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John Hall, B60807 v. S.A. Godinez

August 17, 2012


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


This matter is before the Court for threshold review of the Plaintiff's civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, asserts that he has been subject to a pattern of retaliation by one or more of the defendants who have failed to protect him from assaults by staff and other inmates; have failed to process his grievances to exhaustion; have restricted his access to legal "recourses"*fn1 ; and, have intentionally assaulted him, in violation of his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He filed, contemporaneously with his complaint, a motion for injunctive relief (Doc. 3), asserting that he is at risk for injury and therefore should be placed in protective custody and protective housing.


"A provision added to the Judicial Code by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 requires the district judge to screen prisoner complaints at the earliest opportunity and dismiss the complaint, in whole or part, if. . . it 'fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.'" Sanders v. Sheahan, 198 F.3d 626 (7th Cir.1999) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)). "Factual allegations [in a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). That is, there must be "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id.

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." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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). The Seventh Circuit has directed that 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). "The screening process allows a judge to dismiss, before service on the defendants, a complaint that is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim." Gay v. Chandra, 682 F.3d 590, 595 (7th Cir. 2012) citing, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(a), (b)(1); Hoskins v. Poelstra, 320 F.3d 761, 763 (7th Cir.2003); Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 781, 783 (7th Cir.1999). 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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.

A. Summary of Claims

Although not a model of clarity, in recitation of the bases for the claims for relief, or the sequence of events, the Court has attempted to piece together the events upon which the complaint is based. Plaintiff has named as defendants, S.A. Godinez, Director of Illinois Department of Corrections, for failure to oversee training and failure to properly train officers from the period from July, 2011, through the date of the complaint; C/O Rickenberg who is alleged to have been a correctional officer at Menard during the period from July, 2011 to January 2012; former Warden of Menard Correctional Center, Dave Rednour (who is alleged to have been warden during the period from July, 2011 through approximately December 2011); current Warden of Menard Correctional Center, M. Atchison, who started in approximately December of 2011; Sherry Benton, administrative review board officer of the department of Corrections from July, 2011, through the date of the complaint; inmate counselor Ms. Cartwright*fn2 ; Correctional officer Mave Hall; Inmate grievance reviewing officer Tracy Harrington; Counselor Robin Rowold; and, C/O Schiner.

As a backdrop to his personal claims, Plaintiff alleges that in June of 2011 a staff member was assaulted in the law library by another inmate. As a result of that assault, he claims that other inmates were then subjected to verbal abuse and assaults by staff. Plaintiff alleges that in July of 2011 he was accused of misconduct and was verbally abused by Rowold, who was an officer assigned to protective custody where Plaintiff was then housed. Due to the abuse, he alleges he signed himself out of protective custody, but, immediately tried to get back in the unit when he saw other inmates he feared. He was not returned immediately to protective custody. While being transported he made comments about Rowold's verbal harassment of him and defendants Mave Hall and Schiner allegedly responded by kicking his legs out from underneath him on the stairs.

Because he felt he had been exposed to enemies and gang members, he requested to have a trained crisis member to come see him to help him deal with stress. He requested placement in protective custody which was denied. He alleges that he filed a grievance and that defendant Rickenberg told him the grievance "won't do you any good." Defendants Rednour and Harrington allegedly denied his requests for protective custody. He claims that although he attempted to file grievance from those denials, defendants Benton and Godinez refused to allow him to have his grievance claims heard. He alleges that the assaults by staff continued, and although he complained to his counselor Cartwright about these events during the period from December 15-19, 2012 Cartwright refused to address the assaults by staff.

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

B. Analysis

"It is a principle of first importance that the federal courts are tribunals of limited subject matter jurisdiction." 13 Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 3522 (3d ed.2008). In this case, the Plaintiff is a state prisoner and is currently incarcerated in an Illinois state prison facility as a result of a criminal conviction in Illinois state court. Under 28 U.S.C.1915(a)(1), a federal district court may allow a civil case to proceed without prepayment of fees, if the movant "submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets [he] possesses [showing] that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor." Plaintiff has done so in the instant case. But the Court's inquiry does not end there. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2) requires careful threshold scrutiny of the complaint filed by a plaintiff seeking pauper status. The statute requires the Court to dismiss the complaint at any time if (a) the allegation of poverty is untrue, (b) the action is frivolous or malicious, (c) the action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or (d) the action seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id.

In this case, Plaintiff is alleging a series of threats, abuse and assaults that started in July of 2011 and proceeded at least through the filing of his complaint in March of 2012. Based on these allegations, the Court finds it ...

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