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Williams v. Holton

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 21, 2013

MARCUS WILLIAMS, #B17613, Plaintiff,
v.
LT. HOLTON, C/O MICHAEL SCHNICKER, and C/O V. SMITH, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Marcus Williams, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on an alleged assault at the hands of the defendant correctional officers.

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, on December 16, 2011, Correctional Officers Schniekers and Smith beat Plaintiff with their fists, and Lt. Holton kneed Plaintiff in the face- all while Plaintiff was handcuffed behind his back and defenseless. Plaintiff characterizes the Defendants' acts as "malicious and sadistic." Plaintiff sustained two black eyes and a variety of contusions, there was bleeding in his eyes, and he required five stitches above his left eye.

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to summarize the allegations in a single count:

Count 1: Defendants C/O Schniekers, C/O Smith and Lt. Holton used excessive force against Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Discussion

The intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and is actionable under Section 1983. See Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34 (2010); DeWalt v. Carter , 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). The allegations in the complaint, as ...


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