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Frank Taylor v. John Guthurter

May 10, 2011


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



Plaintiff Frank Taylor, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving an 18 year sentence for attempt aggravated criminal sexual assault, 5 years for aggravated battery, and 3 years for aggravated battery on a peace officer. 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.

28U.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 and dismiss this action.

Initially, the Court notes that Plaintiff failed to disclose three of his previously-filed lawsuits in his complaint. One of the omitted cases was a "strike," Taylor v. Mangram, No. 03-cv-50131 (N.D. Ill.), which was dismissed April 22, 2003, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. This omission alone would be grounds for dismissal of the instant complaint. The Court relies on a party's litigation history listed in his or her complaint to adhere to the three-strike requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), and thus there is a need for reliable information about prior litigation. As a result, where a party fails to provide accurate litigation history, the Court may appropriately dismiss the action for providing fraudulent information to the Court. Hoskins v. Dart, 633 F.3d 541, 543 (7th Cir. 2011) (dismissal appropriate where Court-issued complaint form clearly warned Plaintiff that failure to provide litigation history would result in dismissal). In this case, however, the Court finds it more appropriate to address the merits of the complaint.

The Complaint

The events leading up to Plaintiff's complaint began in the Shawnee Correctional Center, where Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary ticket on October 14, 2010, after a confrontation with prison staff in the food service area. According to the disciplinary report, a correctional officer saw Plaintiff throw some food from his tray back into the serving line. He told Plaintiff to pick up the food, Plaintiff refused, and a verbal altercation ensued. The officer told Plaintiff to leave the area, after which Plaintiff hit the officer in the head with a food tray (Doc. 1, p. 12). Another responding officer sprayed Plaintiff in the face with two bursts of pepper spray after he refused to cuff up (Doc. 1, p. 11).

Plaintiff was apparently transferred to Menard Correctional Center on the same day after this incident. Plaintiff's primary claim is that Defendant Guthurter, a guard at Menard, threatened Plaintiff's life, "terrorizing" Plaintiff while he was in restraints in his cell.

Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing over the food service incident took place at Menard after Plaintiff's transfer. Plaintiff claims he requested staff assistance and extra time to prepare his defense, but was denied both. He asserts that this denial violated his right to due process. At the hearing, Plaintiff admitted throwing food on the officer, but denied hitting the officer with his tray (Doc. 1, p. 9). Discipline was imposed on Plaintiff, consisting of 9 months segregation, C grade, and commissary restriction; 6 months contact visit restriction; and revocation of 2 months of good conduct credit (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Plaintiff also claims that the conditions of his confinement violate his rights in several ways. He was denied a shower for eight days after being sprayed with pepper spray. His prescribed medications were taken away after his transfer from Shawnee Correctional Center. He suffered sleep deprivation. In his cell, which has poor air circulation, he has been exposed to rust particles, sewage fumes, asbestos, lead paint, and excessive cold. In addition, he complains that he was not given cleaning supplies, a ...

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