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James R. Henson v. Jeremy Kennon

April 8, 2011

JAMES R. HENSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEREMY KENNON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the McHenry County Jail, was at all times relevant to this suit an inmate in the Chester Mental Health Center. Plaintiff 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, in pertinent part:

(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). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds that some of the claims in the complaint may be dismissed at this point in the litigation.

Facts:

The following version of the facts of this case is gleaned from Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1). On October 14, 2010, Defendant Kennon was going through Plaintiff's property, and learned that Plaintiff had filed a suit against him.*fn1 Defendant Kennon then began a campaign of waking Plaintiff from his sleep close to 11:00 PM on October 14, 15, 16, 22, 23, 27, 28, and 29. This sleep was induced by Plaintiff's epileptic medication. Defendant Williams assisted Defendant Kennon in the interruption of Plaintiff's sleep on October 28. Plaintiff then complained to medical staff as well as the institution's administration, and received a medication to help him sleep as well as a reassignment to a different living area.

Plaintiff made Defendants George, Bollman, and Kelley aware of the actions of Defendant Kennon. Other than providing him with a new medication and relocating him, they did nothing further to protect him.

Discussion:

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kennon retaliated against him for filing complaints by waking Plaintiff from his sleep close to 11:00 PM on October 14, 15, 16, 22, 23, 27, 28, and 29, and Defendant Williams assisted Defendant Kennon in his retaliatory act on October 28th. The courts have considered whether interruption of sleep amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation, and have specifically focused on the duration of the action causing the interruption, the effects of the interruption of sleep on the specific inmate, as well as the legitimate reasons for the interruption. See Scarver v. Litscher, 434 F.3d 972, 974 (7th Cir. 2006)(inmate stated a claim where cell was constantly illuminated, which exacerbated his mental condition); Whitford v. Boglino, 202 F.3d 276 (1999)(Plaintiff housed in a lighted cell for only three weeks failed to alleged that he lost sleep or was otherwise harmed); Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422 (7th Cir. 1996)(inmate stated a claim where excessive noise on a nightly basis interrupted and prevented sleep); Ferguson v. Cape Girardeau County, 88 F.3d 647, 650 (8th Cir. 1996)(inmate was confined for only 14 days in lighted cell, lights were necessary for observation purposes, and inmate was observed asleep for a number of hours); Kennan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090-91 (9th Cir. 1996)(inmate stated a claim when he was subjected to bright light for 24 hours a day which caused substantial sleeping problems as well as psychological harm).

However, the Court need not determine at this point in time whether Defendants Kennon and Williams violated the Eighth Amendment by interrupting Plaintiff's sleep. For even if these allegations were found to be inactionable in and of themselves under the Eighth Amendment, if the acts were taken in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally protected right, then they are actionable under §1983. See Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 552 (7th Cir. 2009) (discussing Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639, 644 (7th Cir. 1987) ("[A]n act in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally protected right is actionable under Section 1983 even if the act, when taken for different reasons, would have been proper.")); see also Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, 810 (7th Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (retaliatory transfer of a prisoner); Babcock v. White, 102 F.3d 267, 275 (7th Cir. 1996) (retaliatory delay in transferring prisoner); Cornell v. Woods, 69 F.3d 1383, 1389 (8th Cir. 1995)(retaliatory discipline).

At issue here is whether Plaintiff experienced an adverse action or actions that would likely deter First Amendment activity in the future, and if the First Amendment activity was "at least a motivating factor" in the Defendants' decision to take the retaliatory action. Bridges, 557 F.3d at 551. This is a question that cannot be resolved at the pleading ...


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