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Brooks v. Atchison

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 3, 2013

BRANDON L. BROOKS, # B-86580, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL P. ATCHISON, TIMOTHY R. VEATH, LORI OAKLEY, C/O ANDERSON, SGT. MILLER, COUNSELOR GRAPPERHAUS, and C/O BAILEY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, 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. His claims arose while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). Plaintiff is serving a ten-year sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm, and two four-year sentences for unlawful use of a weapon and possession of a controlled substance. Plaintiff claims that he was wrongfully punished with segregation on a false disciplinary charge; prison officials failed to properly handle his grievances or report his declaration of a hunger strike; and he was then transferred in retaliation for filing grievances.

More specifically, Plaintiff claims that on March 1, 2012, his cell was searched twice after another inmate informed guards that there was contraband in Plaintiff's cell (Doc. 1, p. 5). During the second search, Lt. Dilday (who is not a defendant) found a razor blade strip under the cell door, and took Plaintiff and his cellmate to segregation. Plaintiff maintains this item was planted by another inmate who resented the fact that Plaintiff and his cellmate had jobs as prison porters.

Plaintiff spent seven days in the segregation cell after the Inmate Disciplinary Report ("IDR") was filed. This cell was dirty, noisy, and had no heat or ventilation. Plaintiff was under great stress because he had just learned that his pregnant fiancee had been left homeless because their home in Harrisburg, Illinois, had been destroyed by a tornado. He wrote grievances and asked to see a mental health counselor, and stopped eating for seven days while he waited to see a counselor. Plaintiff told Defendant Sgt. Miller that he was on a hunger strike, but Defendant Miller failed to follow prison rules requiring this fact to be reported to health care so that Plaintiff's vital signs and blood sugar could be checked (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Defendant Veath chaired the adjustment committee that considered Plaintiff's IDR on March 6, 2012. Plaintiff submitted a detailed written statement in his defense, including a list of witnesses who would testify that they heard an inmate bragging that he put the razor blade strip under Plaintiff's door. However, Defendant Veath did not call any witnesses or consider Plaintiff's statement. Plaintiff was found guilty and punished with four months of segregation.

Plaintiff served his disciplinary segregation time in another filthy cell that lacked heat or air, and had little ventilation. He was not allowed to exercise regularly. He wrote several grievances over these conditions and other complaints, but Defendant Oakley did not respond to any of them (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Plaintiff declared another hunger strike on March 26, 2012, to demand that he be given a lie detector test regarding the disciplinary charge (Doc. 1-1, pp. 38-39). He informed Defendants Miller, Anderson, and Bailey (correctional officers), but none of these Defendants reported the hunger strike as they should have. Consequently, Plaintiff was never placed on "watch" to monitor his medical condition. After several days of not eating, Plaintiff was taken to the yard on March 31, 2012.[1] He became dizzy and weak, and could not see straight. A nurse told him he had suffered a mild seizure, and the doctor said it was caused by low blood sugar from not eating. He now suffers from migraines and back spasms that he attributes to the seizure (Doc. 1, p. 6).

When Plaintiff was released from segregation after 120 days, he was placed on a wing with the most violent offenders. Plaintiff wrote grievances and letters to Defendant Atchison regarding this improper placement, as well as spoke to him personally. On approximately August 6, 2012, Defendant Grapperhaus told Plaintiff that if he did not stop writing grievances, he would make sure Plaintiff was transferred up north, far from his family and newborn son. Plaintiff continued to submit grievances, Defendant Grapperhaus threatened him with transfer again, and Plaintiff wrote a grievance over this threat. On November 15, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to Hill Correctional Center (Doc. 1, p. 6).

On January 16, 2013, Plaintiff was informed that his IDR from March 1, 2012, had been expunged because of failure to follow due process requirements (Doc. 1-1, p. 16). Of course, he had already completed serving the disciplinary segregation time.

Plaintiff seeks nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages.

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

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action, which shall receive further review: Count 1: Against Defendant Veath for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process, for subjecting Plaintiff to inhumane conditions of disciplinary segregation after an improper guilty finding on his now-expunged Inmate Disciplinary Report of March 1, 2012; Count 2: Against Defendant Grapperhaus for causing Plaintiff to be transferred to another prison in retaliation for Plaintiff's protected activity of filing grievances.

However, Plaintiff fails to state a constitutional claim upon which relief may be granted against Defendants Miller, Bailey, and Anderson for failing to report his hunger strikes (Count 3); against Defendant Oakley for failing to respond to his grievances (Count 4); or against Defendant Atchison for improperly placing Plaintiff in a housing unit with the ...


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