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Maurice Wallace, # R-10764 v. Yolande Johnson

November 4, 2011

MAURICE WALLACE, # R-10764, PLAINTIFF,
v.
YOLANDE JOHNSON, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Introduction

Maurice Wallace ("Plaintiff"), an inmate in Tamms Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for murder. 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.

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. 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 and supporting exhibits, the undersigned Judge finds it appropriate to exercise the authority under § 1915A, as portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Complaint

The following factual summary is taken from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 25), filed on October 24, 2011. Plaintiff has been housed at Tamms Correctional Center ("Tamms") since December 2006. He suffered from a "painfully infected podiac*fn1 ulcer" from October 2006 through May 2008 (Doc. 25, p. 3). Plaintiff sought treatment for his infection from Defendant Powers, the Tamms physician. Plaintiff alleges that between June 2007 and January 2008, Powers refused to provide him with any medication to relieve his pain and refused to give him antibiotics for the infection. Plaintiff filed several grievances over this lack of treatment.

Defendant Held, the former clothing room supervisor, allegedly refused to provide Plaintiff with adequate clothing for the seasons from August 2007 to January 2009, and again from December 2010 to March 15, 2011, and falsified the records of his clothing requests. Plaintiff claims the lack of proper clothing caused his foot condition.

Plaintiff further alleges that the above actions of Defendants Powers and Held were taken against him because of his adherence to his faith, which is ultra-orthodox Satmar Hasidic Judaism. Plaintiff converted to Judaism on June 5, 2007.

In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Caliper, the former health care administrator, retaliated against Plaintiff for filing grievances over his dissatisfaction with his medical care by allowing a visiting doctor to prescribe Plaintiff an antibiotic to which Defendant Caliper knew Plaintiff had an allergy.

Finally, Plaintiff asserts a claim that he was denied equal protection of the law, because Defendants treated him differently from similarly situated inmates and that Defendants Johnson and Bartley (current or former wardens) and Wexford Medical Services (the contracted employer of Defendants Powers and Caliper) should be liable for the alleged deprivations because of their failure to supervise, train, or control their subordinates.

Discussion

Plaintiff presented his complaint in four counts. Based on the substantive allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into numbered counts, however, these do not entirely correspond to Plaintiff's original counts. The parties should use the Court's designations below in all future pleadings, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

! Count 1 - Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs*fn2

Plaintiff contends that he suffered from a severe and painful foot infection that started in October 2006 and apparently was resolved in May 2008 (Doc. 25, pp. 3, 8). He was treated by four different physicians. Here, however, Plaintiff complains only about Defendant Powers' response to his medical needs. Plaintiff describes his condition as involving a painfully infected foot ulcer, an infected great toenail, dermatitis to toes, athlete's foot, a hypertrophied*fn3 toe, and an ingrown toenail (Doc. 25, p. 10-11). Plaintiff had been on oral antibiotics for some time prior to July 2007, when Defendant Powers discontinued that medication (Doc. 25, p. 4). Starting on June 1, 2007, Defendant Powers refused to give Plaintiff any pain medication (Doc. 25, p. 8). Some ten months later, apparently under the care of a different doctor, Plaintiff was again given oral antibiotics and pain medication, and had surgery (Doc. 25, p. 4, n. 2). During the time he was under the care of Defendant Powers, Plaintiff made repeated requests for pain medication and antibiotics, telling Defendant Powers that he was in agonizing pain, but his requests were denied (Doc. 25, p. 8-11). Plaintiff also claims Defendant Powers falsified his medical records, stating that Plaintiff's condition was "improving" or "slowly resolving" when it was not (Doc. 25, p. 9-10). Plaintiff finally declared a hunger strike on December 31, 2007, to protest the lack of medical care, and went without food for several days.

The United States Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. See also Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001).

To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must show that the responsible prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Dunigan ex rel. Nyman v. Winnebago Cnty., 165 F.3d 587, 590 (7th Cir. 1999). Deliberate indifference involves a two-part test. The plaintiff must show that (1) the medical condition was objectively serious, and (2) ...


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