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Cleveland v. Walker

July 9, 2009

BERNIE B. CLEVELAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROGER E. WALKER, JR., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R Herndon Chief Judge United States District Court

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HERNDON, Chief Judge

Plaintiff Bernie B. Cleveland, an inmate in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On April 21, 2009, Cleveland filed a second amended complaint (Doc. 10), but less than three weeks later he filed a motion seeking to dismiss that pleading (Doc. 11). This motion is GRANTED; the second amended complaint (Doc. 10) is STRICKEN.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the amended complaint (Doc. 9) 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).

COUNT 1

On December 14, 2007, Defendant Young took Cleveland to an orientation meeting run by Defendant Hartman. At the conclusion of that session, Cleveland asked for some grievance forms. As Cleveland had just arrived at Pinckneyville, Hartman expressed surprise that he would have need of those forms. Cleveland explained that he needed to file a grievance over denial of medical care, and also over his missing property box. He was not given the forms, and apparently a verbal altercation ensued. Hartman wrote a disciplinary ticket charging Cleveland with disobedience and insolence. Meanwhile, Young escorted Cleveland to the segregation shower and turned him over to Defendant Runyon. Runyon advised Defendant Couleas*fn1 not to give Cleveland any property, and Couleas followed orders: Cleveland was not given any bedding or hygiene items.

In protest, Cleveland embarked on a three-day hunger strike. During that time, he alleges that he made numerous requests to Defendants Owens, Couleas, Hagger, Baker, Stanton, Townsend, Mason, Hartman, and Turner for those items, but he did not receive any property.*fn2 On December 17, Defendant Austin spoke with Cleveland, and then with Defendants Frieman and Owens, regarding the situation. Eventually Cleveland ended his hunger strike and filed a grievance over his property, which apparently had disappeared en route from Stateville to Pinckneyville.

In a case involving conditions of confinement in a prison, two elements are required to establish violations of the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishments clause. First, an objective element requires a showing that the conditions deny the inmate "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," creating an excessive risk to the inmate's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The second requirement is a subjective element -- establishing a defendant's culpable state of mind. Id.

In Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232 (7th Cir. 1988), the Seventh Circuit considered an inmate's claim that he was denied toilet paper for five days and denied soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste for ten days, while "he was kept in a filthy, roach-infested cell." Id. at 1234. The Circuit noted that "[i]nmates cannot expect the amenities, conveniences and services of a good hotel; however, the society they once abused is obliged to provide constitutionally adequate confinement." Id. at 1235-36. The Circuit then noted that "[a]lthough Harris experienced considerable unpleasantness, he suffered no physical harm," id. at 1235, and found that the conditions simply did not rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation.

In this case, it appears that Cleveland was without bedding and hygiene items for just three days. Moreover, like Harris, he makes no allegation that he suffered any physical harm as a result of these deprivations. Accordingly, Cleveland has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and Count 1 will be dismissed from this action with prejudice.

COUNT 2

When Cleveland was at Stateville, he had one of his teeth extracted. Apparently part of that tooth was not removed, causing him pain when he ate. After his arrival at Pinckneyville, he made numerous requests for medical attention. More than a month elapsed before he got any response to his sick-call requests.

The Seventh Circuit has recognized that dental care is "one of the most important medical needs of inmates." See Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 593 (7th Cir. 2001). Furthermore, allegations that an inmate denied his dentures could not chew his food, making eating difficult, and that he suffered bleeding, headaches, and disfigurement, state a serious medical need. Id.

Applying these standards to the allegations in the amended complaint, the Court is unable to dismiss this claim against the medical personnel -- Defendants Hill, Tracy, Lane, Farris, Nacey and Gardner. Likewise, his allegations against Defendants Baker and Turner ...


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