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Reginald F. Cowan, #N-32717 v. Mearl J. Justus

February 24, 2011


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


Plaintiff, Reginald F. Cowan, an inmate in Jacksonville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arising out of incidents that occurred while Plaintiff was housed as a pretrial detainee in the St. Clair County Jail. Plaintiff is now serving a six year sentence for residential burglary. This case is 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). 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. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Complaint

Plaintiff Cowan complains that while he was a pretrial detainee housed in the St. Clair County Jail, from September 2, 2008, to June 4, 2009, a period of 40 weeks, he was deprived of access to meaningful exercise. Because of his disability, he was not housed with the general population, but instead spent the entire period of his pretrial detention housed in the medical infirmary. He alleges that because of his housing location, he was denied access to the yard, gym, and exercise equipment. He names as defendants St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus, Jail Superintendent Phillip McLauren, Health Care Unit Administrator Jane Doe, and the County of St. Clair. Plaintiff has pled two nearly identical counts describing the deprivation of his rights to exercise/recreation, the only difference being that Count I asserts a violation of his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Count II asserts that the Defendants' conduct also violated his rights under an unspecified "Illinois Department of Corrections Administrative Directive."

Subsequent to the filing of his complaint on July 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed two Motions for Leave to File Amended Complaint. Plaintiff's October 12, 2010, motion seeks to substitute into Count II the specific statute he claims was violated by the Defendants, "Illinois Department of Corrections Administrative Regulations Code, Article 7, 730 I.L.C.S. 5/3-7-2(c)." His second motion, filed February 7, 2011, states that he has now identified the Jane Doe defendant as Jennifer Rude-Little, and seeks to add her as a named defendant.

Plaintiff requests a jury trial; a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the Defendants from further violating the rights of detainees; an order requiring the Defendants to enact adequate procedures and rules to protect other detainees from harm; ...

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