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Gary Briner, # N-23279 v. S.A. Godinez

November 5, 2012

GARY BRINER, # N-23279, PLAINTIFF,
v.
S.A. GODINEZ, MARY MILLER, WEXFORD HEALTH CARE,*FN1
ROBERT R. WALKER, MICHAEL P. RANDLE, CHRISTY FENTON, SARAH JOHNSON,
JACKIE MILLER, DR. ELS, DR. E. MONTWILL, KERRICK L. KILEY, J. SMITH, K. DEEN, D. LAKER, L. MARKEL, K. STOFFEY, WARDEN K. ANGL, AND WARDEN GAETZ, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The events giving rise to his claims occurred both at Pinckneyville and at Danville Correctional Center ("Danville"), where he was previously confined. Plaintiff is serving a nine year sentence for burglary. Plaintiff claims that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition, because they refused to authorize cataract surgery.

More specifically, Plaintiff claims that he was diagnosed with a severe cataract in his right eye during his incarceration. He attaches medical records and grievances indicating that this condition was diagnosed in 2009 or 2010 (Doc. 1-1, pp. 2-3; Doc. 1-2, p. 2-3). Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Els (the optometrist at Danville) and Defendant Montwill (the optometrist at Pinckneyville). Both told him that under Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") policy, he would not be treated surgically unless he lost sight in both eyes (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff cannot see at all out of his right eye, and this impairment affects his balance (Doc. 1, p. 10; Doc. 1-1, p. 9).

His condition has worsened over time, and causes him great anxiety, depression, and fear of permanently losing his sight.

Plaintiff filed several grievances seeking further treatment for the cataract. His grievances were denied by Defendants Mary Miller and Fenton (the medical directors at Danville and Pinckneyville, respectively). Defendants Laker, Markel, Stoffey, Kiley, Smith, and Deen (grievance officers and counselors) also denied Plaintiff's grievances. The grievance responses reiterated the policy, attributed to Defendant Wexford Health Services, that inmates are not eligible for cataract surgery unless sight is lost in both eyes (Doc. 1, p. 9; Doc. 1-2, p. 4). Defendants Walker, Randle, and Godinez (former and current IDOC Directors), as well as Defendants Johnson and Jackie Miller (of the IDOC Administrative Review Board), and Defendants Angl and Goetz (wardens), concurred with the grievance denials.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated a colorable federal cause of action against the medical Defendants (Fenton, Mary Miller, Montwill, Els, and Wexford Health Care) for deliberate indifference to medical needs. Because Plaintiff is seeking injunctive relief as well as damages, Defendant Gaetz (the Pinckneyville Warden) shall also remain in the action at this time.

However, the claims against the other Defendants shall be dismissed on initial review for the following reasons. First, if a prisoner is under the care of prison medical professionals, a non-medical prison official "will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable hands." Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 755 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 (3d Cir. 2004)). "A layperson's failure to tell the medical staff how to do its job cannot be called deliberate indifference; it is just a form of failing to provide a gratuitous rescue service." Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009). According to the complaint, Defendants Godinez, Walker, Randle, Johnson, Jackie Miller, Kiley, Smith, Deen, Laker, Markel, Stoffey, and Angl are not medical professionals and were not directly involved in providing medical care to Plaintiff. Plaintiff's allegations show only that these Defendants reviewed his grievances over the medical providers' decisions not to perform cataract surgery. The denial or mishandling of grievances "by persons who otherwise did not cause or participate in the underlying conduct states no claim." Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011). See also Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 772 n.3 (7th Cir. 2008); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007); Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1996).

In addition, the doctrine of respondeat superior is not applicable to § 1983 actions. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). Thus, administrators such as the IDOC Directors and prison wardens, who were not "personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right," cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional actions of their subordinates. See id.

Pending Motion

Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. 3) shall be referred to United States Magistrate Judge Williams for further consideration.

Plaintiff's motion for service of process at government expense (Doc. 4) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. It is not necessary for a litigant proceeding in forma pauperis to file a motion requesting service at the government's expense. The Clerk shall be directed below to serve those Defendants who remain in the action. The motion is denied as to those Defendants who shall be dismissed.

Disposition

The Clerk is DIRECTED to add the following Defendants who were inadvertently omitted from the docket sheet: WEXFORD HEALTH CARE, ROBERT R. WALKER, MICHAEL P. RANDLE, CHRISTY FENTON, SARAH JOHNSON, JACKIE MILLER, DR. ELS, DR. E. MONTWILL, KERRICK L. KILEY, J. SMITH, K. DEEN, D. LAKER, L. MARKEL, K. STOFFEY, WARDEN K. ANGL, and WARDEN GAETZ.

Defendants GODINEZ, WALKER, RANDLE, JOHNSON, JACKIE MILLER, KILEY, SMITH, DEEN, LAKER, MARKEL, STOFFEY, and ANGL are DISMISSED ...


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