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McKinley v. Harrington

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 15, 2013

BENARD McKINLEY, #R30033, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Benard McKinley, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the supposedly non-disciplinary administrative detention program that has been imposed upon him without due process, and alleged deliberate indifference to his asthma condition.

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).

The Complaint

According to the complaint and incorporated supporting memorandum (Doc. 1), on October 25, 2012, Plaintiff was placed in administrative detention under a new program implemented at Menard by then-warden Michael P. Atchison, and continued under the present warden, Rick Harrington. Although the detention program is characterized as non-disciplinary, according to Plaintiff he is subjected to the same restrictions on the possession of property, and the availability of programs and commissary privileges as inmates in disciplinary segregation- all in violation of administrative rules and regulations, and without any hearing or measure of due process, as guaranteed under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The complaint focuses on the denial of personal property. Privileges are earned back in phases; although Plaintiff has regained some privileges, he still cannot, for example, simultaneously possess a television and a radio, and he still only has C-grade commissary privileges. Plaintiff observes that these are the same restrictions imposed upon inmates in disciplinary segregation, but at least those inmates were afforded due process in the form of a hearing.

The complaint also describes how then-warden Michael P. Atchison and medical technician Amy Lang showed deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's asthma condition from December 2012 through March 2013. On December 19, 2012, during a period when Plaintiff was experiencing frequent asthma attacks, he asked medical technician Lang for a refill of a prescription inhaler, but Lang denied his request, explaining that Plaintiff was on a one-year watch period. Lang then denied Plaintiff's request to schedule an immediate doctor's appointment so he could secure an inhaler; rather, Plaintiff's scheduled appointment in February 2013 would have to suffice. On December 21, 2012, Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance with then-warden Atchison, explaining that his breathing had become difficult and he needed a refill on his inhaler (Doc. 1, p. 46). Atchison determined Plaintiff did not have an emergency situation. Plaintiff continued to suffer asthma attacks over a two-month period, and Lang continued to deny and/or ignore his requests for treatment (or an immediate appointment with a physician).

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: Defendants Atchison and Harrington denied Plaintiff procedural due process in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments when they subjected him to administrative detention and its attendant "property" restrictions without any hearing; and
Count 2: Defendants Amy Lang and Michael P. Atchison were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they took no steps to secure an inhaler ...

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