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Charleston v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 4, 2014

DONALD CHARLESTON, #R-13355, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT of CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Vienna Correctional Center ("Vienna"), where he is serving a three-year sentence. He brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The brief complaint names only the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), or its Director, as a Defendant (Doc. 1, p. 1). To supplement his statement of claim, Plaintiff has attached two grievances which he filed on September 15 and 16, 2014 (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). Plaintiff states that he is disabled and has seizures. Because of his medical condition, he cannot climb stairs. He had been given "low gallery" and "low bunk" permits, which were documented in his prison record. This record also showed that he was disabled and was not to climb stairs. In September 2014, however, he was required to attend school at Vienna and made to climb stairs to get to the classroom.

The first day Plaintiff went to class (September 15), he was given some help to climb the stairs (Doc. 1, p. 5). His leg gave out and he almost fell, but he caught himself with the bannister (Doc. 1, p. 8). He wrote an emergency grievance that day stating that he could not climb the stairs because of his medical condition, and he did not need to attend classes because he already had a G.E.D. and some college.

The second day (September 16), Plaintiff had to climb the steps with no help, and he fell (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 9). He was not hurt. He wrote another emergency grievance asking to be excused from the education program so he would not have to climb the stairs. The warden ordered both grievances to be expedited as emergency matters (Doc. 1, p. 8-9).

In response to Plaintiff's grievances, he was sent to the doctor again and was given a waiver on September 23, 2014, so that he would no longer be made to climb stairs (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). His grievances were ruled to be moot.

Plaintiff does not request any relief whatsoever in the complaint (Doc. 1, p. 6). The only clue as to what he might be seeking is contained in the second grievance: "I would like to see a lawyer to figure out my legal rights as a disabled person" (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

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. 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).

After fully considering the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint, the Court concludes that this pleading fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For this reason, the complaint will be dismissed. However, Plaintiff shall be allowed an opportunity to submit an amended complaint, to correct the deficiencies discussed below. If the amended complaint still fails to state a claim, or if Plaintiff does not submit an amended complaint, the entire case shall be dismissed with prejudice to refiling, and the dismissal shall count as a strike pursuant to § 1915(g). The amended complaint shall be subject to review pursuant to § 1915A.

The Court notes that the complaint hints at three possible claims:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against any prison employee(s) who required Plaintiff to climb the stairs to attend class, despite their knowledge that he was unable to climb stairs and that doing so would place him at risk of bodily harm;
Count 2: Claim against the Illinois Department of Corrections or against a prison official in his/her official capacity under the Americans with ...

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