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Fields v. Cartwright

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 17, 2014

MICHAEL FIELDS, # K-52492, Plaintiff,
v.
SHELLIE CARTWRIGHT and JANE/JOHN DOE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Fields, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff is serving a 40-year sentence for murder. He claims that Defendants Shellie Cartwright (Menard inmate counselor) and Jane/John Doe (Menard clinical services supervisor) retaliated against him for filing grievances, in violation of his First Amendment rights, and denied him equal protection of the law, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, by changing his escape risk classification from "moderate" to "high." Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from Defendants.

The Complaint

Plaintiff has been incarcerated at Menard since 2002 (Doc. 1, p. 3). At the time he entered Menard, Plaintiff was classified as a "moderate" escape risk. According to the complaint, Defendants Cartwright and Doe changed Plaintiff's escape risk classification to "high" in 2012, in retaliation for several grievances he filed that year (Doc. 1, p. 4). Each of the grievances[1] addressed "harassment"[2] of Plaintiff that began on January 31, 2012. Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance[3] with Menard's warden on February 2, 2012. He filed a separate grievance[4] on March 15, 2012. Plaintiff and his mother continued complaining of harassment to prison officials, including Defendant Cartwright, from February through April 2012. Plaintiff's complaints persisted during his placement in segregation from February 9-May 31, 2012 (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5).

Defendant Cartwright changed Plaintiff's escape risk classification from "moderate" to "high" on April 13, 2012. His annual photo identification card was changed from blue (indicating a "moderate" escape risk) to red (indicating a "high" escape risk) in October 2012. In addition to Defendant Cartwright, the complaint alleges that Defendant Doe was, "upon belief as well as information, " instrumental in Plaintiff's reclassification (Doc. 1, p. 5).

When Plaintiff inquired into the reason for the change in his escape risk classification, he learned that it was because he was a multi-state offender (Doc. 1, p. 5). However, his status as a multi-state offender remained unchanged from the time of his incarceration in 2002 until 2012 (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff was also told that the change in his status arose from a 2008 incident, in which he obtained a grievance from the prison's law library that included a "hand-drawn graph illustrating that [an] officer's February 25, 2008 disciplinary report was inconsistent and impossible" (Doc. 1, p. 3). For reasons that are unexplained in the complaint, Plaintiff received a disciplinary ticket for "dangerous written material" in connection with this incident, and he was found guilty of this rule violation at his disciplinary hearing (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). The complaint concludes that, "[i]f it was not retaliation, what other reason would the administration wait four (4) years to reclassify [P]laintiff" (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Cartwright and Doe for retaliation, in violation of his First Amendment rights. He also sues the same defendants for denial of equal protection, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. He seeks monetary damages.

Merits Review Under § 1915A

This case is before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

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). After fully considering the allegations in the complaint, the Court deems it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A(b) and summarily dismiss the complaint.

Discussion

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint fails to state any claim against Defendants Cartwright or Doe for reclassifying Plaintiff as a "high" escape risk (Count 1), for retaliation under the First Amendment (Count 2), or for an equal protection violation under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count 3). Accordingly, the complaint shall be dismissed.

Count 1 - Security Risk Reclassification

With regard to Count 1, the Court finds that the complaint fails to state a claim for unlawful reclassification of Plaintiff. No constitutional claim arises from Plaintiff's reclassification as a "high" escape risk because "prisoners possess neither liberty nor property in their classifications and prison assignments." DeTomaso v. McGinnis, 970 F.2d 211, 212 (7th Cir. 1992) (citing Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236 (1976)). Accordingly, Count 1 ...


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