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Gill v. Atchison

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 3, 2013

TYRONE GILL, #N10443, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL ATCHISON, JACQUFLIN LASHBROOK, SGT. HASEMEYER, and OFFICER HECHT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Atchison, an inmate in Stateville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on incidents that occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Menard Correctional Center. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal.- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility. Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under Section 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Complaint

In July 2012, Plaintiff was found guilty of violating a variety of prison rules after he used the mail to convince his cellmate's grandmother to send him a total of $950.00. As punishment, Plaintiff was sent to segregation, demoted to C grade and lost commissary privileges, all for one year's time. His punishment did not include an order to pay restitution. Defendant Lt. Lashbrook, an Internal Affairs officer, subsequently told Plaintiff that if within 48 hours he did not send out every penny in his trust fund account to the victim of his mail fraud, she would make his life at Menard a "living hell." When Plaintiff pointed out that restitution was not part of his punishment, Lashbrook pushed him to the floor, despite Plaintiff being handcuffed. Lt. Lashbrook then called Defendants Sgt. Hasemeyer and C/O Hecht into the room. Lashbrook instructed that if Plaintiff moved again or said a word, they were to "f___ him up." Lashbook also repeated her directive about making a restitution payment within 48 hours. That same day Lashbrook issued Plaintiff disciplinary tickets for intimidation and/or threats, insolence, and disobeying an order.

From Plaintiff's perspective Lashbrook's charges were unfounded, and also retaliatory, in that Lashbrook was upset with the Adjustment Committee for not imposing restitution. Plaintiff was found guilty of the charges. He received another three months in segregation, demotion in grade, loss of commissary privileges, and he also lost three months of good conduct credit. According to Plaintiff, it is the role of the Adjustment Committee, not Internal Affairs, to require restitution.

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into two counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: Defendant Lashbrook used excessive force when she pushed Plaintiff to the ground, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 2: Defendant Lashbrook violated Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural and substantive due process when she punished Plaintiff by requiring restitution and issued disciplinary charges in retaliation for Plaintiff asserting ...

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