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ARRINGTON v. C/O GOLDBERRY

December 2, 2005.

OTIS ARRINGTON, Inmate #B01941, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O GOLDBERRY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES FOREMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, a former inmate in the Big Muddy River 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.

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 that no portion of the complaint may be dismissed at this point in the litigation.

  FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

  Plaintiff states that on July 18, 2004, Defendant Goldberry came to his cell to distribute ice to Plaintiff and his cellmate. After he had filled Plaintiff's ice bowl, Goldberry asked him, "do you want a shower?" to which Plaintiff replied, "yes." Goldberry then threw the remaining ice and water in the scoop into Plaintiff's face, laughed, and slammed shut the cell door. Plaintiff filed a number of grievances about the incident, and on July 23, 2004, he was interviewed by internal affairs. He was placed in segregation during the investigation. Plaintiff was also interviewed by a mental health professional, and after that interview, Plaintiff states that all of his personal property was confiscated and he was put on suicide watch in a "strip cell" for four days. Plaintiff states that he was not suicidal and speculates that he was put in segregation and on suicide watch to keep him from informing his family and writing grievances about the incident with Defendant Goldberry. After four days, Plaintiff's property was returned to him, but he remained in segregation. Plaintiff states that on August 3, 2004, Goldberry admitted that he had assaulted Plaintiff without justification. On August 4, 2004, Plaintiff was transferred to Dixon Correctional Center.

  The Court finds that Plaintiff's allegations state legal claims of unconstitutional excessive force and unconstitutional denial of due process.

  EXCESSIVE FORCE

  The intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and is actionable under Section 1983. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). "[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the core judicial inquiry is . . . whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7. An inmate seeking damages for the use of excessive force need not establish serious bodily injury to make a claim, but not "every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action. . . . [the] prohibition of `cruel and unusual' punishment necessarily excludes from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the use of force is not of a sort `repugnant to the conscience of mankind.'" Id. at 9-10; see also Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837-38 (7th Cir. 2001). Based on these standards, Plaintiff's claim cannot be dismissed at this point in the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

  DUE PROCESS

  In Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), the Supreme Court set out the minimal procedural protections that must be provided to a prisoner in disciplinary proceedings in which the prisoner loses good time, is confined to a disciplinary segregation, or otherwise subjected to some comparable deprivation of a constitutionally protected liberty interest. Id. at 556-572.

  Wolff required that inmates facing disciplinary charges for misconduct be accorded [1] 24 hours' advance written notice of the charges against them; [2] a right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in defense, unless doing so would jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goals; [3] the aid of a staff member or inmate in presenting a defense, provided the inmate is illiterate or the issues complex; [4] an impartial tribunal; and [5] a written statement of reasons relied on by the tribunal. 418 U.S. at 563-572.

 Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466 n. 3 (1983). The Supreme Court has also held that due process requires that the findings of the disciplinary tribunal must be supported by some evidence in the record. Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985); McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999).

 
Ascertaining whether this standard is satisfied does not require examination of the entire record, independent assessment of the credibility of witnesses, or weighing of the evidence. Instead, the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.
Hill, 459 U.S. at 455-56.

  Plaintiff states that he received no process of any kind before being placed in segregation and in a suicide watch "strip cell." Based on the above-noted standards, Plaintiff's due process claim cannot be dismissed at this point in the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. However, there is a problem with Plaintiff's complaint in that he did not name specific defendants responsible for ...


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