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Brown v. Hertz

September 29, 2008

JEREMY BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT HERTZ, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William D. Stiehl District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STIEHL, District Judge

Plaintiff, currently an inmate in the Graham Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

FACTS ALLEGED

In October 2004, while incarcerated at Stateville, Plaintiff filed a federal civil rights action against Defendants, "alleging a myriad of constitutional violations" that occurred while he was in the Madison County Jail. See Brown v. Madison County, Case No. 04-cv-824-MJR (S.D. Ill., filed Oct. 1, 2004). During the pendency of that action, Plaintiff's criminal conviction was reversed. He was returned to Madison County Jail in January 2006 pending retrial of his criminal case.*fn1

Upon his arrival at Madison County Jail, he was immediately assigned to an isolation cell, rather than general population. He was denied all out-of-cell recreation, permitted only limited access to the law library, and was denied privileges such as television, radio, regular visits, and any sort of human contact with his fellow inmates. Further, his mail (both incoming and outgoing) tended to disappear on a regular basis, other mail was photocopied, and even his legal phone calls were monitored and recorded.

Defendants also embarked upon a pattern of harassment. He alleges that officers would bang on his cell walls and doors throughout the night, meals were deliberately withheld, his hot water was shut off for almost three weeks, the air conditioning was cut off in the summer, while his heat was shut off during the winter. Finally, Defendants refused to accommodate his fasting during Ramadan.

CLAIMS PRESENTED

Based on the factual allegations above, Plaintiff makes just one substantive claim -- he asserts that all of these actions have occurred as a vast conspiracy of retaliation against him for his 2004 lawsuit.*fn2

Prison officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing grievances or otherwise complaining about their conditions of confinement. See, e.g., Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005 (7th Cir. 2002); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607 (7th Cir. 2000); Babcock v. White, 102 F.3d 267 (7th Cir. 1996); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139 (7th Cir. 1988). The Seventh Circuit later clarified that in order to qualify as protected speech, an inmate's complaints or grievances must be "related to matters of public concern" rather than merely a "personal gripe" about a particular incident. Pearson v. Welborn, 471 F.3d 732, 740-41 (7th Cir. 2006). See also McElroy v. Lopac, 403 F.3d 855 (7th Cir. 2005); Brookins v. Kolb, 990 F.2d 308 (7th Cir. 1993).] Furthermore, "[a]ll that need be specified is the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). Naming the suit and the act of retaliation is all that is necessary to state a claim of improper retaliation. Id.

In his 2004 case, six separate claims were set forth. The first five claims involved denial of a pork-free diet, failing to intervene in an inmate fight, failing to provide adequate medical care, denial of due process in a disciplinary proceeding, and restricting his access to legal materials. Each of these claims is more in the nature of a personal gripe, and thus cannot qualify as protected speech.

His sixth claim in that action, though, asserts that Defendants conspired against him by deliberately placing him in proximity with several known jailhouse snitches with the intention of eliciting incriminating information from Plaintiff to be used against him at trial. (One of these inmates, Demond Spruill, later testified against him in his first criminal trial.) Such a claim is arguably related to a matter of public concern, and thus could be considered protected speech.

Again, Plaintiff alleges that each of the named Defendants took part in this conspiracy of retaliation, and he includes specific allegations against each of them. Therefore, the Court is unable to dismiss any portion of this action ...


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