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Mitchell v. Vandalia Correctional Center

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 30, 2014

SHANE EMERY MITCHELL, # K-56377, Plaintiff,
v.
VANDALIA CORRECTIONAL CENTER, GEPHART, S. A. GODINEZ, LISA MARCUM, JAMES LUTH, and PHIL POT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Shane Mitchell, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). According to the complaint, Plaintiff suffers from a wool allergy. Even though he brought medical records documenting the allergy to Vandalia, prison officials issued Plaintiff a wool blanket and then disciplined him when he refused to make his bed with it. Plaintiff now sues Vandalia and five officials for harassment in connection with their handling of his wool allergy, and he seeks "compensation." He also seeks a prison transfer, in anticipation of retaliation by Vandalia officials for filing this lawsuit.

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).

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). 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). For the reasons set forth below, the complaint does not survive threshold review under this standard and shall be dismissed.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff has a diagnosed and documented wool allergy (Doc. 1, p. 6). His medical records from Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") allegedly reflect this diagnosis. On June 17, 2014, Plaintiff transferred to Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia") with these medical records in tow, but Vandalia officials failed to review them.

Plaintiff was issued a wool blanket. When he refused to make his bed with it on June 29, 2014, Sergeant Simmons[1]took him to segregation for disobeying a direct order. Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary ticket and appeared before the adjustment committee the following day. Plaintiff testified that he suffered from a wool allergy; he explained that he did not refuse to make his bed, but instead refused to use a wool blanket to do so. The adjustment committee found Plaintiff guilty of disobeying a direct order and placed him on two months of commissary restriction.

On June 23, 2014, Plaintiff was moved from B-dorm to E-dorm. Upon his arrival in E-dorm, he notified Officer Pot that he suffered from a wool allergy. Plaintiff also complained that he never received his blankets after leaving segregation.

On June 25, 2014, Officer Gephart visited Plaintiff in E-dorm twice (Doc. 1, p. 7). The first time, he yelled at Plaintiff about making his bed with a wool blanket. Officer Gephart claimed that his wife, who is a nurse in the health care unit, found no documentation of a wool allergy. The second time, Officer Gephart threatened to take Plaintiff to segregation if he again refused to make his bed with a wool blanket.

The same day, Plaintiff went to the health care unit and obtained documentation allegedly confirming the diagnosis. When Officer Gephart was given this documentation on June 26, 2014, he stated, "I don't give a f**k about what those papers say" (Doc. 1, p. 7). When Plaintiff consulted Counselor Schulze on July 2, 2014, Counselor Shulze investigated the matter and told Plaintiff that a nurse denied the existence of any diagnosis in his medical records. The same day, Plaintiff received a similar communication from the adjustment committee, medical director, and warden, in response to a grievance he filed.

Plaintiff's fiance then wrote the warden a letter. She received a response on August 6, 2014. In it, the warden indicated that "the institution had overlooked this matter, " but "nothing has changed" (Doc. 1, p. 7). This same warden concurred with the grievance committee that found no indication of a wool allergy in Plaintiff's medical file.

Plaintiff now sues Vandalia and five officials for harassment (Doc. 1, p. 8). These officials include Defendants Luth (warden), Marcum (medical director), Gephart (lieutenant), Pot (officer), and Godinez (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). Plaintiff seeks "compensation." He also requests a prison ...


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