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James v. Randle

August 19, 2010


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


Plaintiff, an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center (Menard), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff commenced this action as one seeking a motion for a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction (Doc. 1). Plaintiff did not file a civil complaint with his motion. And, to date, no civil complaint has been filed. Accordingly, the Court also liberally construes the motion as a complaint seeking injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 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).


Plaintiff states that he was transferred to Menardin November 2007. Plaintiff further states that since being transferred to Menard he has filed numerous grievances "concerning prison conditions, Menard House Rules & Policies, and unethical and unprofessional behavior of prison officials." Affidavit in Support, ¶¶1 and 2. Plaintiff asserts that as a result of filing and winning grievances, he was retaliated against by prison officials. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the retaliation included being placed in a "high aggression" cell block which had more restraints and restrictions than lower aggression cell blocks for which Plaintiff claims he was eligible; frequent shake downs of his cell; and the issuance of disciplinary reports against him. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that prison officials began strictly enforcing the rules against a rival gang. The rival gang was told that the strict enforcement was due to Plaintiff's frequent grievances. The leaders of the rival gang approached the leaders of the gang to which Plaintiff belonged and stated that Plaintiff would be "hit" if something was not done about Plaintiff's frequent grievances and complaints. Plaintiff asserts that he was told by his gang leaders that they would support him, but Plaintiff indicated that he wished to back down. According to the complaint, Plaintiff's desire to back down was seen as cowardice by his gang and, therefore, Plaintiff was forced to renounce his gang membership. For Plaintiff, being without a gang affiliation meant that he was without protection inside prison. Therefore, Plaintiff requested placement on protective custody.

It appears that Plaintiff was placed on protective custody status while prison officials evaluated his need for such status. Plaintiff asserts that, after being transferred to protective custody, he was interviewed by Defendant Thomas, an internal affairs officer. It appears that Plaintiff told Defendant Thomas that the reason he needed protective custody was because Defendants Maue, Bennett, Prescott, and Coffee had targeted him for retaliation. That is, in Plaintiff's view, if corrections officers would stop harassing him and violating his rights, then Plaintiff would stop filing grievances and lawsuits and - accordingly - the rival gang would not be harassed and, therefore, Plaintiff would not be in danger. It further appears that Plaintiff was informed that his problems with the corrections officers was an insufficient reason to be placed on protective custody.

At this point, it appears that Plaintiff's mother called prison officials to inquire about Plaintiff's placement in protective custody and to complain about Defendants Hale, Bennett, Coffee, Prescott, and Thomas. Motion pg 3; Affidavit in Support, ¶ 11. Plaintiff was subsequently interviewed about his request for protective custody by Defendant Heinrich. Again, however, Plaintiff was informed that his problems with corrections officers was insufficient to keep him on protective custody status. Plaintiff was informed, though, that he could remain on protective custody status if he gave Heinrich information about which inmates were moving drugs or possessed knifes. Plaintiff informed Heinrich he had enough problems with other inmates at Menard without becoming a "snitch."

Shortly after his mother's telephone call, Plaintiff states that his cell was shaken down by Defendant Bennet and Plaintiff was given a disciplinary report for having a cracked property box lid and having an extra blanket. Motion, pg. 3; Affidavit in Support, ¶ 13. It appears that this disciplinary report was heard by Defendant Parnell who, according to Plaintiff, refused to call any of Plaintiff's witnesses. Defendant Parnell found Plaintiff guilty of the violation. For punishment, Plaintiff was required to pay for the broken box, had his commissary privileges restricted for one month, and he was placed on C-grade for one month. Plaintiff, however, was not sent to the segregation unit - an action which Plaintiff asserts would have exposed him to inmates from general population and, it appears, gang members who wished to harm him.

During this time, it appears that Plaintiff appealed the decision to remove him from protective custody to the Administrative Review Board (ARB). Affidavit in Support, ΒΆ 13. When the ARB did not call Plaintiff for a hearing, Plaintiff called his mother. Plaintiff's mother than called Defendant Spiller who assured her that Plaintiff would be examined by the ARB. According to the complaint, Plaintiff's mother picked up another telephone (while on the phone with Spiller) and contacted Defendant Summer, a counselor at Menard. Plaintiff states that Summer lied to his mother by telling her that ...

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