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Rose v. Justus

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 1, 2013

AARON ROSE, # B82344, Plaintiff,
v.
MEARL JUSTUS, OFFICER MIKE, LEVY BRIDGES, SGT. NICKOL, and SGT. BLACKBURN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Aaron Rose, an inmate in Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the conditions of his confinement and incidents that occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the St. Clair County Jail.

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, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under Section 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal, albeit without prejudice.

The Complaint

Plaintiff Rose was housed at the St. Clair County Jail from July 4, 2011 through June 20, 2013. He was a pretrial detainee during most of this time, but he remained in the jail for four or five days after his conviction and sentencing. Plaintiff describes living in filthy, insect and vermin infested quarters. He describes conditions including standing water, mold, foul orders, and non-working toilets. He was repeatedly denied cleaning supplies, and his complaints and grievances were ignored. At one point, Plaintiff developed a rash that required medical treatment; he attributes the rash to the unsanitary conditions. Plaintiff further describes having to repeatedly sleep on the filthy floor due to overcrowding. He also asserts that he was attacked by other detainees as a consequence of overcrowding. The complaint also contains claims that Rose was denied out-of-cell recreation and access to the law library.

The complaint specifically describes correctional officers "Mike", Bridges, Nickol and Blackburn as personally denying Plaintiff's requests for cleaning supplies. Defendant Sheriff Mearl Justus (now deceased[1]) is described as ignoring the conditions of the jail, refusing to answer complaints and grievances, and having a policy and practice of turning a blind eye to complaints and grievances regarding the conditions of confinement. All defendants are sued in their individual capacities for compensatory damages.

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into three 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: Defendants Mearl Justus, Officer Mike, Levy Bridges, Sgt. Nickol and Sgt. Blackburn intentionally subjected Plaintiff to inhumane conditions of confinement ( in re sanitation and overcrowding) ...

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