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Thomas v. Mulch

May 19, 2010

BRUCE THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROGER MULCH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, currently an inmate at the Centralia 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, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 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, 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

THE COMPLAINT

Plaintiff contends that while he was confined at the Jefferson County Justice Center located in Mount Vernon, Illinois, he was placed in a "restraining chair" for approximately six hours per Defendant Mansker's orders. While in the "restraining chair," Plaintiff also was placed in a "lock down cell" and left without anyone checking on him. Plaintiff states that because he was left unattended and unwatched, he was unable to get assistance to go to the bathroom, even after he attempted to get help. As a result, Plaintiff states that he was forced to urinate on himself and that he was forced to sit in his urine.

DISCUSSION

Liberally construing the complaint, Plaintiff appears to claim that placing him in the "restraint chair," without adequate supervision, with no bathroom breaks, and forcing him to urinate on himself violated his due process rights. Plaintiff appears to assert two due process claims: (1) he was subjected to a "restraint chair" as punishment in violation of his procedural due process rights and (2) even if placing him in a "restraint chair" as punishment was procedurally proper, the actual conditions under which he was restrained violated his substantive due process rights.

With regard to his procedural due process claim, the Seventh Circuit has recognized that, for pretrial detainees,*fn1 procedural protections are required prior to the imposition of any punishment for violations of jail rules. Rapier v. Harris, 172 F.3d 999, 1005 (7th Cir. 1999); Whitford v. Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 531 n.4 (7th Cir. 1995) (indicating in dictum that a due process hearing is required); see generally Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). No procedural protections, however, are required if Plaintiff suffers some disutility (e.g., confinement in segregation, etc.) for non-punitive, managerial reasons. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 438 (7th Cir. 2002). At this early point, the Court is unable to determine whether Plaintiff was placed in a "restraint chair" for violating jail rules or to protect other inmates, jail staff, or perhaps even Plaintiff himself, from Plaintiff's violent actions. Accordingly, Plaintiff's procedural due process claim cannot be dismissed at this time.

With regard to his substantive due process claim concerning the conditions under which he was restrained, the Seventh Circuit has analyzed such claims by pretrial detainees under the Eighth Amendment. See Velez v. Johnson, 395 F.3d 737, 735 (7th Cir. 2005) (noting that for conditions of confinement claims brought by pretrial detainees, there is little difference between the Eighth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment). In order to prevail on a conditions of confinement claim under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must allege facts that, if true, would satisfy the objective and subjective components applicable to all Eighth Amendment claims. See McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302 (1991). The objective component focuses on the nature of the acts or practices alleged to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. See Jackson v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir. 1992). The objective analysis examines whether the conditions of confinement "exceeded contemporary bounds of decency of a mature, civilized society." Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1579 (7th Cir. 1994). The condition must result in ...


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