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Woods v. Schmeltz

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

December 11, 2014

MAURICE WOODS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN SCHMELTZ, et. al., Defendants.

MERIT REVIEW OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

The case is before the Court for a merit review of the Plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

BACKGROUND

The court dismissed the Plaintiff's original complaint as a violation of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See October 2, 2014 Merit Review Opinion. The Plaintiff had attached grievances to his complaint instead of providing the relevant information in the body of his complaint. Therefore, the Plaintiff was given additional time to file an amended complaint clarifying his claims and the Plaintiff has now complied. See October 2, 2014 Merit Review Opinion.

The court must still review the amended complaint pursuant to §1915A, and through such process identify and dismiss any legally insufficient claim, or the entire action if warranted. A claim is legally insufficient if it "(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §1915A.

ALLEGATIONS

The Plaintiff says nine Defendants at Pontiac Correctional Center violated his constitutional rights including Brian Schmeltz, Kent Robinson, Brian Maier, Randy Lovrant, Jacob Liles, Glendal French, Adam Deal, James Berry and John Doe.

The Plaintiff says he was placed in a cell on crisis watch on August 22, 2013 and he spread feces on his cell window. Defendants Schmeltz, Deal, French and Robinson knew the feces was on the window, but refused to allow Plaintiff any cleaning supplies or to move him to another cell for four days.

Defendant John Doe eventually moved the Plaintiff to a second cell on August 26, 2103 where he remained until October 7, 2013. The Plaintiff says he told Officer John Doe the cell smelled like feces and the officer agreed to tell his supervisor. The Plaintiff later discovered feces under his sink and in the cracks of the window. He complained to Defendants Schmeltz, Berry and Lovrant, but they refused to have the cell cleaned or move the Plaintiff to a different cell.

ANALYSIS

The Plaintiff has articulated two violations of his Eighth Amendment rights based on his living conditions in two separate cells. Although the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, prisoners have the right to "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981). Life's necessities include shelter, heat, clothing, sanitation, and hygiene items. See Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 493 (7th Cir.2006). "But prison conditions do not violate the Eighth Amendment unless there is a sufficiently serious deprivation and the defendants were deliberately indifferent, i.e., they were aware of the conditions but failed to take reasonable measures to abate them." Morris v. Ley, 331 Fed.Appx. 417, 420-21 (7th Cir. 2009) citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 299 (1991).

It is possible the prevalence of human waste in the Plaintiff's cells reached such a point of inhabitablity as to deprive him of the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347; see Vinning-El, 482 F.3d at 924-25 (reversing summary judgment where prisoner was held for six days without sanitation items in cell contaminated with human waste and in which sink and toilet did not work); Johnson v. Pelker, 891 F.2d 136, 139-40 (7th Cir.1989) (reversing summary judgment where prisoner was denied cleaning supplies and confined for three days to cell that was smeared with human waste and lacked running water); DeSpain v. Uphoff, 264 F.3d 965, 974 (10th Cir.2001) ("Exposure to human waste, like few other conditions of confinement, evokes both the health concerns emphasized in Farmer [v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994), ] and the more general standards of dignity embodied in the Eighth Amendment."). Therefore, for the purposes of notice pleading, the Plaintiff may proceed with both of his claims. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:

1) Pursuant to its merit review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court finds that Plaintiff states the following claims: a) Defendants Schmeltz, Deal, French and Robinson violated the Plaintiff's eighth amendment rights when they forced the Plaintiff to stay in a cell with feces for four days beginning August 22, 2013; and, b) Defendants John Doe, Schmeltz, Berry and Lovrant violated the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights when they placed him in a cell with feces from August 26, 2103 to October 7, 2013 and refused to take any action. This case proceeds solely on the claims identified in this paragraph. Any additional claims shall not be included in the case, except at the Court's discretion on motion by a party for good cause shown or pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.

2) This case is now in the process of service. Plaintiff is advised to wait until counsel has appeared for Defendants before filing any motions, in order to give Defendants notice and an opportunity to respond to those motions. Motions filed before Defendants' counsel has filed an appearance will generally be denied as premature. Plaintiff need ...


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