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Gilbert-Mitchell v. Lappin

March 31, 2008

WALLACE GILBERT-MITCHELL, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARLEY LAPPIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Illinois, brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).

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. 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 Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Lappin, Watts, John Doe 2, John

Doe 5, John Doe 6, John Doe 1, John Doe 3, John Doe 9, John Doe 5, Jane Doe 4, Merriman, Hood and Bryant for interfering with his access to the courts (¶¶ 1-4, 6-7, 12-13, 15, 18, 21-23, 25, 27, 29).

COUNT 2: Against Defendants John Doe 3, Lappin, John Doe 4, John Doe 2, Watts, John Doe 10, John Doe 11, John Doe 1, John Doe 6, and John Doe 9 for denial of medical treatment (¶¶ 5, 19, 26, 36).

COUNT 3: Against Defendants Lappin, Watts, John Doe 6, John Doe 8, Patterson, John Doe 1, and John Doe 9 for denial of mental health treatment (¶¶10, 20, 34). COUNT 4: Against Defendants John Doe 1, John Doe 6, Lappin, Watts, Estrada, and Stanback for failing to protect him from assault (¶¶ 16, 24, 30).

COUNT 5: Against Defendants John Doe 3, John Doe 6, Watts, Lappin, John Doe 7, and John Doe 5 for embezzling funds from his trust account (¶¶ 8, 9, 14). COUNT 6: Against Defendants John Doe 3, John Doe 6, Lappin, Watts, Dimarzo, John Doe 1, Szablewski, and John Doe 9 for confiscation or destruction of his personal property (¶¶ 11, 17, 28).

COUNT 7: Against Defendants John Doe 1, John Doe 6, John Doe 9, Watts and Lappin for unfairly placing him in disciplinary segregation (¶ 31).

COUNT 8: Against Defendants John Doe 1, John Doe 6, John Doe 9, Watts and Lappin for racial discrimination (¶ 32).

COUNT 9: Against Defendants John Doe 1, John Doe 6, John Doe 9, Watts and Lappin for denying him visitation (¶ 33).

COUNT 10: Against Defendants Tolson, John Doe 9, John Doe 6, and Watts for denying him a job assignment (¶ 35).

COUNT 11: Against the Bureau of Prisons for several claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (¶¶ 37-53, 55).

COUNT 12: Against Defendants Evercom Systems, Inc., and the CEO of Evercom for unfair pricing on the prison telephone system.

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; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

COUNT 1

The primary claim in this action is that numerous individuals -- Defendants Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Lappin, Watts, John Doe 2, John Doe 5, John Doe 6, John Doe 1, John Doe 3, John Doe 9, John Doe 5, Jane Doe 4, Merriman, Hood and Bryant -- each interfered with his access to the courts (¶¶ 1-4, 6-7, 12-13, 15, 18, 21-23, 25, 27, 29). Specifically, he claims that they refused to provide him with copies of medical records that were relevant to pending litigation, confiscated various legal documents related to his post-conviction proceeding, delayed mailing his grievances and other correspondence, interfered with and obstructed the grievance process, denied him access to the law library, and denied him postage. He further alleges that each of these actions was detrimental to his pending litigation, other by impeding his claims or by causing him to miss court deadlines.

"[T]he mere denial of access to a prison law library or to other legal materials is not itself a violation of a prisoner's rights; his right is to access the courts, and only if the defendants' conduct prejudices a potentially meritorious challenge to the prisoner's conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement has this right been infringed." Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 968 (7th Cir. 2006). A prisoner's complaint must "spell out, in minimal detail, the connection between the alleged denial of access to legal materials and an inability to pursue a legitimate challenge to a conviction, sentence, or prison conditions." Id.

At this point in the litigation, the Court is unable to dismiss any of Plaintiff's claims related to interference with his access to the courts.

COUNT 2

This second group of claims involves lack of medical treatment for a suspected heart attack (¶ 5), an injured shoulder (¶ 19), an injured arm and arthritis (¶ 26), and dental treatment (¶ 36).

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).

Although Plaintiff's claims are not particularly detailed, the Court is unable to dismiss any of his medical claims ...


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