregation.
  This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides, in pertinent part:
 
(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). After evaluating plaintiff's claims individually, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under Section 1915A to dismiss those claims that are frivolous before allowing plaintiff to proceed with his remaining claims. See also House v. Belford, 956 F.2d 711, 718-19 (7th Cir. 1992).

  COUNT 1

  Plaintiff states that Defendants Grubman and Ahmed have been negligent or deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Plaintiff states that he suffers from "extensive physical and psychological problems" including depression anxiety, panic disorder, migraine headaches, and atrophying of body tissue. Plaintiff further states that Defendants Grubman and Ahmed failed to review Plaintiff's medical and psychological condition before his was placed in a restrictive control cell and after he was released from the control cell, in violation of Illinois administrative rules.

  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). However, a plaintiff inmate need not prove that a defendant intended the harm that ultimately transpired or believed the harm would occur. Haley v. Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 641 (7th Cir. 1996).

  Based on these standards, Plaintiff has not stated a claim of deliberate indifference. Plaintiff has not made sufficient allegations under the subjective requirement outlined above. Plaintiff has not stated how Defendants Grubman and Ahmed were aware of a risk to his health, but ignored it. In fact, Plaintiff himself states that their conduct was negligent. "Mere negligence or even gross negligence does not constitute deliberate indifference." See Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 1996). Furthermore, Plaintiff states later in the complaint that when he receives psychological or psychiatric counseling he is chained to a bolt in the floor. This statement belies his assertion that he did not receive psychological counseling while in segregation. Ultimately, without allegations indicating that Defendants Grubman and Ahmed were aware of the risks to Plaintiff as a result of his medical condition and then that they deliberately ignored them, Plaintiff has not stated a claim of constitutional dimension. Accordingly, this claim is DISMISSED from the action with prejudice. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

  COUNT 2

  Plaintiff states that a serious medical need in that he is suffering from "a mental and physical disability." Plaintiff states that Defendants knew of this condition, but discriminated against him in violation of the Rehabilitation Act in the following ways. Defendants denied him adequate psychological treatment, an alternative to prolonged segregation in the form of a work assignment, an opportunity to participate in vocational, rehabilitative, and educational programs, yard privileges, an opportunity to participate in a religious congregation, telephone privileges, psychotherapy, and art supplies and other personal property that could enrich his quality of life.

  The Seventh Circuit has found that the Rehabilitation Act applies to prisons, following the Supreme Court's reasoning in Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206 (1998) (the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., applies to prisons). Stanley v. Litscher, 213 F.3d 340, 343 (7th Cir. 2000). Contrary to ADA claims, which must be pursued in ...


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