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Barghouti v. Holder


October 28, 2009


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


Plaintiff, an inmate currently confined at the Stateville 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, 590 U.S. 544, 570 (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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, No. 08-4286, 2009 WL 2535731, at *5 (7th Cir. Aug. 20, 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Service, No. 06-4260, 2009 WL 2498580, at *2 (7th Cir. Aug. 18, 2009).


Plaintiff alleges that on August 14, 2007, he had a verbal confrontation with Defendant Holder concerning whether Plaintiff could have an extra milk with his breakfast. During this confrontation, Holder called Plaintiff, who is a Latino, a racially derogatory name. Later that day, Plaintiff states that he was assaulted and beaten up by Defendants Eovaldi, Monroe, John Doe1 and John Does (tactical unit members) as a result of the verbal confrontation he had with Defendant Holder. Plaintiff further contends that he was denied medical care after the attack by Defendants John Doe 2 and John Doe 3.

Plaintiff alleges that he was issued a "false" disciplinary report charging him with assaulting staff, intimidation/threats, insolence, and disobeying a direct order. Plaintiff claims that the purpose for these "false" charges was to cover-up the attack by the prison staff. Plaintiff's disciplinary report was heard by an Adjustment Committee comprised of Defendants Mitchell and Lee. Plaintiff was found guilty of the violations and received the following sanctions: (1) 6 months C grade; (2) 6 months segregation; (3) 6 months restrictions on contact visits; (4) 6 months commissary restrictions.

Plaintiff contends that he filed grievances with Defendants Ford and Walker, but they failed to take corrective action or punish the other Defendants in any manner.


A. Excessive Force Claim

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). Based on the allegations of the complaint, Plaintiff's claim that Defendants Eovaldi, Monroe, John Doe 1, and John Does (tactical unit members) used excessive force against him in violation of the Eighth Amendment survives review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and will not be dismissed at this time.

B. Race Discrimination and Conspiracy Claims

Racial discrimination by state actors violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment unless it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. See DeWalt, 224 F.3d at 618. Civil conspiracy claims are cognizable under § 1983. See Lewis v. Washington, 300 F.3d 829, 831 (7th Cir. 2002) (recognizing conspiracy claim under § 1983). In the case at hand, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Holder conspired to have Plaintiff beaten up and attacked by other prison staff due to Plaintiff's race (Latino). Plaintiff further contends that Defendants Ford and Walker were part of the conspiracy and found him guilty of the "false" disciplinary charges to cover-up the denial of Plaintiff's rights. As such, Plaintiff's claims that Defendants Holder, Eovaldi, Monroe, John Doe 1, John Does (tactical unit members), Ford, and Walker denied Plaintiff of the Equal Protection of the law and conspired to deprive Plaintiff of the Equal Protection of the law survive review under § 1915A and will not be dismissed at this time.

C. Medical Claim

"[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; see also Jones v. Simek, 193 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 1999); Steele v. Choi, 82 F.3d 175, 178 (7th Cir. 1996).

A prisoner raising an Eighth Amendment claim against a prison official therefore must satisfy two requirements. The first one is an objective standard: "[T]he deprivation alleged must be, objectively, 'sufficiently serious.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at -, 114 S.Ct. at 1977. As the Court explained in Farmer, "a prison official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. The second requirement is a subjective one: "[A] prison official must have a 'sufficiently culpable state of mind,'" one that the Court has defined as "deliberate indifference." Id.; see Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5, 112 S.Ct. 995, 998, 117 L.Ed. 2d 156 (1992) ("[T]he appropriate inquiry when an inmate alleges that prison officials failed to attend to serious medical needs is whether the officials exhibited 'deliberate indifference.'"); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 291, 50 L.Ed. 2d 251 (1976) ("[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'").

Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991-992 (7th Cir. 1996).

Applying these principles, Plaintiff's claim that Defendants John Doe 2 and John Doe 3 denied him adequate medical care for the injuries he sustained as a result of the attack by the prison guards in violation of the Eighth Amendment survives review under § 1915A and will not be dismissed at this time.

D. Grievance Claim

Plaintiff seems to think that any prison employee who knows (or should know) about his problems has a duty to fix those problems. That theory is in direct conflict with the well-established rule that "public employees are responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone else's." Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009); see also Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 actions). As Chief Judge Easterbrook recently stated:

Public officials do not have a free-floating obligation to put things to right, disregarding rules (such as time limits) along the way. Bureaucracies divide tasks; no prisoner is entitled to insist that one employee do another's job. The division of labor is important not only to bureaucratic organization but also to efficient performance of tasks; people who stay within their roles can get more work done, more effectively, and cannot be hit with damages under § 1983 for not being ombudsmen. Burks's view that everyone who knows about a prisoner's problem must pay damages implies that he could write letters to the Governor of Wisconsin and 999 other public officials, demand that every one of those 1,000 officials drop everything he or she is doing in order to investigate a single prisoner's claims, and then collect damages from all 1,000 recipients if the letter-writing campaign does not lead to better medical care. That can't be right. The Governor, and for that matter the Superintendent of Prisons and the Warden of each prison, is entitled to relegate to the prison's medical staff the provision of good medical care. See Durmer v. O'Carroll, 991 F.2d 64 (3d Cir. 1993).

Burks, 555 F.3d at 595. Put simply, Plaintiff's allegation that Defendants Ford and Walker learned about the assault and the denial of medical care after-the-fact through the grievance process is insufficient to hold these two Defendants liable for either the assault or the denial of medical care. Therefore, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Ford and Walker are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

E. Claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections

Plaintiff's claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) are dismissed pursuant to § 1915A. It is well settled that "neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under § 1983." Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); see also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages); Billman v. Indiana Department of Corrections, 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995) (state Department of Corrections is immune from suit by virtue of Eleventh Amendment); Hughes v. Joliet Correctional Center, 931 F.2d 425, 427 (7th Cir. 1991) (same); Santiago v. Lane, 894 F.2d 218, 220 n. 3 (7th Cir. 1990) (same).


The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to add Defendant Monroe as a Defendant in this action. IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff shall complete and submit a USM-285 form for Defendant Monroe within THIRTY (30) DAYS of the date of entry of this Memorandum and Order. The Clerk is DIRECTED to send Plaintiff ONE USM-285 form with Plaintiff's copy of this Memorandum and Order. Plaintiff is advised that service will not be made on a defendant until Plaintiff submits a properly completed USM-285 form for that defendant.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Ford, Walker, and IDOC do not survive review under § 1915A and they are DISMISSED with prejudice. Consequently, Defendants Ford, Walker, and IDOC are DISMISSED from this action. Plaintiff is advised that the dismissal of these claims will count as one of his three allotted "strikes" under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607-08 (7th Cir. 2007); Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852, 855 (7th Cir. 2004).

The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to prepare Form 1A (Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons) and Form 1B (Waiver of Service of Summons) for Defendants Holder, Eovaldi, Monroe, Mitchell, and Lee. The Clerk shall forward those forms, USM-285 forms submitted by Plaintiff, and sufficient copies of the complaint to the United States Marshal for service.

The United States Marshal is DIRECTED, pursuant to Rule 4(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to serve process on Defendants Holder, Eovaldi, Monroe, Mitchell, and Lee in the manner specified by Rule 4(d)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Process in this case shall consist of the complaint, applicable Forms 1A and 1B, and this Memorandum and Order. For purposes of computing the passage of time under Rule 4(d)(2), the Court and all parties will compute time as of the date it is mailed by the Marshal, as noted on the USM-285 form. Service shall not be made on the John Doe Defendants until such time as Plaintiff has identified them by name on a USM-285 form and in a properly filed amended complaint. Plaintiff is ADVISED that it is Plaintiff's responsibility to provide the Court with the names and service addresses for these individuals.

With respect to former employees of IDOC who no longer can be found at the work address provided by Plaintiff, the Department of Corrections shall furnish the Marshal with the Defendant's last-known address upon issuance of a Court order which states that the information shall be used only for purposes of effectuating service (or for proof of service, should a dispute arise) and any documentation of the address shall be retained only by the Marshal. Address information obtained from IDOC pursuant to such order shall not be maintained in the Court file nor disclosed by the Marshal.

The United States Marshal shall file returned waivers of service as well as any requests for waivers of service that are returned as undelivered as soon as they are received. If a waiver of service is not returned by a defendant within THIRTY (30) DAYS from the date of mailing the request for waiver, the United States Marshal shall:

! Request that the Clerk of Court prepare a summons for that defendant who has not yet returned a waiver of service; the Clerk shall then prepare such summons as requested.

! Personally serve process and a copy of this Order upon the defendant pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 566(c).

! Within ten days after personal service is effected, the United States Marshal shall file the return of service for the defendant, along with evidence of any attempts to secure a waiver of service of process and of the costs subsequently incurred in effecting service on said defendant. Said costs shall be enumerated on the USM-285 form and shall include the costs incurred by the Marshal's office for photocopying additional copies of the summons and complaint and for preparing new USM-285 forms, if required. Costs of service will be taxed against the personally-served defendant in accordance with the provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(d)(2) unless said defendant shows good cause for such failure.

Plaintiff is ORDERED to serve upon Defendants or, if appearance has been entered by counsel, upon their attorney(s), a copy of every further pleading or other document submitted for consideration by this Court. He shall include with the original paper to be filed with the Clerk of the Court a certificate stating the date that a true and correct copy of any document was mailed to Defendant or their counsel. Any paper received by a district judge or magistrate judge which has not been filed with the Clerk or which fails to include a certificate of service will be disregarded by the Court.

Defendants are ORDERED to timely file an appropriate responsive pleading to the complaint and shall not waive filing a reply pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g).

Pursuant to Local Rule of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois 72.1(a)(2), this action is REFERRED to a United States Magistrate Judge for further pre-trial proceedings.

Further, this entire matter is hereby REFERRED to a United States Magistrate Judge for disposition, as contemplated by Local Rule 72.2(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), should all the parties consent to such a referral.

Plaintiff is under a continuing obligation to keep the Clerk and each opposing party informed of any change in his whereabouts. This shall be done in writing and not later than seven (7) days after a transfer or other change in address occurs.

If Plaintiff does not comply with this Order, this action will be dismissed for failure to comply with an order of this Court. FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b); see generally Ladien v. Astrachan, 128 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir. 1997); Johnson v. Kamminga, 34 F.3d 466 (7th Cir. 1994).


G. PATRICK MURPHY United States District Judge


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