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Coryell S. Henz v. Lt. Heck

August 28, 2012


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


Plaintiff Coryell S. Henz, an inmate at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, 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 under 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 upon 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 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, 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 the 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." Brooks, 578 F.3d at 581. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be construed liberally. 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; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Complaint

In December 2009, an inmate at Pinckneyville Correctional Center took a hostage. The inmate was killed, and Pinckneyville was put on lockdown. On January 6, 2010, Pinckneyville's tactical team, known as "Orange Crush," came to Plaintiff's housing unit. Officers ordered Plaintiff to strip naked and put on a state-issued blue short-sleeved shirt, pants, and shower shoes (sandals) without clothes underneath. He was handcuffed. The inmates were lined up against a wall. Officers ordered the inmates outside. It was below freezing, 18 degrees. The inmates were marched to the gym, stopping and going, for 10 to 15 minutes. In the gym, the blowers were turned on high, which was very cold and intolerable. Plaintiff and the other inmates were again lined up against a wall. Some inmates passed out, some were bleeding, some crying for help. Plaintiff was having trouble breathing and slid to the floor. He told Officer Porter he needed his inhaler. Porter said, "Get the fuck off the ground." When Plaintiff had difficulty getting up, Porter ordered him off the ground now. An unknown officer pulled Plaintiff off the ground by the arms, put Plaintiff against the wall, and pushed his head forcefully against the wall. Porter yelled, "Keep your fucking head on the wall. Bend your knees and don't lock them and you'll be fine." After about an hour, the inmates were ordered back outside. They were ordered to stop and stand several times in the below-freezing weather. After 10 to 15 minutes they made it back to the housing unit. Everything in Plaintiff's cell had been ransacked. He says no other cell house was treated this way. He believes Orange Crush did this to him and the other inmates in retaliation for the hostage-taking incident.

Plaintiff submitted a grievance about Orange Crush to the grievance officer on January 26, 2010. The next day, Plaintiff was put in segregation. He was a given a disciplinary report saying he was under investigation, without further information. Plaintiff sent several re-quests to Internal Affairs to find out why he was put in segregation. Officer Furlow, an Internal Affairs officer, came to Plaintiff's cell and told him he was in segregation for the grievance he wrote (Doc. 1, p. 15). He added that another Internal Affairs officer, Officer Heck, was in charge of Plaintiff's investigation. Furlow just wrote the disciplinary report. Plaintiff was released from segregation on February 20, 2010, without having been seen or talked to by Internal Affairs.

Soon after, Plaintiff found out he had lost his job and could not be rehired. Then, twice in March 2010, Officer Wertz locked Plaintiff's cell door when all the inmates were let out for recreation. Plaintiff asked Wertz why he wasn't letting Plaintiff out. Wertz said "You're not complying with Pinckneyville rules," which Plaintiff says referred to his having filed grievances (Doc. 1, p. 18).

Plaintiff subsequently obtained a new position in maintenance and moved to R-5 housing, where inmates deemed to be privileged lived. When he went to work on March 22, 2010, however, the officer on duty told him to go back. "Apparently you have an issue with Lt. Williams and he doesn't want you living in his building" (Doc. 1, p. 18). Lt. Williams ran the R-5 housing unit. When Plaintiff got to his cell, Lt. Williams was waiting. "Go pack your shit. You're going back to 4-house," he said. "You won't get another chance to write a grievance on us over here." He told Plaintiff not to put in for any job that would put him in that building. He would not let Plaintiff live there.

Plaintiff was eventually given a new job as a teacher's assistant and moved to R-5 while Williams was on medical leave. But as soon as Williams returned, he came to Plaintiff's cell. "Didn't I tell you last time you were over here that you couldn't live over here unless you're living in seg? Now pack your shit and get out of my building." This caused Plaintiff to lose the privileges other workers were entitled to, including outside yard and gym privileges.

On June 15, 2010, the light in Plaintiff's cell went out, and it remained out for over three weeks. Normally lights are replaced within days. Plaintiff notified officers Hammond and Fisher about his light. They ignored him. Plaintiff approached Lt. Runyon and started to ask him about the light, but Runyon stopped him before he could finish. "Don't address me with that issue right now. I'm busy." But Runyon was just talking to someone about sports at the time. Plaintiff tried to ask Runyon about the light again later that day. Runyon cut him off again and said if Plaintiff has such a problem with his light, Runyon could arrange for Plaintiff to be somewhere with lots of light. "Seg always has room," he said. "Write a grievance like you al-ways do. I'd like to see you do that in the dark. You're going to get enough of writing grievances" (Doc. 1-1, p. 3). Four separate times, Plaintiff asked Lt. Sloan for help getting his light fixed.

Sloan ignored him. When Plaintiff asked Officer Porter if he would fill out a work order for Plaintiff's light, he told Plaintiff to file a grievance and walked away. Plaintiff believes these officers ignored his requests intentionally in retaliation for several grievances Plaintiff had written complaining of officer misconduct. Without the light, it was impossible for Plaintiff to read, write, or take care of basic daily functions.

After more than three weeks without a light, Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance with Warden Randy Davis. Davis determined it was not an emergency, however, and ...

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