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Hopes v. Hackleman

November 5, 2008

ROBERT C. HOPES, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
LEWIS HACKLEMAN, J. HUNDT, C/O THOMAS AND M. CROSS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In another action filed by Plaintiff, the Court separated the allegations in the amended complaint into three separate counts. See Hopes v. United States Department of Justice, Case No. 07-cv-101-DRH (S.D. Ill., filed Fed. 2, 2007). The Court found that none of the claims shared a defendant in common, further finding that his claims must be brought as three separate actions. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff was advised of the Court's intention to sever Count 2 and Count 3 into two new cases, and he was given an opportunity to voluntarily dismiss those claims. Plaintiff agreed to severance of his claims into separate actions, which was done on October 7, 2008 (see Doc. 1).

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.

The case currently before the Court deals only with Count 2 of the amended complaint. As defined by the Court, this action is solely against Defendants Hackleman, Hundt,*fn1 Thomas, and Cross for use of excessive force on December 5, 2005 (¶¶ 13-14, 17-18).*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that on that date, Hackleman struck him on the back of the head several times. Neither Hunt nor Thomas took any action to prevent this assault, although both were present at the time. Subsequent to this assault, as part of an investigation, Defendant Cross performed a medical assessment of Plaintiff's injuries.

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). Thus, the Court is unable to dismiss the claim against Hackleman at this time.

As for Hundt and Thomas, Plaintiff asserts that they are equally as liable for his injuries due to their failure to intervene. The Seventh Circuit has examined this issue as it pertains to police officers who fail to intervene when a fellow officer exceeds his authority, and they stated:

We believe it is clear that one who is given the badge of authority of a police officer may not ignore the duty imposed by his office and fail to stop other officers who summarily punish a third person in his presence or otherwise within his knowledge.

That responsibility obviously obtains when the nonfeasor is a supervisory officer to whose direction misfeasor officers are committed. So, too, the same responsibility must exist as to nonsupervisory officers who are present at the scene of such summary punishment, for to hold otherwise would be to insulate nonsupervisory officers from liability for reasonably foreseeable consequences of the neglect of their duty to enforce the laws and preserve the peace.

Byrd v. Brishke, 466 F.2d 6, 11 (7th Cir. 1972); see also Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467, 477 (7th Cir. 1997); Yang v. Hardin, 37 F.3d 282, 285 (7th Cir. 1994) (collected cases); Archie v. City of Racine, 826 F,2d 480, 491 (7th Cir. 1987). Accordingly, the ...


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