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Michael Fields, # K-52492 v. Nathaniel Maue

February 8, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, 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. Plaintiff is serving a 40 year sentence for murder. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have retaliated against him, imposed punishment on him based on a false disciplinary report, denied him access to the courts, withheld his books, and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment by denying him food and housing him in conditions that aggravated his illnesses.

More specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Maue began "retaliating" against him on approximately January 27, 2012, by asking him about an alleged incident involving Plaintiff and Defendant Morris four years earlier (Doc. 1, p. 5). A few days later, Defendant Maue pulled Plaintiff out of the food line for no reason and sent him back to his cell. This was observed by Defendants Vasquez and Mott; Vasquez then put Plaintiff on "deadlock" (confinement to cell) and told him he would be sent to segregation (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant Maue wrote a false inmate disciplinary report ("IDR"), accusing Plaintiff of refusing to show his I.D. Plaintiff submitted an emergency grievance over this IDR to Defendant Atchison (the warden).

While Plaintiff was on deadlock from January 31 to February 5, 2012, he did not receive a single food tray on first or second shift, with the exception of one lunch tray on February 5, 2012 (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff spoke by telephone to his parents on February 6, 2012, and requested that they call the warden about the denial of food. Plaintiff also informed Defendant Restoff that he was not being fed, to which he responded, "Tough. What do you want me to do about it?" as he walked away.

The IDR issued by Defendant Maue was heard on February 9, and Plaintiff was found guilty (Doc. 1, p. 9). He was punished with segregation. Plaintiff filed another emergency grievance with Defendant Atchison, which was not addressed within the proper time frame. However, after Plaintiff's mother mailed in another copy of this grievance, Plaintiff spoke personally with Defendant Atchison about his complaints (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff sent another grievance to Defendant Oakley on March 15, 2012, to follow up on these issues, but was informed by her that it was not timely filed.

On March 22, 2012, while Plaintiff was still in segregation, he wrote to Defendant Roy (the segregation property officer) requesting books that Plaintiff had recently ordered. Defendant Roy told him that the books were being held in storage, and he refused to release the books based on the limitation of 25 publications including "books, magazines, Bibles, Qurans," etc., in the cell. However, Plaintiff did not have the allotted quantity, however, Defendant Roy still refused to release the books to him (Doc. 1, pp. 11-12).

Plaintiff was interviewed on April 19, 2012, by Defendant Phelp (of Internal Affairs) in connection with the IDR and Plaintiff's complaints about Defendant Maue (Doc. 1, p. 12). Defendant Phelp told Plaintiff, "Menard can make your life a living hell." Id.

Plaintiff's prison classification was changed on April 30, 2012, from "moderate security" to "high security." Id.

Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Godinez (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections) on May 4, 2012, complaining about these events (Doc. 1-1, p. 13). On May 16, 2012, Defendant Withoff moved Plaintiff from North II Cell #834 to North II Cell #801, under orders from Defendant Durham.*fn1 Cell #834 had steel bars and was well-ventilated, but his new Cell #801 had a steel door and poor ventilation. In the hot May weather, these conditions were aggravating to Plaintiff's asthma (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff was released from segregation on May 31, 2012, and transferred to a different cell (West #303). Then on July 12, 2012, he was moved again, to West Cell #917. He quickly wrote to Defendant Niepert to inform her of his medical conditions (asthma, hypertension, and testicular problems), and requested her to "handle the matter" (Plaintiff does not describe the conditions in Cell #917 or what remedy he sought) (Doc. 1, pp. 14-15). He got no response, so he made the same request to Defendant Spiller.*fn2

Plaintiff seeks an injunction ordering his immediate transfer to another prison, as well as punitive damages (Doc. 1, pp. 17-18).

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 the following colorable federal claims that shall receive further consideration:

Count 1: Retaliation claim against Defendants Withoff and Durham for moving Plaintiff to a cell lacking sufficient ventilation after Plaintiff complained to Defendant Godinez;

Count 2: Eighth Amendment unconstitutional conditions claim against Defendant Restoff for depriving Plaintiff of sufficient food for a period of at least six days;

Count 3: First Amendment claim against Defendant Roy for denying Plaintiff access to his books, which may have included religious materials.

However, the complaint fails to state a constitutional claim upon which relief may be granted for the following claims, which shall be dismissed:

Count 4: Retaliation claim against Defendants Maue, Mott, and Vasquez;

Count 5: Verbal harassment and threats by Defendant Maue and Phelp;

Count 6: Access to courts claim against Defendants Atchison, Oakley, and Godinez for mishandling and/or failing to respond to Plaintiff's grievances and complaints;

Count 7: Claim for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process against Defendants Maue and Mott for filing a false IDR leading to Plaintiff's confinement in segregation; and Count 8: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Niepert and Spiller for failing to address Plaintiff's problems in West Cell #917.

As to Count 4, although Plaintiff alleges that the harassment he experienced from Defendants Maue, Mott, and Vasquez constituted retaliation, his factual allegations do not support such a claim. In the prison context, where an inmate is alleging retaliation, the inmate must identify the reasons for the retaliation, as well as "the act or acts claimed to have constituted retaliation," so as to put those charged with the retaliation on notice of the claim(s). Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). The Plaintiff must have engaged in some protected First Amendment activity (for example, filing a grievance or otherwise complaining about conditions of confinement), experienced an adverse action that would likely deter such protected activity in the future, and must allege that the protected activity was "at least a motivating factor" in the Defendants' decision to take the retaliatory action. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 552 (7th Cir. 2009). The inmate need ...

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