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Harris v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 23, 2014

LARRY HARRIS, #N-57672 Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Larry Harris, an inmate currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this pro se civil rights action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff contends that Defendants conspired against him when they transferred him from a medium security prison to a maximum security prison in retaliation for his history of litigation against the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). In addition to the transfer, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants took other retaliatory actions, such as denying him access to his regular no-soy diet and limiting his commissary privileges, in an attempt to deter him from further exercising his First Amendment rights. Plaintiff prays for monetary damages and injunctive relief.

On April 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint setting forth his claims. (Doc. 1). Due to technical issues out of Plaintiff's control, some pages of the complaint were missing. On May 16, 2014, prior to this Court's preliminary review, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend the complaint. (Doc. 4). Subsequently, an amended complaint (Doc. 5) was filed. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint. (Doc. 4). The amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n.1 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Fuhrer v. Fuhrer, 292 F.2d 140, 144 (7th Cir. 1961)).

The amended complaint is 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 amended 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

Prior to June 2013, Plaintiff was housed at Lawrence Correctional Center, a medium-security prison. (Doc. 5, p. 5-A). On June 5, 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Centralia Correctional Center ("Centralia"), another medium-security prison, pursuant to a court writ order in another pending lawsuit ( Harris v. Allen, 10-596-MJR). Plaintiff was initially transferred so that he could be present for the trial in that case on June 11, 2013 in the federal courthouse in East St. Louis, Illinois. However, on June 7, 2013, before the trial even began, Plaintiff was transferred to Menard, a maximum-security prison. Plaintiff contends that Centralia Warden "John Doe"[1] and Centralia Operations Warden Flagg arranged for Plaintiff to be transferred to Menard, a maximum-security prison, in retaliation for Plaintiff's request for his medically-prescribed no-soy diet, which he had been given in yet another pending lawsuit ( Harris v. Brown, 07-3225-HAB). (Doc. 5, p. 5-A). According to the amended complaint, Plaintiff has a lengthy and ongoing history of litigation against prison officials employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC").[2]

Plaintiff's trial in Harris v. Allen concluded on June 11, 2013. However, Plaintiff did not return to Lawrence. Instead, Plaintiff contends that Defendant Atchison (Deputy Director) devised a plan to have the "jailhouse lawyers, " including Plaintiff, transferred from medium-security to maximum-security prisons in an attempt to discourage them from filing future prison litigation. (Doc. 5, p. 5-D). To this end, Defendants Atchison, Funk (IDOC Transfer Coordinator), Harrington (Warden at Menard), and Butler (Warden at Menard) conspired and placed Plaintiff in administrative detention in the North Two Segregation Unit, a maximum-security unit at Menard, from June 7, 2013 until January 17, 2014. (Doc. 5, p. 5-B). At the time the amended complaint was filed, Plaintiff remained at Menard, despite his classification as a medium-security prisoner. Id. Plaintiff maintains that there was no disciplinary reason for him to be transferred to a maximum-security facility; instead, he alleges that the transfer was retaliatory and intended to deter him from engaging in present and future activity protected by the First Amendment (namely, civil rights litigation aimed at prison officials).

In addition to the retaliatory transfer, Plaintiff asserts that he has been subjected to a number of harsh conditions and denied certain privileges in furtherance of the retaliation scheme. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Harrington and Butler have imposed a seventy-five dollar commissary purchase limit on him and they allow him only two visits to the commissary each month. (Doc. 5, p. 5-D). Plaintiff has lost his right to use a typewriter, as well as yard, shower, exercise, phone, and visiting privileges. Id. Plaintiff maintains that these actions have not been taken in connection to any disciplinary charges.

Moreover, Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Shearing refused to give Plaintiff his medically prescribed no-soy diet from June 7, 2013 to July 25, 2013, which caused Plaintiff to lose over 30 pounds. (Doc. 5, p. 5-C). Plaintiff maintains that Susanne Griswold-Bailey (Dietary Manager) has also refused Plaintiff's request for a no-soy diet, and she has allowed Defendants Hanna and Winters to withhold meat from Plaintiff. Dr. Shearing also refused to provide Plaintiff with a low bunk permit, as well as medicines Plaintiff was previously prescribed to treat a rash on Plaintiff's face. Plaintiff contends that these actions, too, were taken in an attempt to retaliate against Plaintiff for his participation in litigation against IDOC. (Doc. 5, p. 5-D).


To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court finds it appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff's pro se amended complaint, as shown below. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: Retaliation

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must do at this preliminary stage, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated a colorable retaliation claim against all Defendants.

Prison officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing grievances or otherwise complaining about their conditions of confinement. See, e.g., Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir. 2012); Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005 (7th Cir. 2002); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607 (7th Cir. 2000). To state a claim of retaliation "[a]ll that need be specified is the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 ...

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