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Perkins v. Martin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 10, 2014

WILLIE PERKINS, No. R16760, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN MARTIN, and UNKNOWN PARTIES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Willie Perkins, an inmate in Big Muddy River Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on an alleged failure to protect Plaintiff from his cellmate at Shawnee Correctional Center.

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). 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the 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 and documentation attached to the complaint, in the early hours of the morning on October 13, 2013, Plaintiff Perkins' cellmate threatened to beat Plaintiff because Plaintiff was reading the Bible with the light on. Plaintiff subsequently discussed the situation with his teacher; the teacher filled out a "movement sheet" aimed at securing a cell change for Plaintiff. The request was relayed to an unidentified lieutenant. Plaintiff later spoke with the lieutenant, who indicated that Plaintiff would be moved. Two or three days went by without Plaintiff being transferred to another cell. Plaintiff made additional requests for transfer to unidentified correctional officers, to no avail. Three weeks after the initial threat, Plaintiff's cellmate attacked him, beating Plaintiff and biting his ear into three pieces. See Doc. 1, pp. 5, 39-43.

The Court finds it convenient to frame the pro se action into a single, overarching count. The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court.

Count 1: Unidentified Correctional Officers failed to protect Plaintiff from physical harm at the hands of his cellmate, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Discussion

Prison officials have a duty under the Eighth Amendment to protect inmates from a substantial risk of serious harm, including violence at the hands of other inmates. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Washington v. LaPorte County Sheriff's Dep't, 306 F.3d 515, 517 (7th Cir. 2002). Consequently, the complaint frames a colorable constitutional claim. However, 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 ...


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