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Davis v. Steber

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 10, 2014

ANTOINE DAVIS, #R-60010, and all other prisoners at Lawrence prison officials failed to protect, Plaintiff,
v.
ARNOLD STEBER, STEVE DUNCAN, C. PRUITT, SALVADORE GODINEZ, MS. DAVIS and C/O HARPER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Antoine Davis, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was assaulted by his cellmate in August 2014, after repeatedly alerting Lawrence officials to the threat of attack and asking for a separate cell (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). Plaintiff claims that Lawrence, like other prisons within the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), has instituted a widespread practice of ignoring requests for protective custody, failing to investigate inmate assaults, and issuing disciplinary tickets to assault victims (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Plaintiff now sues the IDOC's director, Salvadore Godinez, and five Lawrence officials, including Steve Duncan (warden), Arnold Steber (lieutenant), C/O Harper (internal affairs officer), Ms. Davis (mental health counselor), and C. Pruitt (correctional officer), for failing to protect him from the inmate assault based on this widespread practice (Doc. 1). Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of himself and all other Lawrence inmates whose Eighth Amendment rights have been violated by prison officials who failed to protect them. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief, including a preliminary injunction requiring Lawrence officials to transfer Plaintiff to another prison (Doc. 1, p. 8).

Class Certification

Before conducting its preliminary review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must first address the fact that Plaintiff brought this action on behalf of himself, as well as all other Lawrence prisoners who have been denied protection by prison officials. No other Plaintiff appears to be involved in this action. No one else signed the complaint or any other pleadings filed along with it. More to the point, a prisoner bringing a pro se action cannot represent a class of plaintiffs. See Lewis v. Lenc-Smith Mfg. Co., 784 F.2d 829, 831 (7th Cir. 1986); FED. R. CIV. P. 11. Therefore, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks class certification, the request is DENIED without prejudice.

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). After carefully considering the allegations in light of this standard, the Court finds that the complaint survives preliminary review under § 1915A.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was assaulted by his cellmate ("Harris") in August 2014 (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7; Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-2). The two inmates shared a cell for eight or nine weeks prior to the assault (Doc. 1, p. 6). During their second week together, Plaintiff and Harris had a "misunderstanding" and could not get along thereafter.

Plaintiff asked several correctional officers to separate the two inmates from one another. Two weeks before the assault, Plaintiff met with his mental health counselor, Defendant Davis, and again asked that the two inmates be separated for safety reasons because Harris was threatening Plaintiff. Defendant Davis told Plaintiff to "write to Placement" (Doc. 1, p. 6).

When the situation became unbearable, Plaintiff sent multiple requests for intervention to an internal affairs officer, Defendant Harper, without any results. Just before the assault on August 18, 2014, Plaintiff and Harris went together to speak with a lieutenant, Defendant Steber, and correctional officer, Defendant Pruitt (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). Plaintiff and Harris asked Defendants Steber and Pruitt to separate them (Doc. 1, p. 6). In the presence of Harris, Plaintiff told these Defendants that he did not feel safe because Harris had threatened him with violence if Plaintiff "did not walk [him]self." Despite this statement, Defendant Steber told both inmates that they would have to "wait until tomorrow to be moved" (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Harris became upset when Plaintiff told Defendant Steber about the threats. He apparently wanted Plaintiff to state that the two were simply "not getting along." Upon returning to the cell, Harris attacked Plaintiff, cutting his eye, bruising his upper right forehead, and bruising his lip. Harris then told "folks" that Plaintiff "tricked on him" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Because Harris identified Plaintiff as a snitch, Plaintiff now faces an increased risk of attack from his fellow inmates, if he is moved back into the general prison population.

Plaintiff alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights have been violated by the Lawrence officials' failure to protect him from an obvious risk of inmate assault. He also complains of a widespread practice at Lawrence, and other prisons within the IDOC, of: (1) ignoring inmate requests for separation and/or protective custody; (2) issuing victims of inmate assaults disciplinary tickets; and (3) failing to investigate inmate attacks (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Plaintiff brings an Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim against Defendants Godinez, Duncan, Steber, Harper, Davis, and Pruitt. He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. In his request for relief, Plaintiff also seeks a preliminary injunction ...


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