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Henderson v. Harrington

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 10, 2014

DARREN HENDERSON, No. R40280, Plaintiff,
WARDEN HARRINGTON, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff Darren Henderson, an inmate in Pontiac Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on an array of alleged constitutional violations that occurred while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard").

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal.- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." As a practical matter, as emphasized by the Supreme Court, an action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility. Id. at 557.

The complaint is 55 pages long, with another 139 pages of exhibits (Doc. 1). Given that there are 24 defendants and events during the time period running from August 2011 through September 2013 are discussed, the length of the complaint is not necessarily problematic. However, the complaint is drafted in a fashion that makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discern what claims are alleged against which defendants. Unintelligibility and disorganization justify rejecting a complaint. See Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 797-98 (7th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff's complaint is both unintelligible and disorganized, leaving the Court with only a general sense that Plaintiff takes issue with the way grievances are handled, retaliation, conspiracy, the conditions of his confinement, and how requests to see medical personnel are handled.

Indicative of the problem is that the first 12 pages of the complaint offer a history of Menard, a listing of constitutional principles, and a discussion of events and administrative grievances during the period between August 2001 and March 2012-none of which reference the named defendants. The next 40 pages contain a mix of factual allegations and lengthy quotations and summaries of administrative grievances (many without any apparent contextual relevance)-all sprinkled with the names of defendants and non-defendants in equal parts. Defendants Warden Atchison, Counselor Phoenix, Sgt. Covalol, V. Smith, Lt. Page, Major Olsen, and C/O Slanger do not appear to have been mentioned at all in the narrative. Whether Defendants "IA Unit Supervisor, " "Trust Fund Office Supervisor, " Law Library Supervisor, " and "Records Office Supervisor" are mention in the narrative is questionable. For example, the "I.A. Unit" is mentioned, but not the "I.A. Supervisor" ( see Doc. 1, pp. 15, 16, 25, 30).

"Rule 8(a) requires parties to make their pleadings straightforward, so that judges and adverse parties need not try to fish a gold coin from a bucket of mud." United States ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003) (affirming the dismissal of a complaint with 400 paragraphs covering 155 pages followed by ninety-nine attachments, replete with undefined acronyms and mysterious cross-references). The page-long "Statement of Claim[s]" at the end of the complaint does not help to decipher the complaint:

1. "The totality of conditions... constituted a denial of access to the courts, inadequate medical needs, right to file a grievance, right to send and receive letters, overcrowding, due process, cruel and unusual punishment violations under the 1st, 8th and 14th Amendment[s] to the United States Constitution";
2. "The deliberate indifference to unsafe conditions... constituted a due process and retaliation claim as Sherry Benton[1] violated such rights under the 8th and 14th ...

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