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Couch v. Godinez

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 6, 2013

STEPHEN COUCH, #B-12125, Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), has brought this pro se action to seek redress for violations of his constitutional rights ( see 42 U.S.C. § 1983) as well as his rights under state law. He is serving sentences of 26, 20, and five years on three drug convictions. This case was originally filed by Plaintiff in the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial District of Illinois, Randolph County, Case No. 13-MR-81, on August 9, 2013 (Doc. 11-2, pp. 1, 20). Defendant Coe removed the case to this Court on October 25, 2013, after he was served with summons (Doc. 11).[1] Defendant Coe has paid the filing fee for this matter (Doc. 2).

Because Plaintiff is a prisoner and is seeking relief from several state officials, the Court is required to conduct a preliminary review of his 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). 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

Plaintiff's complaint describes events and claims beginning with his incarceration in Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence") in January 2013, and continuing through his subsequent transfers to Illinois River Correctional Center ("Illinois River"), back to Lawrence, and then to Menard. At some time prior to January 2013, Plaintiff suffered a knee injury and had been given medical permits to be housed on a low gallery in a low bunk, as well as to have a knee brace and Ace wrap. However, when he was transferred to Lawrence on January 9, his medical permits were not re-issued and his medical devices were taken away (Doc. 11-2, p. 2). The complaint does not disclose the names of any medical staff members who were involved in Plaintiff's treatment, or lack thereof. He spoke to a mental health counselor (Sandy Buck Taylor), who documented his concerns but could not help him obtain his medical permits or supplies. Plaintiff went on a hunger strike to protest the lack of attention to his medical needs.

Plaintiff was transferred to Illinois River on January 23, 2013 (Doc. 11-2, p. 3). Again, he had no medical permits nor support devices for the injured right knee. He sought help from medical staff (again unnamed) without success. On January 28, 2013, his knee gave out and he fell, dislocating his right shoulder. Correctional Officer Dorthy (who is not a named Defendant) refused to summon emergency medical treatment for Plaintiff. Id. His other requests for help were denied.

On February 13, 2013, Plaintiff was transferred back to Lawrence (Doc. 11-2, p. 3). He begged for medical attention without success. On February 24, 2013, Lieutenant Thomas Stuck told Plaintiff he would be moved from segregation back into general population. Plaintiff refused to go based on his medical concerns, and was issued a disciplinary ticket. This kept him in segregation for 30 more days (Doc. 11-2, p. 4). Plaintiff then began another hunger strike in an attempt to obtain medical treatment for his injuries, which were causing him great pain. He refused food for 30 days, and wrote to "everyone" seeking help. Eventually, he was taken to an outside hospital for an ultrasound test, [2] and on May 10, 2013, he was prescribed pain medication (which was "useless") and physical therapy.

Plaintiff wrote numerous grievances between January and June 2013 to complain about the lack of medical treatment at Lawrence (Doc. 11-2, p. 5). He claims that Lawrence employees wrote him many disciplinary tickets in retaliation for his grievance activity. Ultimately, he was transferred from Lawrence, a medium security facility, to Menard, which is a maximum security prison. He alleges that this June ...

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