United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.
Plaintiff Cijae Hollins, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against three high-ranking officialsat the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") and ten unknown officials at the Du Quoin Impact Incarceration Program and Dixon Springs Impact Incarceration Program. According to the complaint, Plaintiff was injured by an officer at Du Quoin in August 2014. After reporting the incident, he was transferred out of Du Quoin and eventually into the Dixon Springs Impact Incarceration Program. There, Plaintiff claims that staff continued to treat him poorly and issued him a false disciplinary ticket. Plaintiff now asserts claims against Defendants for violating his rights under the United States Constitution and other federal laws. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief. This includes a preliminary and permanent injunction expunging Plaintiff's false disciplinary ticket and transferring him to another facility.
Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the 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). Only one of Plaintiff's claims survives preliminary review under this standard.
While participating in the Du Quoin Impact Incarceration Program ("Du Quoin"), Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted. On August 29, 2014, an Impact Incarceration Program ("IIP") officerentered Plaintiff's dorm and "announce[d] a sound off" (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff responded loudly. When the IIP officer told Plaintiff to quiet down, Plaintiff explained that he misunderstood the order; he thought he was supposed to use a loud voice. The officer called Plaintiff a "dipsh*t" (Doc. 1, p. 5). The other inmates laughed.
Another Du Quoin officer, who is identified in the complaint as Defendant John Doe No. 4, then ordered a group of inmates to stand with their noses and toes against the wall. When they did so, Defendant Doe No. 4 "walked down the line and with a closed fist punched all of [the inmates] in the back of [their] heads" (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff sustained a "busted" mouth, which began to bleed. He suffered from a headache and mouth pain. He spit some of this blood onto the floor.
When Defendant John Doe No. 5 asked Plaintiff if he spit onto the floor, Plaintiff denied doing so. He also explained, however, that his mouth was "busted" and bleeding. Twice, Defendant Doe No. 5 made Plaintiff go to the restroom and wash his face. Plaintiff was then forced to "carry a log" as punishment for 20-30 minutes (Doc. 1, p. 6).
On August 30, 2014, Plaintiff asked an unknown first shift officerhow to report the incident. The officer instructed Plaintiff to fill out a request for the counselor. Plaintiff did so. Soon thereafter, the same officer told Plaintiff to report to the counselor's office, where an unknown lieutenantmet Plaintiff and took his statement. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff and six other inmates were transferred out of Du Quoin to Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville").
At Pinckneyville, Plaintiff was examined by a nurse, who took photographs of his injuries (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff then provided a statement to an internal affairs officer, who asked whether Plaintiff would submit to a lie detector test, but one was never conducted. Instead, the internal affairs officer told Plaintiff, and the other six inmates, that they would not have to return to Du Quoin. All seven inmates were then escorted to segregation, where they remained until their transfer to Dixon Springs Impact Incarceration Program ("Dixon Springs") on September 2, 2014.
Plaintiff complains of harassment by unknown officersand inmates at Dixon Springs. The unknown officers repeatedly told Plaintiff they would make sure that he went to jail. Despite complying with "all [of] the rules, " Plaintiff alleges that he was "constantly... written demerit cards" (Doc. 1, p. 7). Officers called Plaintiff a "snitch." He asked Lieutenant Turner for a job, but his request was denied after Lieutenant Turner explained that Plaintiff would not be at the facility long enough to have a job; Lieutenant Turner then said, "[y]ou['re] going to jail[.] I'm going to make sure of it... Now get the h*ll out of my face before I slap the f*ck out of you" (Doc. 1, p. 7).
On an unknown date, a lieutenant called Plaintiff out of the dorm and asked him to retell his version of the August 2014 incident. An investigator, Defendant John Doe No. 9, joined the interview. When Plaintiff recounted the events, Defendant Doe No. 9 called Plaintiff a liar and accused him of influencing the other six inmates. Defendant Doe No. 9 tried to coerce Plaintiff into changing his story. When Plaintiff refused, Defendant Doe No. 9 wrote a report that Plaintiff did not consider accurate. Therefore, Plaintiff refused to sign it. Defendant Doe No. 9 and another officer signed the report, saying that Plaintiff "refused" to sign it (Doc. 1, p. 8).
Around September 19, 2014, Plaintiff asked another inmate to quiet down during physical training, so that the group would not be punished (Doc. 1, p. 9). The other inmate pushed Plaintiff. An unknown lieutenant pulled the inmate out of line. Defendant John Doe No. 10 then ordered Plaintiff to stand with his nose and toes against the wall and tell his version of the events that had transpired.
When Plaintiff did so, Defendant Doe No. 10 yelled at him, saying "I don't believe you. [T]hat might have worked at Du Quoin but not here" (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff was then required to "carry a log, " and Defendant Doe No. 10 later issued Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket. Plaintiff alleges that the inmate who shoved Plaintiff was "allowed to write a case note on [Plaintiff], " which stated that Plaintiff refused to carry a log. Plaintiff alleges that he did not refuse to carry a log, but simply questioned the lieutenant's decision not to make both inmates do so together.
Defendant Doe No. 10 responded to this challenge by yelling in Plaintiff's face and "snatching" his hat so hard that he fell onto solid rocks while carrying a heavy log. Defendant Doe No. 10 then walked Plaintiff to the administration building and told him that he was going to jail for making false accusations against staff. After pleading his innocence, Plaintiff "was then giv[en] a yellow jumpsuit and shackled." Plaintiff now claims that IDOC officials have a custom or practice of blaming inmates for their own wrongdoings.
Plaintiff generally raises a claim against Defendants for a violation of his "rights under the constitution and laws of the United States" (Doc. 1, p. 11). The complaint does not mention any particular constitutional right or law. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages. He specifically requests a preliminary and permanent injunction, requiring Defendants Godinez, Taylor, and Bates to expunge his disciplinary ticket from his record and transfer him to a minimum security institution.
The allegations in the complaint set forth a chronology of events followed by a general assertion that Defendants violated Plaintiff's "rights under the constitution and laws of the United States" (Doc. 1, p. 11). No specific claims are asserted against anyone. Defendants are not identified, or referred to in the complaint, with any specificity or consistency. Under these circumstances, the Court deems it most appropriate to organize its discussion of the allegations by reference to each individual addressed in the complaint. When reviewing the allegations against each individual under Section 1915A, the Court finds only one claim, i.e., for excessive force, that survives preliminary review. The Court will discuss that claim first.
A. John Doe No. 4
Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim (Count 1) against Defendant John Doe No. 4 at this time. This defendant is an officer at Du Quoin, who allegedly ordered Plaintiff and several other inmates to line up with their noses and toes against the wall before he punched each one of them with a closed fist in the ...