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Montanez v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 28, 2014

PIERRE MONTANEZ, No. M30561, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Pierre Montanez, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the events surrounding a disciplinary conviction after a knife was found in Plaintiff's cell.

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.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Motions to Amend

As a preliminary matter, Plaintiff's two motions to amend the complaint must be addressed.

First, Plaintiff moves to amend the signature/Rule 11 declaration in the complaint (Doc. 6). He has submitted a page to be substituted for page 3 of the complaint. This new page contains an additional statement regarding the truthfulness of the complaint, and it bears a more recent signature date ( see Doc. 6, p. 3). The additional statement regarding the truthfulness is unnecessary, essentially repeating the Rule 11 declaration that is a part of both the original page and the proposed substitute page. Moreover, Local Rule 15.1 does not permit amendment by interlineation. Rather, an amended pleading must be self-contained, including all claims against all defendants and any exhibits the plaintiff wants considered as part of the pleading. The fact that the proposed substitute signature/declaration page bears a different date from the filing date of the complaint illustrates why the Court cannot merely substitute pages. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 6) will be denied.

Second, due to a snafu in the electronic filing of the complaint, Plaintiff moves to amend the complaint to include a 17-page group of exhibits (including a 3-page exhibit list). As already discussed, the complaint cannot be amended in this fashion. Rather, a self-contained amended complaint needs to be filed.[1] For these reasons, Plaintiff's motion to amend (Doc. 7) will be denied.

The Court recognizes that the proper inclusion of the exhibits with the complaint could theoretically make or break the viability of the complaint. However, rather than wait to have Plaintiff refile what is clearly a deficient pleading, the Court will proceed to review the present complaint. Plaintiff will then be afforded an opportunity to amend the complaint to state a colorable constitutional claim.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, on April 14, 2014, the cell Plaintiff Montanez inhabited with inmate Freeman was searched by the Tactical Team and a knife was found. Plaintiff and Freeman were questioned separately and, apparently, there was insufficient evidence to determine which inmate owned the knife. Warden Kim Butler told Plaintiff that if he would say the weapon was Freeman's, and that he had seen Freeman in actual possession of the knife, Plaintiff "would be excluded from the whole deal"-presumably meaning that Plaintiff would not face any punishment. Plaintiff refused to provide such a false statement.

Although there was no evidence linking Plaintiff to the knife, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary report (the offense charged is unknown at this juncture). Lt. Scott, the Adjustment Committee chairperson, refused Plaintiff's request for an investigation and/or polygraph examination. Plaintiff was ultimately convicted of the disciplinary offense and punished with one year in segregation, demotion to C grade for one year, commissary restrictions for one year, and yard restrictions for three months (the Adjustment Committee report is unavailable at this time).

Plaintiff contends that the disciplinary ticket was issued in retaliation for Plaintiff not taking Warden Butler's offer and refusing to falsely implicate inmate Freeman. He also asserts that the failure to investigate and/or give him a polygraph test, and the disciplinary conviction itself are the product of retaliation against him for refusing to give false testimony against Freeman. Plaintiff further explains that had he testified one way or the other, he could have ...

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