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William J. Buck, #R-21689 v. C/O Hartman

June 18, 2012


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


Plaintiff William J. Buck, an inmate at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on incidents that occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Pontiac and Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). Plaintiff is serving a 60 year 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. 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, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), 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 and supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Complaint

Plaintiff's complaint names: Menard Correctional Officers Hartman, Kurtz, Lashbrook,*fn1 and Mifflin; Menard Warden Rednour; the Unknown Dietary Supervisor of Menard; the Unknown Dietary Supervisor of the Illinois Dept. Of Corrections ("IDOC"); Jackie Miller (Administrative Review Board); and S.A. Godinez (Director of IDOC), who Plaintiff claims each violated his constitutional rights.

Plaintiff alleges that on July 20, 2011, he experienced an asthma attack while in his cell (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff stopped Defendant Kurtz and told him he was having trouble breathing (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant Kurtz left Plaintiff and returned thirty minutes later with Defendant Hartman, who told Plaintiff, "'I am not a doctor, and the joint is on lock-down, so drink some water cause you ain't going nowhere'" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff then told Defendant Hartman, "please just call a nurse," to which Plaintiff claims Defendant Hartman made a "derisive" response (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff alleges that he continued to have trouble breathing during the ensuing days (Doc. 1, p. 7). Approximately one week after this encounter he was seen by a doctor and given a breathing treatment (Doc. 1, p. 7).

On October 17, 2011, Plaintiff claims Defendant Lashbrook transferred him to the segregation cellhouse, where he was placed in a cell with "a soiled mattress, hair balls all over the walls, stains on the wall, dirt caked up on the floor, rusted door, no ventilation, and urine [and] fecal odor in the cell" (Doc. 1, p. 7). The next day, Plaintiff received two disciplinary tickets (one from Defendant Lashbrook) with another inmate's number and cell number on them (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff claims that these tickets were used "as [a] subterfuge to keep [him] in segregation" (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff further claims that due to the conditions of his new cell, he subsequently developed a rash and sores (Doc. 1, p. 8).

In late October, 2011, Plaintiff went to "the adjustment committee" headed by Defendant Mifflin regarding the two previously-mentioned disciplinary tickets (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff claims that when he began explaining the mistakes on the tickets, Defendant Mifflin stated that

"[h]e didn't care what it said" and had Plaintiff escorted out of the room (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff subsequently received a summary of the adjustment committee's findings, which ordered Plaintiff to one year of segregation and transfer to Pontiac (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff asserts that he filed grievances to Defendants Rednour, Miller, and Godinez, who all "denied [him] relief capriciously" (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff claims that his transfer to Pontiac was in retaliation for grievances filed regarding the July 2011 and October 2011 incidents (Doc. 1, p. 11).

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that since his incarceration in June, 2003, he has experienced a variety of medical problems due to the "intensive soybean product-based foods" served at Menard and Pontiac (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff further states that Defendant Dietary Supervisors "use the food as a weapon for retaliation for staff assaults" (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff claims that he has alerted Defendant Godinez about his grievances with the food served in Menard and Pontiac, but that "no change has been implemented" (Doc. 1, p. 11).

Plaintiff requests a jury trial and an injunction forcing the IDOC to change their menu to include "items from the nutritional chart" (Doc. 1, p. 13). Additionally, Plaintiff requests compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages from each Defendant.


Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into four (4) counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, 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 a Medical Need

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Kurtz and Hartman violated his Eighth Amendment rights by showing deliberate indifference to his asthma attack. The 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) the state officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs, which is a subjective standard.

Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). However, the Supreme Court stressed that this test is not an insurmountable hurdle for ...

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