United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court for a merits review of Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 7), filed on June 9, 2014. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), where he is serving a 40-year sentence for murder. This case was opened on May 5, 2014, when Plaintiff submitted a Motion for Preliminary Injunction "Immediately" (Doc. 1). The Court denied that motion, and ordered Plaintiff to submit a proper complaint so that an assessment could be made of his claims and the basis for jurisdiction (Doc. 6).
Plaintiff's original motion for injunctive relief referenced potential claims that (1) some Defendants had filed false disciplinary reports against Plaintiff and that his due process rights were violated in the disciplinary hearing(s); (2) several Defendants had retaliated against him because Plaintiff previously brought suit against them in this Court; and (3) other officials failed to protect Plaintiff from an attempted sexual attack by his cellmate, for which he did not receive medical care. The instant complaint (Doc. 7) includes claims related to items (1) and (2) above, and does not include the failure to protect claim (3). Plaintiff just recently filed another action in this Court, Jackson v. Phoenix, et al., Case No. 14-cv-720-NJR (filed June 24, 2014), in which it appears he will pursue the failure to protect claim. Thus, that matter shall not be addressed in this case.
The Complaint (Doc. 7)
The complaint consists of ten pages, and Plaintiff includes a legal memorandum and exhibits totaling 38 additional pages. He alleges that Defendant Sgt. Luehr and Defendant Kitchen Supervisor Dowdy each fabricated a disciplinary report against him (Doc. 7, pp. 1, 4-5; Doc. 7-1, pp. 13-15; Doc. 7-2, p. 1). Prior to the first incident, Plaintiff had been experiencing continuing problems with kitchen supervisors and inmate workers tampering with and contaminating his kosher meals. He filed numerous complaints over these issues. On February 18, 2014, when he went through the chow line, the inmate server tossed Plaintiff his tray, causing the plastic covering to break open and spill salad over the counter area. Plaintiff reached through the chuckhole to re-seal the tray, and determined it had been tampered with and contaminated. He got into a verbal argument with the inmate, and then asked Defendant Dowdy for a new tray, which he denied. Plaintiff then took a regular meal tray so that he could eat, and had words with Defendant Dowdy. Later that night, Plaintiff received a ticket in which Defendant Dowdy falsely claimed that Plaintiff had attempted to steal a piece of cake, contaminating the sheet cake with his hand (Doc. 7-1, p. 14). None of the facts related by Plaintiff were included in the statement of the charges.
The following day (February 19), despite the pending ticket, Plaintiff was allowed to go to chow. On the way there, he was accosted by Defendant Sgt. Luehr, who asked him if he was the guy who had written up other officers for sexual assault (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff acknowledged that he had to do so for his own protection. Defendant Luehr commented that "someone needed to teach [Plaintiff] a lesson." Id. Over the next several days, Defendant Luehr continued to make remarks such as "you going to get yours" each time he would see Plaintiff.
On February 26, 2014, after going to chow at lunch and noting Defendant Luehr was not there, Plaintiff decided to stay in his cell at dinner time, in part to avoid encountering Defendant Luehr (Doc. 7, p. 5). The next day (February 27) Plaintiff was placed on "deadlock" for a disciplinary ticket. This ticket, written by Defendant Luehr, stated that on February 26, Plaintiff had stepped out of the chow line to get his diet tray out of turn, and ignored Luehr's orders to return to the back of the line (Doc. 7-2, p. 1). Plaintiff argues that this had to be fabricated, because he did not attend chow on that day when Defendant Luehr was on shift (Doc. 1, p. 1). On February 28, 2014, the diet tray delivered to Plaintiff's cell contained a threatening message inside the tray lid, stating "you going to get yours, just watch and see, real soon" (Doc. 7, p. 5). Plaintiff wrote to the warden to complain, but got no response. The same thing happened the next day.
Both disciplinary tickets were heard on March 4, 2014, by adjustment committee members Defendants Hughes and Hart. Plaintiff submitted a written statement and three witness affidavits, and requested that his witnesses be called to the hearing. Defendant Hughes refused to call any witnesses (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was found guilty of both infractions, and sentenced to three months in segregation for each ticket (for a total of six months). He was also charged $14.40 in restitution for the contaminated cake.
Plaintiff's second claim focuses on the ongoing contamination and tampering with his kosher meals, which he alleges has been carried out by Defendant Harner and the John/Jane Doe Dietary Supervisors in retaliation for the complaints he has lodged against them. The problems with his meals began around October 1, 2013, not long after Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendant Harner (Doc. 7, p. 6). His food trays often arrive with the covers torn open, with some food items removed from the tray, or containing what appears to be saliva, tobacco juice, or other foreign material. He describes one incident where his food was covered with a black substance that appeared to be a mixture of dirty cooking grease and water (Doc. 7, p. 8).
Plaintiff also complains that the kosher menu plan, allegedly approved by Defendant Harner, is nutritionally inadequate (Doc. 7, pp. 5-6). On top of that, the food he is served is often spoiled and inedible, further depriving him of sufficient nourishment and endangering his health. The salad and fruit is rotten, and the T.V. dinners are sour, undercooked, or raw. As a result of the retaliatory tampering, the deficiencies in the makeup of the kosher meals, and the spoilage, Plaintiff has often not received adequate food to meet his nutritional needs, and has become ill with what he believes to be food poisoning (Doc. 7, pp. 7-8). He sought and received some treatment, including medications, for severe stomach pains in January and April 2014. Although he was not entirely satisfied with the adequacy of his medical care, he does not bring any claim against the medical professionals who treated him.
Plaintiff's exhibits include a supplemental statement noting that dietary staff including C/O Fitzgerald (who is not named as a Defendant) are continuing to contaminate Plaintiff's food and to serve it raw, undercooked, and/or spoiled (Doc. 7-1, p. 6). Certain food items have been omitted from his trays in retaliation for the grievances he has filed. Id. Plaintiff went on a hunger strike on May 5, 2014, to avoid further food poisoning and contamination, and as of the time he prepared his statement, had refused food for 18 days. He estimated that he had lost 20 pounds, dropping from 220 to 200 pounds. During that time, Plaintiff received medical treatment for his stomach pain.
Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights (Doc. 7, pp. 9-10).
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 ...