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Montanez v. Stevenson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 8, 2014

ROBERT MONTANEZ, SR., No. B55240, Plaintiff,
v.
RANDY STEVENSON, JEFFREY STRUBHART, JON MCDONALD, and SCOTT REIS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Montanez, Sr., an inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the failure of the defendant prison officials to facilitate Montanez's telephonic participation in a hearing in the Superior Court in Lake County, Indiana.

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, after Plaintiff Montanez was convicted and imprisoned, the mother of his child petitioned the state court to change the name of Plaintiff's son, Robert Montanez, Jr., so the child and mother would share the same surname ( see Doc. 1, pp. 25-26). Plaintiff contested the name change.

After receiving a summons to appear at a hearing on the name-change petition (Doc. 1, p. 31), Plaintiff initially lodged a prison grievance citing the Agreement on Detainers, 730 ILCS 5/3-8-9, and seeking a writ and transport to the hearing (Doc. 1, p. 29). Plaintiff's counselor, Scott Reis, and Grievance Officer Jon McDonald denied the grievance, observing that the Agreement is inapplicable to the sort of hearing Plaintiff wanted to attend, as no detainer was involved (Doc. 1, pp. 29-30).

In consideration of Plaintiff's incarceration and inability to participate in a hearing in person, the Superior Court issued an "order" stating that "Mr. Montanez should have the opportunity to participate in the hearing by telephone if he wishes to do so" (Doc. 1, p. 17).

Plaintiff submitted a written request to Randy Stevenson, the supervisor in charge of Clinical Services at Lawrence, explaining that a hearing was set on June 13, 2012, and asserting (incorrectly) that he could lose his parental rights if he did not participate by telephone (Doc. 1, p. 18). Superintendent Stevenson responded by directing Plaintiff to "write the court" asking that Lawrence "make [him] available for the hearing." (Doc. 1, p. 18). Stevenson did not indicate that anything else had to be done.

Plaintiff filed a motion with the Superior Court seeking be allowed to participate in the scheduled hearing via video conferencing technology. The motion for a videoconference was denied because the Superior Court did not have such technology (Doc. 1, p. 21). The state court observed that it had no legal authority to order the Clinical Services Prison Litigation Representative at Lawrence to make Plaintiff available by telephone and directed that Plaintiff follow the prison's procedures for arranging Plaintiff's participation in the ...


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