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Burris v. Justus

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 28, 2014

CEASAR M. BURRIS, # B-80496, Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for a merits review of the complaint (Doc. 2) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915A. The complaint was originally brought on July 8, 2014, by Plaintiff Burris and four other inmate-plaintiffs who filed the action together.[1] After receiving the Court's initial order regarding joint litigation with multiple plaintiffs (Doc. 4), Plaintiff Burris chose to pursue his claims in a separate case. The Court then severed his claim and opened the present action (Doc. 1).

At the time this case was filed, Plaintiff was serving a felony sentence at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). Since then, he has been transferred to Vienna Correctional Center (Doc. 6). However, his claims concern the conditions of confinement while he was incarcerated as a pretrial detainee at the St. Clair County Jail ("the Jail").

The Complaint

The Defendants herein include former St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus (now deceased, as Plaintiff notes in the complaint); current Sheriff Rick Watson; Officers Jack Dinges and Nichols (in charge of the 6:00am to 6:00pm shift); and Officers Levi Bridges and Cameron Reid (in charge of the Jail's Sanitation Department) (Doc. 2, pp. 1, 4).

Plaintiff claims that these Defendants knowingly and intentionally operated the Jail "in a poor and life threatening manner" while he was confined there (Doc. 2, p. 1). The unconstitutional living conditions included "overcrowding, insects, mice, foul odor from human waste, small portions of food per serving, inadequate access to Law Library, paint peeling off the walls, tables, bars, toilet areas, shower area and ceilings[.]" Id. Inmates were not provided with sufficient cleaning materials for the filthy bathrooms. Due to the overcrowding, Plaintiff was denied access to out-of-cell recreation time, either in the yard or gym, and was unable to engage in physical exercise (Doc. 2, pp. 2, 5). These poor living conditions "subjected [him] to medical issues" (Doc. 2, p. 2), and he was denied medical attention for those unspecified issues (Doc. 2, p. 6).

Because of the overcrowded conditions, Plaintiff was required to sleep on the filthy floor along with other prisoners. Mice and insects infested the living areas (Doc. 2, p. 5). Defendants refused to pass out cleaning materials more often than one time per week (Doc. 2, p. 6). As a result, Plaintiff was subjected to foul odors of human feces from the sink and toilet areas that he could not keep clean (Doc. 2, p. 5).

Plaintiff asserts that he complained and filed grievances over these conditions with the Defendants, but the problems were not corrected, and the complaints/grievances were never returned (Doc. 2, p. 4).

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief to correct the constitutional violations (Doc. 2, p. 7). He also requests the Court to appoint an attorney to represent him in this matter. Before the Court can consider that request, however, Plaintiff must submit a properly completed motion for the recruitment of counsel. The Clerk shall be directed to provide Plaintiff with a blank form motion.

Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Petition of the Defendants' Exhaustion Remedies of Violations Claimed Within the Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 3)

Plaintiff submitted this motion along with his complaint. It includes factual allegations about several instances in 2011 when inmate Brandon Kirkendall (the lead Plaintiff in the original action before Plaintiff Burris' claim was severed) gave complaints or grievances to various Jail officials. Some of those individuals are named as Defendants herein, and others are not. The motion describes the topic and date of each grievance and the officials' response, or lack thereof. None of these specific allegations are contained within the complaint itself. Furthermore, this motion does not include any information regarding any grievances or complaints that Plaintiff Burris may have filed while he was in the Jail. Plaintiff requests the Court to grant the motion and "accept the unrebuttable fact that the Defendants knew about the constitutional violations and did nothing to subside them" (Doc. 3, p. 2).

Plaintiff's motion to amend (Doc. 3) is DENIED. First, if Plaintiff wishes to amend his complaint, he must submit a complete amended complaint which contains all allegations and claims in a single document. It is not permissible to amend a complaint or petition in a piecemeal fashion that requires the Court and Defendants to refer to multiple documents (such as Docs. 2 and 3 herein). This approach is known as amendment by interlineation, which is inconsistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). The Court will thus conduct its merits review on the complaint only (Doc. 2), and shall not consider the additional content presented in the denied motion at Doc. 3.

Should Plaintiff wish to amend his complaint, he may do so in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Local Rule 15.1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) states that "[a] party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within: (A) 21 days after serving it, or (B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading[.]" Further, in this District, "[a] proposed amendment to a pleading or amended pleading itself must be submitted at the time the motion to amend is filed." SDIL-Local Rule 15.1. Plaintiff shall note that an amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint, rendering the original complaint void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n.1 (7th Cir. 2004). Thus, an amended complaint must stand on its own, without reference to any other pleading.

The other portion of the motion, which asks the Court to "accept [an] unrebuttable fact, " is also DENIED, without prejudice. It is premature at this juncture for the Court to make any factual findings, when Defendants have not yet been served with ...

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