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Bell v. Caskey

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

March 31, 2014

TIMOTHY BELL, Plaintiff,


SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Timothy Bell, proceeding pro se from his detention in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center ("Rushville"), seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis on his claims against Defendants Herbert and Irina Caskey, the co-owners of Liberty Mental Health Corporation.

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.

In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (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. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation omitted).

Bell alleges that, after completing his prison sentence on March 6, 2006, he was detained as a sexually violent person by the Illinois Department of Human Services. On July 27, 2007, a jury found Bell to be a sexually violent person pursuant to Illinois law, and he was subsequently housed in Rushville.

Bell claims that, since being placed in Rushville, he has not received any treatment for his condition. Bell alleges that the Liberty Mental Health Corporation ("Liberty") maintains a contract with the Illinois Department of Human Services to provide sex offender treatment to Rushville's residents, but Liberty has failed to provide any such treatment. Bell has sued Liberty's owners, Herbert Caskey and Irina Caskey, for violating his Constitutional rights by failing to provide sex offender treatment to him.

Bell has attempted to state a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference, but because Bell is a civil committee, his claim falls under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause because he is more akin to a pretrial detainee than a prisoner. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 910 (7th Cir. 2005). The Seventh Circuit has stated that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections are "at least as great as the protections available to a convicted prisoner under the Eight Amendment.'" Tesch v. County of Green Lake, 157 F.3d 465, 473 (7th Cir. 1998)(quoting City of Revere v. Massachusetts Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983)). However, the Seventh Circuit has also stated that "there is little practical difference between the two standards." Mayoral v. Sheahan, 245 F.3d 934, 938 (7th Cir. 2001)(internal quotation omitted).

The Court finds that Bell's Complaint states a claim for violating his due process rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The United States Supreme Court has held that "due process requires that the conditions and duration of confinement under the Act bear some reasonable relation to the purpose for which persons are committed." Seling v. Young, 531 U.S. 250, 265 (2001). The Supreme Court has also opined that involuntarily committed mentally retarded persons have a substantive due process right to "conditions of reasonable care and safety, reasonably nonrestrictive confinement conditions, and such training as may be required by these conditions." Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 324 (1982).

And, the Seventh Circuit has extended and summarized Youngerberg to include those individuals committed because they are sexually violent: "(a) committed persons are entitled to some treatment, and (b) what that treatment entails must be decided by mental-health professionals." Lane v. Williams, 689 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir. 2012)(internal quotation omitted). In other words, the Seventh Circuit has held that " Youngerberg holds that, under the due process clause, detainees are entitled to non-punitive programs designed using the exercise of professional judgment...." Id. at 883.

Here, Bell has alleged that he has not received any treatment since being housed in Rushville. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that Bell receive some treatment. Therefore, Bell has stated a cause of action upon which relief can be granted.

According to Bell, Defendants Herbert and Irina Caskey's company maintains a contract with the State of Illinois Department of Human Services to provide such treatment. Generally, private corporations and private individuals cannot be sued under § 1983 because they are not state actor acting under color of law.

To state a claim under § 1983, it is essential that the person who committed the alleged wrongful conduct was "acting under color of state law." Yang v. Hardin, 37 F.3d 282, 284 (7th Cir. 1994). If the person did not act "under color of state law, " the action against him must be dismissed. Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 838 (1982).

The Supreme Court defined the phrase "acting under color of state law" as "misuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law." Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 184 (1961) (citations omitted). The purpose of § 1983 is to deter state actors, and private individuals in collaboration with state officials, from using a "badge of authority" to deprive individuals of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992); Hu v. American Bar Ass'n, 2009 WL 1796441, * 1 (7th Cir. June 22, 2009).

In the instant case, Bell has alleged that the Caskeys maintain a contract with the State of Illinois and that they maintain a policy or custom of not providing treatment to Rushville residents. This allegation is sufficient to cause Defendants to become state actors for purposes of this initial merit review. ...

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