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Joe Louis Jones (#R-20910 v. Lake County's Jail Food Service

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois

November 9, 2012


Name of Assigned Judge JAMES B. ZAGEL Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge than Assigned Judge



The plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [#5] is granted. The court authorizes and orders the trust fund officer at the plaintiff's place of incarceration to deduct $6.71 from the plaintiff's account for payment to the Clerk of Court as an initial partial filing fee, and to continue making monthly deductions in accordance with this order. The clerk is directed to: (1) file the amended complaint; (2) substitute "Lake County Jail Food Service Dept. Supervisor" for "Lake County Jail Food Service Dept;" (3) send a copy of this order to the trust fund officer at the Pontiac Correctional Center; (4) issue summons for service of the amended complaint on the defendant by the U.S. Marshal; and (5) send the plaintiff a Magistrate Judge Consent Form and Instructions for Submitting Documents along with a copy of this order. The plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel [#6] is denied.

O [For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.


The plaintiff, currently an Illinois state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claims that the defendant, the food supervisor at the Lake County Jail, violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by exposing him to unreasonable risk of harm. More specifically, the plaintiff alleges that he was served a drink mix twice a day for over two months that contained an ingredient known to cause cognitive impairment in those who consumed it.

The plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), the plaintiff is assessed an initial partial filing fee of 6.71. The trust fund officer at the plaintiff's place of incarceration is authorized and ordered to collect the partial filing fee from the plaintiff's trust fund account and pay it directly to the Clerk of Court. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the plaintiff's trust fund officer is directed to collect monthly payments from his trust fund account in an amount equal to 20% of the preceding month's income credited to the account. Monthly payments shall be forwarded to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10 until the full $350 filing fee is paid. All payments shall be sent to the Clerk, United States District Court, 219 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, Illinois 60604, attn: Cashier's Desk, 20th Floor, and shall clearly identify the plaintiff's name and this case number. This payment obligation will follow the plaintiff wherever he may be transferred.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the amended complaint. Here, accepting the plaintiff's allegations as true, the court finds that the plaintiff has articulated a colorable federal cause of action against the defendant. The Constitution required correctional officials to house the plaintiff under "humane conditions" and to provide him with adequate food and water, among other staples. Sain v. Budz, No. 05 C 6394, 2006 WL 539351, *2 (N.D. Mar. 3, 2006) (Conlon, J.), citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). There is no question that inmates have a constitutional right to an adequate diet. See, e.g., Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1432 (7th Cir. 1996). "The state must provide an inmate with a 'healthy, habitable environment.' This includes providing nutritionally adequate food that is prepared and served under conditions which do not present an immediate danger to the health and well being of the inmates who consume it." French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250, 1255 (7th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted); see also McRoy v. Aramark Correctional Services, Inc., 268 Fed. Appx. 479, 482 (7th Cir. 2008); Jubeh v. Dart, No. 11 C 3873, 2011 WL 6010267, *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2011) Tharp, J.). While a more fully developed record may belie the plaintiff's allegations, the defendant must respond to the amended complaint.

The clerk shall issue summonses forthwith. The United States Marshals Service is appointed to serve the defendant. Any service forms necessary for the plaintiff to complete will be sent by the Marshal as appropriate to serve the defendant with process. The U.S. Marshal is directed to make all reasonable efforts to serve the defendant. The Marshal is authorized to mail a request for waiver of service to the defendant in the manner prescribed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(2) before attempting personal service.

The plaintiff is instructed to file all future papers concerning this action with the Clerk of Court in care of the Prisoner Correspondent. The plaintiff is once again reminded that he must provide the court with the original plus a complete judge's copy, including any exhibits, of every document filed. In addition, the plaintiff must send an exact copy of any court filing to the defendants [or to defense counsel, once an attorney has entered an appearance on behalf of the defendants]. Every document filed with the court must include a certificate of service stating to whom exact copies were mailed and the date of mailing. In the future, any paper that is sent directly to the judge or that otherwise fails to comply with these instructions may be disregarded by the court or returned to the plaintiff.

Finally, the plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel is denied. There is no constitutional or statutory right to counsel in federal civil cases. Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851 (2010); see also Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1006 (7th Cir. 2006). Nevertheless, the district court has discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) to request counsel for an indigent litigant. Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir. 2007), citing Johnson, 433 F.3d at 1006. When a pro se litigant submits a request for appointment of counsel, the court must first consider whether the indigent plaintiff has made reasonable attempts to secure counsel on his own, or conversely, if he has been precluded from doing so. Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 654. Next, the court must evaluate the complexity of the case and whether the plaintiff appears competent to litigate it on his own. Id. at 654-55. Another consideration is whether the assistance of counsel would provide a substantial benefit to the court or the parties, potentially affecting the outcome of the case. Id. at 654; Gil v. Reed, 381 F.3d 649, 656 (7th Cir. 2004); see also Local Rule 83.36(c) (N.D. Ill.) (listing the factors to be taken into account in determining whether to appoint counsel).

After considering the above factors, the court concludes that appointment of counsel is not warranted in this case. First, the plaintiff has failed to show either that he has made reasonable efforts to retain private counsel or that he has been effectively precluded from making such efforts. In any event, although the amended complaint sets forth cognizable claims, the plaintiff has alleged no physical or mental disability that might preclude him from adequately investigating the facts giving rise to this action. Neither the legal issues raised in the complaint nor the evidence that might support the plaintiff's claims are so complex or intricate that a trained attorney is necessary. The plaintiff, whose submissions to date have been coherent and articulate, appears more than capable of presenting his case. It should additionally be noted that the court grants pro se litigants wide latitude in the handling of their lawsuits. Therefore, the plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel is denied at this time. Should the case proceed to a point that assistance of counsel is appropriate, the court may revisit this request.


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