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Moore v. Taylor

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 15, 2013

EDWARD MOORE, A-70777 Plaintiff,


Phil Gilbert, United States District Judge

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for incidents occurring at Menard. He is serving a life sentence for murder and several other felonies.

The Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint (Doc. 6), and reviews the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7) as the operative complaint in this matter. In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that Lt. Ashby and John Does #1 and #2 slapped him in the head in retaliation for Plaintiff’s frequent filing of grievances to prison officials and elected officials (Doc. 7, pp. 9-10). Plaintiff further states that Defendants Shepard and Yousuf, medical doctors at Menard, along with Defendant One Radiology, acted with deliberate indifference toward Plaintiff by failing to provide medical treatment for a gallstone (Doc. 7, pp. 10-11).

Plaintiff states that Defendants Atchison, Ashby, Johnson, Benton, Vasquez, Cowan, Harrington, Allsup and Mueller improperly ignored numerous grievances about his disciplinary hearing, subsequent segregation and conditions at Menard. Plaintiff had been found guilty of possessing dangerous contraband after a February 27, 2011, shakedown of his cell revealed a homemade weapon in his cellmate’s property box (Doc. 7, p. 6). Plaintiff was given six months in segregation and lost 30 days of good conduct credits (Doc. 7, p. 8).

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 Defendant Ashby and Defendant John Does #1 and #2, Menard Correctional Officers, for excessive force (Count 1) and retaliation (Count 2). His claim against Defendants Shepard and Yousuf for deliberate indifference to his need for gallstone treatment (Count 3) shall also receive further review. However, because the claims in Count 3 are unrelated to the claims in Counts 1 and 2, Count 3 shall be severed into a separate case as outlined below.

Furthermore, Plaintiff fails to state a viable claim in Count 3 against Defendant One Radiology. Nor does he state a constitutional claim for the mishandling of his grievances (Count 4) or for improper placement in disciplinary segregation (Count 5). Accordingly, these claims shall be dismissed.

As to the allegations against Defendant One Radiology in Count 3, the Seventh Circuit has held that a corporate entity violates an inmate’s constitutional rights, in this case by being deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s serious medical needs, only when it has a policy that creates conditions that infringe upon an inmate’s constitutional rights. See Woodward v. Corr. Med. Serv. of Ill., Inc., 368 F.3d 917, 927 (7th Cir. 2004). Plaintiff has not alleged that it was a policy or practice of One Radiology to deny information or treatment to inmates with Plaintiff’s condition or to otherwise deny them health care. Defendant One Radiology shall be dismissed without prejudice.

In Count 4, Plaintiff names Defendants Taylor, Rednour, Atchison, Johnson, Benton, Vasquez, Cowan, Harrington, Allsup and Mueller as individuals to whom he addressed various grievances about his treatment and conditions at Menard. Prison grievance procedures are not constitutionally mandated and thus do not implicate the Due Process Clause per se. As such, the alleged 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). Plaintiff has not asserted that any of these individuals were personally responsible for the underlying actions of which he complains. Therefore, Count 4 shall be dismissed with prejudice.

Finally, Plaintiff claims in Count 5 that Defendants Taylor, Rednour, Atchison, Ashby, Vasquez, Allsup, Mueller, Cowan and Harrington submitted him to cruel and unusual punishment because he was placed in segregation illegally. The key question in such a claim is whether the inmate was afforded due process before being punished with segregation time. Here, Plaintiff denies having any connection to the weapon found in his cellmate’s property box. However, Plaintiff was present in the cell at the time the weapon was found (Doc. 7, p. 6). Plaintiff does not claim that there were any irregularities in the conduct of the disciplinary hearing. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-69 (1974) (to satisfy due process concerns, inmate must be given advance written notice of the charge, the right to appear before the hearing panel, the right to call witnesses if prison safety allows, and a written statement of the reasons for the discipline imposed). Further, although Plaintiff contests the evidentiary basis for the discipline imposed, it cannot be said that the committee’s decision lacks any evidentiary support, based on the allegations in the operative complaint. See Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1402 (7th Cir. 1994) (disciplinary decision must be supported by “some evidence”); Scruggs v. Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 941 (7th Cir. 2007) (even a meager amount of supporting evidence is sufficient).

Because the complaint gives no indication that the disciplinary hearing process was flawed, the Court shall not inquire further into whether the conditions of Plaintiff’s six-month segregation might have imposed upon him any “atypical and significant hardship[s] . . . in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995); see also Marion v. Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 697-98 (7th Cir. 2009).

Plaintiff only briefly mentions the fact that he lost 30 days of good conduct credit as a result of this disciplinary infraction. He is advised that any federal court challenge to this revocation must be brought via a habeas corpus petition, not in a civil rights action, but only after Plaintiff has exhausted his remedies through the Illinois state courts. See, e.g., Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 480-81 (1994). The Illinois courts have recognized mandamus as an appropriate remedy to compel prison officials to award sentence credit to a prisoner. See Turner-El v. West, 811 N.E.2d 728, 733 (Ill.App. 2004). Accordingly, Count 5 is dismissed without prejudice to Plaintiff bringing the good-conduct credit claim in a properly filed habeas corpus action, but only after he has exhausted his state court remedies.

Severance of Claims

In George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007), the Seventh Circuit emphasized that unrelated claims against different defendants belong in separate lawsuits, “not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits “but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. George, 507 F.3d at 607, citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) & (g). Plaintiff’s complaint contains unrelated claims against different defendants: retaliation and excessive force claims against Lt. Ashby and John Does #1 and #2 (Counts 1 and 2), and deliberate indifference violations against Defendants Shepard and Yousuf (Count 3).

Consistent with the George decision and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21, the Court SEVERS Count 3 of Plaintiff’s complaint into a new ...

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