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Gray v. Taylor

May 28, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Elaine E. Bucklo


The plaintiff, a state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claims that the defendants, officials at the Stateville Correctional Center, violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by harassing and retaliating against him for speaking out about, and eventually filing a grievance over, a prison employee's misconduct, and by denying him due process in prison disciplinary proceedings. This matter is before the Court for ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is granted only as to defendants Randle and Johnson, and as to the plaintiff's disciplinary claim.

It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to " 'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, (1957)). To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff need only state his basic legal claim and provide "some indication... of time and place." Thompson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2004). While a complaint challenged by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts--as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom--in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000); Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)). Dismissal should be denied whenever it appears that a basis for federal jurisdiction in fact exists or may exist and can be stated by the plaintiff. Norfleet v. Vale, No. 05 C 0926, 2005 WL 3299375, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 5, 2005) (Zagel, J.). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556. Nevertheless, the factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id., 550 U.S. at 555. Furthermore, a plaintiff can plead himself or herself out of court by pleading facts that undermine the allegations set forth in the complaint. See, e.g., Kolupa v. Roselle Park Dist., 438 F.3d 713, 715 (7th Cir. 2006).


The plaintiff is a state prisoner, confined at the Stateville Correctional Center at all times relevant to this action. Defendant Nichol Taylor is a correctional officer at Stateville. Defendants Anthony Ramos and Mark Hosey are, respectively, the Warden and Assistant Warden at Stateville. Defendant Tammy Garcia is an inmate placement officer at Stateville. Defendant Darryl Johnson is an internal affairs investigator at the prison. Defendants Edwards and Niles hold the rank of correctional majors. Defendant Michael Randle is the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The plaintiff alleges the following facts, which will be assumed true for purposes of this motion:

In August 2009, defendant Taylor was temporarily assigned to the prison library. The plaintiff was employed at that time as a law clerk.

On August 10, 2009, Taylor photocopied a post-conviction petition for an inmate (Jones). The copies totaled some 875 pages. When Jones reviewed his copies, he discovered that Taylor had made two-sided copies rather than using only the front-side of paper. Jones protested that the court would not accept two-sided copies.

The plaintiff relayed Jones' concerns to Taylor, who directed the plaintiff to convince Jones that the incorrect copies would not be a problem. The plaintiff informed Taylor that the post-conviction petition might be dismissed for being two-sided, but she refused to re-copy the voluminous documents. The plaintiff urged Jones to complain to Taylor's supervisor, and Jones did so.

Beginning August 11, 2009, Taylor began "a campaign of harassment against the plaintiff." She would threaten to fire the plaintiff on a daily basis, making such as remarks as, "I have sixty days over here [i.e., assigned to the law library] and I'm going to fire you before I leave;" "I'm going to send you to segregation;" "I'm going to fuck you around;" and "You fronted me and I'm going to remember this shit."

Taylor warned the plaintiff that she was a veteran at Stateville with many friends in high places and that she could "get done to you whatever I want and it ain't shit you can do about it."

On August 17, 1999, paralegal Crystal Mason [not a defendant] called the plaintiff into her office for a meeting. Mason informed the plaintiff that Taylor did not want him working in the law library. The plaintiff explained the situation, apparently to Mason's satisfaction.

On August 18 and 19, 2009, Taylor admonished the plaintiff, "Your time is coming soon."

On August 19, 2009, the plaintiff was discharged from his prison job assignment; however, he was not notified at that time that his job had been terminated. Only months later, in response to a grievance, did the plaintiff learn that his job assignment "ended" on August 19, 2009.

On August 20, 2009, Taylor went to the plaintiff's housing unit and told a sergeant not to allow the plaintiff out of his cell to go to work because she had issued him a disciplinary report. If an inmate is issued a disciplinary report, he may not report to his job assignment. However, Taylor had not, in fact, issued any disciplinary report.

On September 4, 2009, the plaintiff spoke to a superintendent about the status of the disciplinary proceedings. The superintendent' informed the plaintiff that no disciplinary report had been written, served, or was pending against him.

The plaintiff then contacted paralegal Mason about his job status. Mason told the plaintiff that she did not know why he had not been reporting to work and she invited him to return to his job. ...

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