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Branch v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 24, 2014

CHRISTOPHER BRANCH, No. R33892, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, PAT QUINN, S.A. GODINEZ, and LARUE LOVE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Christopher Branch, an inmate at Vienna Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the conditions of confinement in Building 19 at Vienna. The complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review 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.

By separate order (Doc. 6), the Court already denied Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order (Doc. 2). Plaintiff has filed a motion for reconsideration (Doc. 8), which will also be considered.

The Complaint

The complaint takes issue with the conditions of Plaintiff Branch's confinement at Vienna, where he has been housed off and on since July 2011. At different times, Branch has been celled on the second and third floors of Building 19; at present, he is living on the third floor (Doc. 1, p. 3). According to the complaint: Building 19 is extremely overcrowded; there are too few toilets and showers; the plumbing leaks excessively; he is being exposed to asbestos-covered pipes and mold; there is poor ventilation so the area smells; there are roaches, mice and bugs, which pose a health danger and have caused property damage; windows are broken; the water fountain is old and broken, in that it does not provide cold water; and Plaintiff's present mattress is "tattered and nasty."

The complaint is particularly focused on a time in October 2013 when Plaintiff was housed in segregation. Roaches and mice got into Plaintiff's property box, eating $25 worth of food and leaving droppings. According to the complaint, Defendant Assistant Warden LaRue Love was aware of the problem but did nothing about the mouse infestation (or, presumably the roaches).

Assistant Warden Love, along with Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), Governor Pat Quinn and IDOC Director S.A. Godinez are named as defendants. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and $15, 000 in compensatory damages.

The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment forbids unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and punishment grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). Prison conditions that deprive inmates of basic human needs-food, medical care, sanitation, or physical safety-may violate the Eighth Amendment. Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346; see also James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir.1992).

The allegations in the complaint generally state a colorable Eighth Amendment claim, but that does not end the analysis.

Section 1983 creates a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, "to be liable under [Section] 1983, the individual defendant must have caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation." Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809, 810 (7th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations and citations omitted). In order to state a claim against a defendant, a plaintiff must describe what each named defendant did (or failed to do) that violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. However, the respondeat superior ...


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