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Ivy v. Wagner

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 18, 2014

HAROLD IVY, Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Harold Ivy, a pretrial detainee in the St. Clair County Jail, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Ivy takes issue with the conditions of his confinement, and the defendants' failure to respond to his grievances regarding those conditions.

Because Plaintiff is a prisoner, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. Section § 1915A 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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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).


According to the complaint, Plaintiff and the other inmates at the St. Clair County Jail are given a "small amount of food;" they sleep on the floor and on tables because of overcrowding; they are not allowed to recreate in the gym because that is where the overflow of prisoners are housed; the paint is peeling; there are bugs all around and in the food; the toilets are broken, exposing prisoners to urine and feces; and there is inadequate access to the law library (which has outdated materials) and no law librarian. In January 2014, Plaintiff "gave complaints" to Officer Humphrey, Officer Beattie and Officer Wagner, but nothing was done to correct the conditions of confinement.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits conditions of confinement for pretrial detainees that amount to punishment. Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 477 (7th Cir. 2005). Therefore, the conditions of confinement described in the complaint are sufficient to support a constitutional claim. However, that does not end the analysis.

Section 1983 creates a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, "to be liable under [Section] 1983, an individual defendant must have caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation." Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809, 810 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The allegations describe a systemic problem, not attributed to any particular defendant.

The only allegations regarding Officers Humphrey, Beattie and Wagner relate to their failure to respond to "complaints" given to them by Plaintiff. There are no allegations that they personally imposed those conditions or had any other personal involvement. As drafted, the complaint alleges only that Officers Humphrey, Beattie and Wagner failed to act on "complaints" "given" to them by Plaintiff-suggesting written grievances. However, the alleged mishandling of grievances by persons who otherwise did not cause or participate in the underlying conduct does not state a due process claim. Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953-54 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007)). Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to adequately present plausible claims against Officers Humphrey, Beattie and Wagner regarding the conditions of confinement, and he has also failed to state a procedural due process claim. Consequently, Humphrey, Beattie and Wagner will be dismissed, albeit without ...

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