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Williams v. Loy

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 29, 2013

TIRNELL WILLIAMS, #B-58000, Plaintiff,


G. PATRICK MURPHY, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving an eight year sentence for possession of a stolen vehicle. Plaintiff claims that he has been wrongly denied placement in protective custody, and has been punished with continued placement in segregation based on false disciplinary reports. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

The Complaint

Plaintiff, who depends on a wheelchair for mobility and has several serious medical conditions, previously filed an action in this Court that included some of the allegations herein: Williams v. Hodge, Case No. 13-cv-216-JPG-PMF. Proceeding in that case are his claims that he was housed in a cell between October 2012 and January 2013 that was not in compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act, and that two defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs (Counts 1 and 2). However, Counts 4 and 5 in that action were dismissed without prejudice because, as pleaded, Plaintiff failed to state a claim. These included a claim against Defendant Loy (Internal Affairs/Intelligence Officer) for deliberate indifference to a serious risk to Plaintiff's safety, and a claim for denial of due process in a disciplinary action that resulted from his request to be placed in protective custody ( see Doc. 15 in Case No. 13-cv-216). Plaintiff was instructed that these claims regarding his safety and protective custody belonged in a separate lawsuit. Plaintiff now seeks to revive these claims in this action.

According to the complaint, on January 7, 2013, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary ticket for disobeying a direct order to move back to his cell (Doc. 1, p. 5; "Exhibit A, " Doc. 1, p. 11). Evidently, Plaintiff had been in investigative or administrative segregation. When he was ordered to go back to general population, he "refused housing" because he had requested to be placed in protective custody ("PC") for his own safety after he received threats from two Lawrence inmates who belonged to the same gang as an individual against whom Plaintiff had testified in a murder case (Doc. 1, p. 5).

On January 9, 2013, Plaintiff met with Defendants Hodge (the warden at Lawrence), Loy, and other officials regarding his PC request (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendant Loy, who had separated Plaintiff from the other inmates a week before, had substantiated the threats to Plaintiff's safety (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendant Hodge ordered paperwork to be prepared for Plaintiff's transfer to another prison (Doc. 1, p. 5). Two days later, Plaintiff signed papers for protective custody and to put these inmates on his "Keep Separate From" ("KSF") list in order to prevent him from being housed in the same prison as those individuals (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendants Loy and Hodge refused to give him copies of these documents. Plaintiff remained in segregation awaiting the promised transfer (Doc. 1, p. 6).

On January 24, 2013, Plaintiff was notified of the disciplinary action taken as a result of the January 7 ticket for refusing housing-he was given one month in disciplinary segregation (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 11). Plaintiff believes this ticket should have been invalidated when the investigation verified the threat to his safety (the summary report notes that Plaintiff did not appear before the hearing committee or enter a plea). He was then told by Defendant Loy that his transfer had been denied (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff believes that the transfer was never requested because there were other prisoners on his "KSF" list in each of the other ADA-compliant prisons where he might be sent.

Plaintiff filed a grievance over this disciplinary action, which was denied because his claim of danger could not be substantiated (Doc. 1, p. 6). This response contradicted Defendant Loy's earlier investigation which found the threats to be credible. Another officer told Plaintiff that according to Defendant Loy, Plaintiff would not be moved because Lawrence was the only place where Plaintiff did not have KSF's, and that is why he was given 30 days segregation (Doc. 1, p. 6).

On February 7, 2013, Plaintiff was to be released to general population, but again refused to go out of fear for his life (Doc. 1, p. 6). On the authority of Defendant Hodge, he was given another disciplinary ticket (Doc. 1, p. 12) for disobeying an order. Plaintiff contested the ticket. At his hearing, the adjustment committee told him that Defendant Hodge instructed them to give Plaintiff 60 more days in disciplinary segregation if he did not go to general population that day (Doc. 1, p. 6). According to Plaintiff, he did not have the opportunity to present witnesses or a defense (Doc. 1, p. 6). The report notes that Plaintiff "has no verified enemies at Lawrence, according to the Intelligence Unit, " and Plaintiff was punished with two more months in segregation (Doc. 1, p. 12).

Plaintiff asserts that Defendants refused to place him in PC because the PC cells in Lawrence are not ADA-compliant, thus discriminating against him in violation of the ADA (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). Further, when Defendants Loy and Hodge learned that Plaintiff has enemies (KSF's) in the other ADA-compliant prisons, they refused to transfer him and refused to put the Lawrence inmates on his KSF list (Doc. 1, p. 7). Defendants then lied about their earlier conclusion that Plaintiff was in danger, and issued the false disciplinary report to "make his segregation time look authentic" (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff views the disciplinary action (and threat of future discipline if he continues to refuse housing) as an attempt by Defendant Hodge to force him back into general population where he will be in danger.

The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a declaration that Defendants have violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights (Doc. 1, p. 8). Although Plaintiff did not specifically request an injunction in his prayer for relief, he does recite that he "has no plain adequate or complete remedy at law" to redress his complaints. Id. The Court takes this as an indication that Plaintiff intended to ask for injunctive relief, and shall construe the complaint accordingly.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that he has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action, which shall receive further review:

Count 1: Against the Illinois Department of Corrections, for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, in that Plaintiff is being excluded from placement in protective custody on the basis of his disability ...

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