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Hall v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

October 13, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge


REAGAN, District Judge

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks damages for alleged violations of his First Amendment rights. 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 alleges that beginning in November 2008, while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, and continuing through his current confinement at Menard Correctional Center, unknown members of the mail staff at both institutions, destroy and interfere with both his outgoing and his incoming mail - including legal mail from an outside attorney - in violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Clark is "fully aware" of the interference with his mail yet "condones it." Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants Bendoff and Shemonic were aware of the interference. The complaint details various correspondence that Plaintiff claims has been interfered with including: (1) an order for coloring books made to Kappa Inc. to be sent to "Little Tiffany" (Plaintiff alleges the order was never received by Kappa); (2) post-conviction pleadings sent to the Clerk of the Cook County Court and to the State's Attorney for Cook County (Plaintiff alleges that the Clerk's Office states that they did not receive any post-conviction action); and (3) mail to the state court and opposing attorneys concerning Plaintiff's pending action in the state court of claims (Plaintiff states that his motions have been destroyed). DISCUSSION

Inmates have a First Amendment right both to send and receive mail, Rowe v. Shake, 196

F.3d 778, 782 (7th Cir. 1999). While a prisoner's First Amendment rights may be impinged or limited by a prison regulation that is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests, Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987), the instant complaint appears to allege conduct taken by the Defendants with respect to Plaintiff's mail that has no legitimate penological interest. Therefore, the Court is unable to dismiss the complaint at this time.

The Court notes, however, that in his second amended complaint, Plaintiff asks when he is going to be appointed an attorney. The Court's records indicate that Plaintiff has not filed a motion seeking appointment of counsel. Treating the instant inquiry as such a request, the Court notes that when presented with a request to appoint counsel, the Court must make the following inquiries: "(1) has the ... plaintiff made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel or effectively been precluded from doing so and (2) given the difficulty of the case, does the plaintiff appear competent to litigate it himself." Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654-55 ...

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