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Ashford v. Morris

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 22, 2013

CHARLOTTA MORRIS, et al., Defendants.


SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se from his detention in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, pursues claims arising from alleged restrictions on his property and interference with his mail.

The "privilege to proceed without posting security for costs and fees is reserved to the many truly impoverished litigants who, within the District Court's sound discretion, would remain without legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to them." Brewster v. North Am. Van Lines, Inc. , 461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972). Additionally, a court must dismiss cases proceeding in forma pauperis "at any time" if the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim, even if part of the filing fee has been paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)(2). Accordingly, this Court grants leave to proceed in forma pauperis only if the complaint states a federal claim. A hearing was scheduled to assist in this review, but the hearing will be cancelled as unnecessary.

In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, ___ F.3d ___ , 2013 WL 3336713 * 2 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S. , 2013 WL 3215667 *2 (7th Cir. 2013)(quoted cite omitted).

Plaintiff alleges that the detention facility's policy used to allow two boxes of items to be mailed to him each year, each box allowed to measure 2 ½ cubic feet. However, the policy has been changed, reducing the size of the boxes to 1 ½ cubic feet. Additionally, Plaintiff's video game "Red Dead Redemption" and Plaintiff's radio have been confiscated, even though Plaintiff was previously allowed to have those items. Also, Defendant Charlotta Morris sent back a "walkman" mailed to Plaintiff in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaints about the property restrictions. Plaintiff also seeks an end to an alleged rule prohibiting black residents from having pinto beans.

Plaintiff states an arguable claim against Defendant Morris for retaliating against Plaintiff for Plaintiff's First Amendment right to complain about the property restrictions and the handling of his property. Also, the Court cannot rule out a First Amendment or due process claim arising from the restrictions on Plaintiff's property. Those restrictions are likely supported by legitimate logistical, space, security, and/or treatment concerns, but such a determination would be premature. Plaintiff request to allow black residents to have pinto beans arguably states an equal protection claim.

These claims will proceed against the Defendants with personal responsibility for the alleged property restrictions: Defendants Biermann, Morris, and Atkinson. No plausible claim is stated against Sandra Simpson, the grievance officer. Plaintiff has no constitutional right to a grievance procedure. Defendant Simpson's alleged failure to properly handle his grievances therefore does not state a claim. See Antonelli v. Sheahan , 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1996)("a state's inmate grievance procedures do not give rise to a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause."); George v. Smith , 507 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Only persons who cause or participate in the violations are responsible. Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation.").


1. Plaintiff's petition to proceed in forma pauperis is granted (d/e 2). Pursuant to a review of the Complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiff states a federal constitutional claims arising from the restrictions on his property, retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights, and an alleged refusal to allow black residents to possess pinto beans. This case proceeds solely on the claims identified in this paragraph. Any additional claims shall not be included in the case, except at the Court's discretion on motion by a party for good cause shown or pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.

2. Defendant Simpson is dismissed.

3. Plaintiff's motion requesting the status of the case is denied as moot (d/e 4).

4. This case is now in the process of service. Plaintiff is advised to wait until counsel has appeared for Defendants before filing any motions, in order to give Defendants notice and an opportunity to respond to those motions. Motions filed before Defendants' counsel has filed an appearance will generally be denied as premature. Plaintiff need not submit any evidence to the Court at this time, unless otherwise directed by the Court.

5. The Court will attempt service on Defendants by mailing each Defendant a waiver of service. Defendants have 60 days from service to file an Answer. If Defendants have not filed Answers or appeared through counsel within 60 days of the entry of this order, Plaintiff may file a motion requesting the status of service. After counsel has appeared for Defendants, the Court will enter an order scheduling deadlines for discovery and dispositive motions.

6. With respect to a Defendant who no longer works at the address provided by Plaintiff, the entity for whom that Defendant worked while at that address shall provide to the Clerk said Defendant's current work address, or, if not known, said Defendant's forwarding address. This information shall be used only for effectuating service. Documentation of forwarding addresses shall be ...

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