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Donnie Barrett, et al v. Illinois Department of Human Services

September 20, 2012

DONNIE BARRETT, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, FORREST ASHBY, REGGY BARNETT, AND SANDRA SIMPSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:

E-FILED

Thursday, 20 September, 2012 09:40:37 AM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

Twenty-five Plaintiffs, proceeding pro se and currently detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, seek leave to proceed in forma pauperis on their claims challenging the cleanliness of the facility. Thirteen Plaintiffs will be dismissed for failing to pay the partial filing fees. This order applies to the petitions to proceed in forma pauperis by the remaining Plaintiffs.

The "privilege to proceed without posting security for costs and fees is reserved to the many truly impoverished litigants who, within the District Court's sound discretion, would remain without legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to them." Brewster v. North Am. Van Lines, Inc., 461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972). Additionally, a court must dismiss cases proceeding in forma pauperis "at any time" if the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim, even if part of the filing fee has been paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)(2). Accordingly, this Court grants leave to proceed in forma pauperis only if the complaint states a federal claim.

LEGAL STANDARD

To state a claim, the allegations must set forth a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations must give enough detail to give "'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007))(add'l citation omitted). The factual "allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged . . . . Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555-56). However, pro se pleadings are liberally construed when applying this standard. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Barnett, the laundry supervisor, fails to properly train and supervise the residents working on laundry detail. Barnett allegedly allows and encourages overloading of the washers and permits caustic and unlabeled chemicals to be used for washing the laundry. The result, Plaintiffs allege, is that Plaintiffs are "forced to wear dirty clothes that cause[] sickness, rashes, health issues, . . . ." (Complaint, ¶ 7, d/e 1.) Clothes are returned "soiled" and "smelling" and sometimes containing food and other objects.

Plaintiffs also allege that the showers are mold-infested, the hallways have an "overall filthy hue to them," the dietary department "harbors mold and the smell of sewage or decay and rot," and the facility lacks sufficient air circulation and natural light. (Complaint, ¶¶ 8-15, d/e 1). Access to adequate cleaning materials is lacking. Lastly, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants "foster an atmosphere of retaliation" for complaining about these conditions.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs are constitutionally entitled to humane conditions of confinement, including adequate sanitation and ventilation. Sain v. Wood, 512 F.3d 886 (7th Cir. 2008)(committed person entitled to "humane conditions" and the provision of "adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care"). At this early stage, the Court cannot rule out a constitutional claim based on the totality of conditions alleged by Plaintiffs. Personal responsibility is plausibly inferred at this stage against Defendants Barnett, the laundry supervisor, and Defendant Ashby, the facility's director.

However, Plaintiffs cannot sue the facility itself, because the facility is not an entity subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Additionally, no inference of personal responsibility arises against Defendant Simpson, the grievance examiner, for the conditions of the facility. Simpson cannot be liable for incorrectly handling Plaintiffs' grievances. See Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1996)("a state's inmate grievance procedures do not give rise to a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.").

Plaintiffs' allegations that Simpson retaliates against them for their grievances are too vague to state a claim. The only adverse action alleged is that Simpson contacts the residents who work in the laundry or the administrators about the grievances, which in turn subject Plaintiffs to angry verbal harassment and threats. Simpson cannot inquire into the validity of the grievances without making inquiries to those responsible, and she is not responsible for their alleged misconduct because of those inquiries. Further, the vague threats alleged do not allow a plausible inference that Plaintiffs have suffered a sufficiently adverse action to make ...


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