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Pierce v. Devore

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 9, 2014

ANTHONY N. PIERCE, No. S13574, Plaintiff,
v.
JERRY DEVORE, UNKNOWN FEMALE SHERIFF'S DEPUTIES, and UNKNOWN INMATES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Anthony N. Pierce, an inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on events surrounding an assault that occurred while he was housed at the Marion County Jail.

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).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, while he was housed at the Marion County Jail, Plaintiff was assaulted by fellow inmates. He was punched in the face, thrown to the ground, and kicked repeatedly. Once the assailants left his cell and he had closed the cell door, Plaintiff attempted to summon help using an intercom system. Plaintiff explained to an unidentified female deputy sheriff that he had been assaulted. After "several minutes, " a group of officers arrived. When asked why it had taken so long to respond, a male officer explained that two female officers in the control room had received his call over the intercom and they had to wait for more officers to come assist them. Plaintiff was then taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken nose. Plaintiff was apparently told he would be seen by a doctor (presumably at the Marion County Jail), but he was transferred to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections before he was seen by a doctor or any investigation was conducted.

Plaintiff has brought suit against Sheriff DeVore, the two unidentified deputy sheriffs who were in the control room when he made his intercom call, and the three inmates who assaulted him. He seeks monetary damages for physical and mental pain and suffering caused by the failure to protect him from harm and by the denial of medical care.

Discussion

The complaint does not make clear whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or a convict awaiting transfer to an Illinois Department of Corrections facility. That distinction determines the applicable constitutional standards. If Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee, his claims would arise under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012)). See also Klebanowski v. Sheahan, 540 F.3d 633, 637 (7th Cir. 2008). However, the Seventh Circuit has "found it convenient and entirely appropriate to apply the same standard to claims arising under the Fourteenth Amendment (detainees) and Eighth Amendment (convicted prisoners) without differentiation.'" Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 n.2 (7th Cir. 1999)). Therefore, the Eighth Amendment will be referenced for purposes of this preliminary review.

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners from being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. CONST. amend. VIII. See also Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 439 (7th Cir. 2010). Eighth Amendment protection extends to conditions of confinement that pose a substantial risk of serious harm, including health and safety. See Estate of Miller, ex rel. Bertram v. Tobiasz, 680 F.3d 984 (7th Cir. 2012). Prison officials have a constitutional duty to protect inmates "from violence at the hands of other inmates." Washington v. LaPorte County Sheriff's ...


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