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Mills v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 2, 2014

ERIK MILLS, #M-39137, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT of CORRECTIONS, SALVADOR GODINEZ, THOMAS SPILLER, AMBER CARRINGTON, and MICHAEL EDWARDS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on incidents that occurred while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"). Plaintiff is serving concurrent sentences of four and a half years for two drug offenses. He claims that he was beaten by prison guards, denied medical attention, and placed in indefinite punitive segregation after being found guilty of several disciplinary infractions in an improperly conducted hearing.

More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on March 9, 2014, two other inmates assaulted prison staff while a group of prisoners were moving from the dietary area to their housing unit (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 10; Doc. 1-1, p. 2). Plaintiff was in the area but was not involved in the fight. The prison was placed on lock-down and the two primary assailants (Narduci and Rosas) were transferred out of Pinckneyville.

The next day (March 10), investigators interviewed numerous prisoners including Plaintiff, in an effort to identify one or more other inmates who struck guards during the incident. Plaintiff refused to give any information to interviewer Sean Furlow (who is not named as a Defendant), and stated it was not his fight (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff was then taken to segregation and beaten by unidentified officers ("Orange Crush") who wore tactical gear that covered their faces and name tags. He suffered a swollen eye, busted lip, and injuries to his rib area. Plaintiff does not include these officers as Defendants.

After the beating, Plaintiff was stripped of his clothing and shoes, and was kept in a segregation cell for four days without food, toothpaste, tissue, soap, or bedding. Prison staff (whom he does not identify) refused to give Plaintiff any medical attention.

On March 21, 2014, Plaintiff was taken for an Adjustment Committee hearing on several disciplinary charges: Assault on Staff, Dangerous Disturbances, Impeding or Interfering with an Investigation, Giving False Information to an Employee, and Insolence (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 10). Plaintiff never received a copy of the ticket containing the charges against him at any time before the hearing (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8; Doc. 1-1, p. 3). The hearing summary, which he obtained later, notes that Plaintiff was identified by numerous confidential sources as the black male inmate who struck two guards (Doc. 1, p. 10). Defendants Edwards and Carrington conducted Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing, and read the charges to Plaintiff; this was apparently the first time he was informed of the charges he faced. They refused to continue the hearing, and Plaintiff was unable to prepare a defense or call witnesses to contest the charges. Defendants Edwards and Carrington found Plaintiff guilty of all the charges, and he was punished with indeterminate segregation, a loss of one year of good conduct credits, and the revocation of other privileges (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 11). Defendant Spiller (Chief Administrative Officer at Pinckneyville) approved the disciplinary action.

After the conclusion of the March 21, 2014, hearing, Plaintiff was transferred to Lawrence (Doc. 1-1, p. 3). He finally received a copy of the disciplinary hearing report on April 2, 2014, from a staff member at Lawrence.

Along with his complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion for "temporary injunction, " invoking Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a) (Doc. 2). Based on the serious procedural flaws in his disciplinary hearing, he seeks an order to release him from the indeterminate segregation that was imposed upon him on March 21, 2014. He notes that he is due to complete his current sentences on August 5, 2015 (Doc. 2, p. 2).

Plaintiff further seeks damages and adjustment of his disciplinary violations (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Plaintiff attaches affidavits to his motion for injunctive relief and memorandum of law, stating that another inmate prepared his complaint and other documents for him because he "does not know how to read, write, or spell well" (Doc. 1-1, p. 4; Doc. 2, p. 3). This inmate was scheduled to be transferred on April 30, 2014, so is no longer available to assist Plaintiff. Moreover, he claims there is "no legal help" available to inmates in segregation at Lawrence (Doc. 1-1, p. 4).

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action, which shall receive further review:

Count 1: Fourteenth Amendment claim for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process, against Defendants Carrington and Edwards, for imposing an indeterminate term of segregation on Plaintiff after failing to provide him advance notice of the disciplinary charges and failing to allow him a continuance to prepare a defense and call witnesses;

Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim for excessive force, against Unknown (John Doe) Defendants on the Pinckneyville Orange Crush team, ...


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