United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Michael Fields, an inmate currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this pro se civil rights action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review 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).
The facts pertinent to the Court's threshold review are as follows: On August 24, 2010 and again in May 2012, Plaintiff was issued a pair of state eyeglasses at Menard Correctional Center. (Doc. 1, p. 3). On June 6, 2012, Plaintiff and his cellmate were removed from their cell for a random shakedown, which resulted in a determination that the cell was "clean." Id. at 3 and Ex. 1. Three days later, on June 9, Plaintiff and his cellmate were again removed from their cell for another random shakedown. Id. at 3. This search was conducted by Defendants Ransom and Quant, and it resulted in the confiscation of Plaintiff's and his cellmate's eyeglasses. Id. at 3 and Ex. 2, 3, and 3A. Plaintiff has attached a copy of the notice he received following the confiscation of his glasses, but the quality of the copy is quite poor, making it difficult for the Court to clearly decipher its contents. However, it appears that the report identified a pair of eyeglasses with "pointed metal rods" in the earpiece as "minor contraband." Id. at Ex. 2.
Six months prior, on December 3, 2012, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Quant following an incident in which Quant refused to allow Plaintiff to use the bathroom while Plaintiff was waiting to be seen in the healthcare unit. Id. at Ex. 4. The bathrooms in the healthcare unit are reserved for staff. Id. When Plaintiff protested and told Quant, "I need to urinate and have been holding it for the past 30 minutes, " Quant responded, "So what, I don't care. You're going to have to hold it." Quant then said, "In fact, you're going back to the cellhouse." He then cancelled Plaintiff's pass and sent Plaintiff back to his cell. Id. In response to Plaintiff's grievance, the counselor noted, "Contacted health care unit and verified bathroom is for staff only. Unable to verify reasons for you not being allowed upstairs." Id.
On June 25, 2013, Plaintiff and his cellmate were again removed from their cell for a random shakedown of the cell. Id. at 4. An incident report following the shakedown notes that no contraband was found. Id. at Ex. 5.
Sometime in late August or early September 2013, Plaintiff had the opportunity to ask Defendant Ransom why he had taken Plaintiff's eyeglasses. Defendant Ransom replied, "You complain too much." Id. at 4.
Plaintiff filed multiple grievances regarding the confiscation of his eyeglasses and made several attempts through various channels to ascertain why his eyeglasses had been seized. Id. at Ex. 6 and 7. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief.
To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court finds it appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff's pro se amended complaint, as shown below. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.
Count 1: First Amendment Retaliation Claim
Prison officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing grievances or otherwise complaining about the conditions of their confinement. See, e.g., Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir. 2012); Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005 (7th Cir. 2002); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607 (7th Cir. 2000). To state a claim of retaliation "[a]ll that need be specified is the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002).
Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Quant confiscated Plaintiff's eyeglasses in retaliation for Plaintiff filing a grievance complaining about Quant in December 2012. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Ransom acknowledged as much when he said that he had confiscated Plaintiff's eyeglasses because Plaintiff complains too much. These retaliatory actions, Plaintiff contends, violated his rights under the First Amendment. Even if these allegations would not be actionable in and of themselves, if the acts were taken in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally protected right, then they are actionable under § 1983. See Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 552 (7th Cir. 2009) (discussing Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639, 644 (7th Cir. 1987) ("[A]n act in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally protected right is actionable under Section 1983 even if the act, when taken for different reasons, would have been proper.")); see also Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, ...