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Fields v. Mitchell

June 18, 2009

MICHAEL FIELDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CRAIG S. MITCHELL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

REAGAN, District Judge

Plaintiff Michael Fields, an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). A complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ___, 2009 WL 1361536, *13 (May 18, 2009).

THE COMPLAINT

On May 29, 2007 Fields was in communications with his attorney via telephone. During the call, Fields's attorney informed him and prison counselor K. Flemmings that Fields needed to prepare certain legal paperwork by May 31, and so would need immediate access to the personal property storage area in the law library. After the phone call Fields was informed by Lieutenant Mitchell that Fields had visitors, and he could either choose to proceed with the visit or retrieve his legal documents from the law library, but he could not do both simultaneously. Because of the urgent need to process his legal paperwork, Fields elected to go to the law library instead of attending the visit.

Fields filed a grievance on June 1, 2007, claiming that he had unfairly been denied access to his visitors when he was told that he could not both retrieve legal documents and attend the visit. Fields complained that he did in fact have time to go to the law library and then go to the visit, but was not given the option. The grievance was denied by case worker Betsy Spiller on June 19, and Fields amended a reply on June 28. Fields family members who had attempted to visit him on May 29th also wrote letters to warden Donald Hulick, expressing concern with the denial of their visitation.

On July 11, little over a month after the grievance was filed, Fields was transferred from the low aggression cell unit to a high aggression cell unit, resulting in further restrictions on his prison activities. Fields had for four consistent years been housed in a low aggression cell house, and was transferred after filing his grievance. Fields argues that his transfer was done in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights to file a grievance concerning his visitiation and that such transfer would discourage the filing of future grievances. Fields claims not only retaliation, but that the denial of the visitation violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.

DISCUSSION

A. First Amendment ...


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