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Walker v. Monahan

September 10, 2007

RONALD WALKER (#852952), PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS MONAHAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services, is facing civil commitment under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, 725 ILCS § 7/1, et seq. The Plaintiff has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Plaintiff claims that the Defendants, D.H.S. employees and contractors, violated the Plaintiff's constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his safety, by subjecting him to inhumane conditions of confinement, and by denying him due process and equal protection. This matter is before the Court for ruling on the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the Complaint for Failure to State a Claim. For the reasons discussed in this order, the Motions are denied.

It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). They 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; Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). Fact pleading is not necessary to state a claim for relief. Thompson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 970-71 (7th Cir. 2004). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. _____, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, (1957)). To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff need only state his legal claim and provide "some indication . . . of time and place." Thompson, 362 F.3d at 971. While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 (citations omitted).

In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts--as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom--in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000); Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1955 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508, n. 1, (2002). Dismissal should be denied whenever it appears that a basis for federal jurisdiction in fact exists or may exist and can be stated by the plaintiff. Norfleet v. Vale, No. 05 C 0926, 2005 WL 3299375, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 5, 2005) (Zagel, J.). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965. The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits. Weiler v. Household Finance Corp., 101 F.3d 519, 524 n. 1 (7th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).

I. BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff alleges the following facts, which must be accepted as true for purposes of this motion. (A plaintiff may assert additional facts in his response to the motion to dismiss, so long as the new allegations are consistent with the complaint. Brokaw v. Mercer County, 235 F.3d 1000, 1006 (7th Cir. 2000); Forseth v. Village of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2000).) On February 23, 2006, Defendant Graham informed the Plaintiff that he was being transferred from A-unit to B-unit and ordered him to pack his personal property. Graham was aware that the Plaintiff's new cell mate was a known enemy who had previously threatened to kill the Plaintiff. The proposed cell mate also had a history of sexual assault and other acts of violence against his fellow detainees. Out of fear for his safety, the Plaintiff refused to move.

As a result of his refusal, the Plaintiff was placed in "secure management status" (or administrative segregation) pending a disciplinary hearing. All personal property, including his mattress, blanket, items of personal hygiene, medication, and even his eyeglasses were removed from his cell. The Plaintiff was not afforded a hearing or any other due process before being subjected to a cold "strip cell." The orders to move and to punish the Plaintiff were with the knowledge and direction of Defendants Monahan, Sanders, Strock, Jumper, and Chankin, all of whom were aware of the Plaintiff's history with his proposed inmate. Defendants Franzen, Akpan, Gripshover, and Meecham denied the Plaintiff's oral and written requests to return his property. Defendant Aden denied the Plaintiff's grievance and Defendant Monahan concurred in the denial.

The Plaintiff is African American. On the same day the Plaintiff was disciplined, two white residents who also refused to accept new housing assignments were permitted to retain all of their personal property.

Defendants Monahan, Sanders, Strock, Jumper, and Chankin implemented and enforced racially biased policies and procedures. Black and white detainees were segregated from each other. White detainees were allowed to choose their cell mates so long as they selected other white cell mates; black detainees were not. In addition, harsher sanctions were imposed on black detainees than on white detainees for rule infractions.

II. DISCUSSION

The Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the Complaint for Failure to State a Claim are denied. Accepting the Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that the complaint sets forth colorable causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

A. Equal Protection

The Plaintiff claims that both housing assignments and decisions to punish detainees were made on the basis of race. If the Plaintiff's allegations are true, he may be entitled to redress for both violations. Discrimination between prisoners on the basis of race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See, e.g., Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84 (1987); Antonelli v. Sheehan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1433 (7th Cir. 1996) (because plaintiff "suggests discriminatory motives impelled discriminatory treatment of him, he has stated an equal protection claim."). In Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499 (2005), an African-American inmate brought suit under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 challenging the state prisons' policy of placing new or transferred inmates with cell mates of the same race during their initial evaluation. Although the Supreme Court did not decide whether the Department of Corrections policy violated the Equal Protection Clause, it held that such practices are "highly suspect" and therefore subject to strict scrutiny. Johnson, 543 U.S. at 515. Accordingly, the Plaintiff may further develop his claim that detainees were ...


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