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James Brown v. Lee Ryker

January 20, 2011


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



Plaintiff, James Brown, an inmate in Lawrence 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, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conversely, 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). The factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Upon careful review of the complaint and supporting exhibits, the Court finds that none of the claims in the complaint may be dismissed at this point in the litigation.


Plaintiff James Brown alleges that between June 12, 2008, and June 17, 2008, following a water main break in the nearby town of Lawrenceville, Plaintiff and other inmates were subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and deliberate indifference to their safety and security when Defendants failed to provide sufficient water for sanitary needs including flushing of the cell toilets. Plaintiff claims that as a result of Defendants' inadequate response to the water shortage, human waste accumulated in the cell toilets for several days while inmates were largely confined to their cells. Although inmates were notified three times daily that water would be turned on briefly for ten minutes so toilets could be flushed, the amount of water during these limited periods coupled with the five-minute-delay toilet flush mechanism, was insufficient to flush all the waste, some of which spilled over onto the cell floor. The lack of water and full toilets forced plaintiff and others to have to defecate and urinate in plastic bags, which then collected in Plaintiff's and other inmates' cells. The resulting noxious odor was exacerbated by the summer heat. In an attempt to reduce the foul smell, Plaintiff held his bowels and bladder to the point that he suffered headaches, stomachaches, and excessive itching. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants could have used available portable toilets to alleviate these conditions, but chose not to do so. During the times that Plaintiff was outside his cell in the administrative, vocational or health care unit, he was not permitted to use the working toilets and sinks in those locations.

Plaintiff also complains that he and other inmates were not provided with water to wash their hands or with adequate drinking water during this period, and were forced to eat some of their meals in their cells under these unsanitary and nauseating conditions.

Plaintiff complained about these conditions at the time, and filed two grievances. The first was denied by the Administrative Review Board on January 22, 2009. The second, which specifically challenged the Defendants' decision not to provide portable toilets, was denied on March 16, 2009.

Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that the Defendants violated his constitutional rights; compensatory damages of $1,000,000 against each Defendant, punitive damages of $1,000,000 against ...

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