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Porter v. Phoenix

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 9, 2014

BYRON E. PORTER, #R-05050, Plaintiff,



This matter comes before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff Byron Porter's first amended complaint (Doc. 10). Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center. He brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 10, p. 5). In the amended complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard") from August 14 to November 26, 2012, when he was forced to choose between having access to hot or cold water in his cell. He also claims that his grievances addressing this issue were consistently ignored, disregarded, or denied. Plaintiff now sues five Menard officials for allegedly violating his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. These officials include Defendants Davis (correctional officer), Ryan (correctional officer), Phoenix (correctional officer), Grott (correctional counselor), and Oakley (grievance officer). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 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). Upon preliminary review, the Court finds that the amended complaint fails to pass muster under Section 1915A.

The Amended Complaint

According to the amended complaint, Plaintiff was exposed to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Menard from August 14 to November 26, 2012 (Doc. 10, p. 6). During that time period, Plaintiff was housed in a cell in disciplinary segregation that lacked access to hot and cold water at the same time; in other words, he was forced to choose between the two. For the first week, the cold water ran "consistently" and "non-stop, " and the hot water did not work at all.

When Plaintiff alerted Defendant Davis to the problem, he agreed to submit a work order, but allegedly never did (Doc. 10, p. 6). He also denied Plaintiff's request to move to a different cell (Doc. 10, p. 7). Plaintiff remained in the cell with only cold water for seven days.

When Plaintiff complained to Defendant Davis a second time on August 21, he was again told that a work order would be submitted.[1] In the meantime, Defendant Davis offered the Plaintiff the option of adjusting the water valve to allow only hot water to run into Plaintiff's cell. The amended complaint alleges that "[Plaintiff] had to choose between having hot or cold water, because the hot water would stay running once cut on, and... Davis... was not going back in the tunnel to cut the cold water back on, once he cuts the hot on" (Doc. 10, p. 7). Given the choice between hot and cold water, Plaintiff chose hot water. At the time, he never imagined that he would be forced to endure the condition for more than three months (Doc. 10, p. 8).

He was wrong. From August 21 until November 26, Plaintiff only had access to hot water and not cold. He had to fill Styrofoam cups with water and then wait up to three hours before drinking from them. Consequently, Plaintiff suffered from "cramps, dry throat, [and] cotton mouth" (Doc. 10, p. 9).

During the following months, Plaintiff filed numerous written and verbal requests for help with Defendants Davis, and he filed several grievances with Defendants Grott, Oakley, and Ryan (Doc. 10, pp. 8-9). He asked for access to both hot and cold water in his cell or a cell transfer. Defendant Davis took no further action, and Defendants Grott, Oakley, Ryan, and Phoenix lost, misplaced, ignored, delayed, or denied his grievances (Doc. 10, pp. 10-11, 13).

Plaintiff now asserts claims against Defendants Davis, Grott, Oakley, Ryan, and Phoenix under the Eighth Amendment, for subjecting him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement and for displaying deliberate indifference toward his physical and mental health, and under the Fourteenth Amendment, for violating his right to due process of law by mishandling or denying his grievances. (Doc. 10, pp. 15-22; Doc. 10-1, pp. 1-4). He seeks monetary damages.


After carefully considering the allegations in the amended complaint, the Court finds that it fails to articulate a colorable Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim (Count 1), Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim (Count 2), or Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim ...

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