The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge
The plaintiff, currently incarcerated in Pinckneyville Correctional Center, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, challenging events that occurred during his incarceration in Western Illinois Correctional Center in 2005.
The court is required by 28 U.S.C. §1915A to conduct a merit review of the Complaint, and through such process to dismiss any legally insufficient claims, or the entire action if warranted. A merit review hearing was scheduled to aid the court in this review, but will be canceled as unnecessary. The Complaint and exhibits already clearly set out the claims.
The merit review standard is the same as a motion to dismiss standard. Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), reh'g denied, 405 U.S. 948 (1972). The allegations are taken as true, and a claim can be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Haines, 404 U.S. at 521.
The allegations are set forth as true for purposes of this order only. All the events occurred at Western Correctional Center.
On March 14, 2005, as the plaintiff returned from lunch, defendant Logsdon asked him and two other inmates for their identification cards. The plaintiff complied and continued on. Logsdon said, "Stop, I'm not finished with you, stop f-ing now," and made several threatening statements. Logsdon then grabbed the plaintiff, turned him toward the fence while grabbing him by the arms, and pushed him face first into the fence causing pain in his forehead, shoulders and upper chest. This was unprovoked and done to get the plaintiff to attack Logsdon, so that Logsdon would have grounds for sending the plaintiff to segregation for a year. Logsdon denied the plaintiff's requests for medical treatment after the incident.
Logsdon wrote the plaintiff a false disciplinary report the same day based on the incident. Logsdon falsely stated that the plaintiff had repeatedly refused direct orders to catch up with his line. Logsdon further accused the plaintiff of refusing to show his identification card, and that the plaintiff had called Logsdon a "goofy-ass bitch." According to Logsdon, the plaintiff finally handed over his ID over, but in doing so intentionally thurst his torso into Logsdon's torso. Logsdon wrote that he handcuffed the plaintiff and escorted him to segregation, while the plaintiff said several times, "Wait 'til I get these cuffs off, I'll beat your ass." Plaintiff denies Logsdon's account.
The adjustment committee (defendants Ashby and Pool) found the plaintiff guilty of intimidation/threats and disobeying a direct order, and recommended three months C grade, one month segregation. Defendants Ashby and Pool knew the plaintiff was not guilty, but they acted in conspiracy with Logsdon. Defendant Polk (the warden) approved the Committee's recommendation. The adjustment committee report was apparently not signed by these defendants, at least initially. The plaintiff filed a grievance on the discipline, and won a re-hearing, but the re-hearing never happened. The other two inmates involved in the incident received lesser punishment.
The plaintiff does not state a procedural due process claim for hearing and punishment resulting from the March 14, 2005 disciplinary ticket, because the plaintiff did not lose any constitutionally protected liberties. Segregation and grade demotion could have been imposed on him with no procedural due process at all. See Thomas v. Ramos, 130 F.3d 754, 760, n.8 (7th Cir. 1997)(prisoner has no liberty interest in remaining in general population or in remaining certain grade). Failure of prison officials to follow their own regulations, or state law, is not a federal claim.
However, the plaintiff arguably states a claim for excessive force. Excessive force is force applied "maliciously and sadistically to cause harm," as opposed to force applied "in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. at 5 (1992). Significant injury is not required to state a claim, but its absence tends to support that only de minimis force was used. Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d at 839 (7th Cir. 2001); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000)(single punch to chest was not excessive force under Eighth Amendment standards). That determination must await further factual development. The plaintiff also says Logsdon denied his requests for medical treatment. Though quite a stretch, the court will not rule out a ...