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Williams v. Westerman

July 20, 2009

ROBERT WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LIEUTENANT WESTERMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, 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). Upon careful review of the complaint and the supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are thus subject to summary dismissal.

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide Plaintiff's pro se action into four counts. 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

Plaintiff alleges that on September 3, 2007, Defendant Westerman, angry at Plaintiff's refusal to speak with a psychologist, entered Plaintiff's cell and slammed Plaintiff's face into a steel bedframe, causing extreme pain to Plaintiff's face. Defendant Westerman then returned to Plaintiff's cell on September 4, 2007, with an unknown officer and proceeded to once again slam Plaintiff face into a steel bed frame, causing pain to Plaintiff's face and neck.

Plaintiff further alleges that on September 5, 2007, Plaintiff was handcuffed through the slot in his door with his hands behind his back by Defendant Westerman, after refusing to be handcuffed by Defendant Lafond. When the door to the cell was opened, Plaintiff, fearing for his safety, laid down on the floor. Defendant Reinhold then applied pressure to Plaintiff holding him down on the floor. Defendant Westerman proceeded to grab Plaintiff's eyelids and pull them up, causing pain to Plaintiff's eyes. Defendant Westerman than punched Plaintiff's right eye six to seven times, causing extreme pain to Plaintiff's eye, swelling, continual irritation, and visual difficulties. During this incident, Plaintiff alleges that his arm was snatched out of position.

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 § 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). Applying these standards, the Court is unable to dismiss Count 1 against Defendants Westerman, Reinhold, and Lafond at this time.

COUNT 2

Plaintiff alleges that sometime after the incident on September 5, 2007, Defendants Lafond, Westerman, and Reinhold conspired to write a ...


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