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Walker v. Harrington

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 9, 2014

HENRY WALKER, # R-68122, Plaintiff,


PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff Walker's amended complaint[1] (Doc. 10), which he filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"), alleges that Defendants failed to protect him from being physically attacked by other inmates while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). (Doc. 10, p. 7). Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages. (Doc. 10, pp. 7, 9).

The amended complaint comes now before the Court for a preliminary review 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).

The Complaint

On September 21, 2012, Plaintiff informed a correctional officer that his cellmate possessed two homemade weapons. (Doc. 1, p. 4). As a result, Plaintiff and his cellmate were placed in disciplinary segregation. Other inmates suspected Plaintiff was responsible for reporting the contraband. Id. When Plaintiff was mistakenly released from disciplinary segregation on October 4, 2012, members of his former cellmate's gang began to call Plaintiff a "snitch." Id. Plaintiff was placed back into disciplinary segregation until April 2013 when he was placed in a special unit for alleged staff-assaulters and weapons violators.

On May 27, 2013, Plaintiff learned from another inmate that members of his former cellmate's gang were going to "hit" him for being a snitch. Id. at 5. Plaintiff alleges that around 2:30 p.m. that day he informed Defendant John Doe (Badge #9387) that "his life was in danger." Id. According to Plaintiff, Defendant John Doe (Badge #9387) laughed and said, "A big guy like you shouldn't have anything to worry about! Plus shift is about to change. Holla at 3 to 11... Who you getting ready to tell on now? I'm going home!!" Id.

Plaintiff maintains that he attempted to inform numerous (unnamed) staff members that his life had been threated, but that he was told, "Go to chow or lock up!" Id. At approximately 3:30 p.m., while eating in the East Dining Room, Plaintiff was attacked by four inmates, who beat and stabbed him 13 times with an 8 inch homemade weapon. Id.

Plaintiff spent two days at Carbondale Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a partially collapsed lung and multiple puncture wounds to the neck, back, side and arms. Upon being transferred back to Menard, Plaintiff was placed in administrative detention. Id. at 6. On June 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed a grievance requesting an emergency transfer, removal from administrative detention, and money damages. (Doc. 10-1, p. 8). On July 24, 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Stateville. (Doc. 10, p. 6). Plaintiff is suing Richard Harrington (warden), Assistant Warden of Operations, John Doe (Badge #9387), and other unnamed correctional officers in both their official and individual capacities.


In Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994), the Supreme Court held that "prison officials have a duty... to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." Id. at 833 (internal citations omitted); see also Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 889 (7th Cir. 2006). However, not every harm caused by another inmate translates into constitutional liability for the corrections officers responsible for the prisoner's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. In order for a plaintiff to succeed on a claim for failure to protect, he must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, and that the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference" to that danger. Id .; Pinkston, 440 F.3d at 889. A plaintiff also must prove that prison officials were aware of a specific, impending, and substantial threat to his safety, often by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). In other words, defendants had to know that there was a substantial risk that those who attacked plaintiff would do so, yet failed to take any action. See Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733-34 (7th Cir. 2001).

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that the complaint sets forth a claim for failure to protect under the Eighth Amendment against Defendant John Doe (Badge #9387), and other John Doe Defendants who were on duty May 21, 2012 and may have been informed by Plaintiff of the threats made against his life. While Plaintiff has not provided the names of these defendants, the Seventh Circuit has held that where a prisoner's complaint states specific allegations describing conduct of individual prison staff members sufficient to raise a constitutional claim, but the names of those defendants are not known, the prisoner should have the opportunity to engage in limited discovery to ascertain the identity of those defendants. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 832 (7th Cir. 2009).

However, Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to support his claim against Richard Harrington or the Assistant Warden of Operations. Plaintiff asserts that Harrington and the Assistant Warden of Operations should be liable under the doctrine of supervisory liability. However, the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 actions; in order to hold a defendant liable, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant was personally responsible for the constitutional violation. See Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995)). Plaintiff does not allege that either Defendant Harrington or the Assistant Warden of Operations knew about the threat made against Plaintiff prior to the attack on May 21, 2012. Absent direct, personal involvement in the alleged violation, a defendant in a supervisory capacity may still be found liable for "deliberate, reckless indifference" where he or she has purposefully ignored the misconduct of his/her subordinates. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (discussing Chavez, 251 F.3d at 651 ("The supervisors must know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what they might see.")). But again, Plaintiff makes no such allegations beyond the vague assertion that Menard is a violent place and Defendant Harrington and the Assistant Warden of Operations were responsible for the care and custody of all inmates. This does not suffice. As such, Plaintiff may not proceed on his claims against Richard Harrington or the Assistant Warden of Operations.

Lastly, Plaintiff is not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief. Under § 1983, "declaratory or injunctive relief is only proper if there is a continuing violation of federal law. When there is no continuing violation of federal law, injunctive relief is not part of a federal court's remedial powers.'" Kress v. CCA of Tennessee, LLC, 694 F.3d 890, 894 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Al-Alamin v. Gramley, 926 F.2d 680, 685 (7th Cir.1991)) (internal citations omitted). Plaintiff's request for transfer to a new institution was approved and he was transferred to Stateville in July 2013; Plaintiff makes no allegation that he continues to be threatened by inmates, nor does he claim that officials intend to return him to Menard. Therefore, Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief is moot.

In summary, Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with his Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim against Defendant John Doe (Badge #9387) and other John Doe Defendants who were on duty May 21, 2012 and may have been informed by Plaintiff of the threats made against his life. The Court will direct the Clerk of Court to add the current Warden of Menard as a party for the sole purpose of assisting with the identification of the John Doe Defendants. See FED. R. CIV. P. 21; FED. R. CIV. P. 17(d);[2] s ee also Donald v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 95 F.3d 548, 556 (7th Cir. 1996) ("Depending on the particular circumstances of the case, the court may assist the plaintiff by providing counsel for the limited purpose of amending the complaint; by ordering the named defendants to disclose the identities of unnamed officials involved; by allowing the case to proceed to discovery against high-level administrators with the expectation that they will identify the officials personally responsible; by dismissing the complaint without prejudice and providing a ...

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