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White v. Lambert

March 25, 2010


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


Plaintiff Donnie D. White brings this action against 43 employees at the Tamms Correctional Center. Perhaps recognizing that he is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), White paid the full filing fee for this action. 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). Upon careful review of the supplemental amended complaint (Doc. 26), the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.


White states that in November 2007, he filed a civil rights action in the Central District of Illinois. Defendants in that action included some of the defendants named in this action, specifically Bundren, Newell, Dubois, Powers, Caliper, Couch, Kwasniewski,*fn1 Peppers, Clover, Evans, Baskin, Leslie, George, Sherrard, Medlin, Miller, Melton, Watson, McCarthy, Walker, Turner, Roach, Dawes and McCoy. White asserts, generally, that after these Defendants were served with a copy of the complaint for that 2007 filing, they "engaged in a course of conduct designed to punish [him] for exercising his constitutional right to file a lawsuit." From paragraphs 48 through 98 of the supplemental amended complaint, White elaborates on the actions taken by these Defendants and others. White then sets forth 10 enumerated claims, as discussed below.


On or about February 29, 2008, Defendants Sherrard and Boyd took White from his cell for a visit to the nursing station. White states that he was "hearing voices" that told him to bang his head into the wall, which he did. White alleges that Sherrard then grabbed him, slammed his head into Defendant Bundren's knee, then threw White to the floor and began punching and kneeing him in the head (¶¶ 52-56). White alleges that Sherrard's actions constitute the use of excessive force, a violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

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).

At this time, the Court is unable to dismiss this claim against Sherrard.


After the altercation with Sherrard, White was placed into a cell without any clothes. White states that Defendants Kwasniewski and Bundren directed that he be placed on a meal loaf diet for ten days; he alleges that this action was taken out of retaliation for the prior lawsuit he had filed against them (¶¶ 61-62)..

Prison officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing grievances or otherwise complaining about their conditions of confinement. See, e.g., Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005 (7th Cir. 2002); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607 (7th Cir. 2000); Babcock v. White, 102 F.3d 267 (7th Cir. 1996); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139 (7th Cir. 1988). With a retaliation claim, the Court must consider whether the plaintiff experienced an adverse action that would likely deter First

Amendment activity in the future, and if the First Amendment activity was "at least a motivating factor" in the defendant's decision to take the retaliatory action. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 552 (7th Cir. 2009).

White does not specifically allege that these allegedly retaliatory activities would "deter a person of ordinary firmness" from exercising First Amendment activity in the future. Bart v. Telford, 677 F.2d 622, 625 (7th Cir. 1982). However, construing his pro se complaint liberally, and accepting all of his allegations as true, one possible inference of the complaint is that placement on meal loaf for ten days would deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising his First Amendment rights. Whether his allegations are in fact true or whether the alleged harassment would actually deter a person of ordinary firmness are not questions that the Court can address at the pleading stage.

Therefore, at this time, the Court is unable to dismiss Count 2 against Kwasniewski or Bundren.


On February 29, 2008 (the same day as the altercation with Sherrard), White attempted to cut himself on his arms, using his fingernails. White alleges that he was not bleeding and did not want medical treatment. However, on orders of Defendant Powers, Defendants Boyd, Hunt, Bundren and Sherrard removed him from his cell. They then held him down while Powers sutured his arms; White alleges that Powers did not numb his arms for this treatment. White later began to bite the stitches out of his arms, so Powers repeated the process and again sutured his arm ...

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