United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief District Judge.
This § 1983 civil rights action stems from Plaintiff's allegations of multiple constitutional violations that occurred at Menard Correctional Center. (Doc. 2). Because Plaintiff's Complaint included several unrelated claims, the Court severed the original case into other cases. (Doc. 1). This case addresses Plaintiff's claims against his correctional counselor, Frank Lawrence, for denial of right to access the courts, retaliation, and conspiracy by failing to return over 15 grievances, refusing to assign Plaintiff a prison job, and denying Plaintiff access to his personal mail. (Doc. 1).
The case is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48). After seeking an extension of time, Plaintiff filed his response; the motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment - which is governed by Federal Rule of Procedure 56 - is proper only if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multiut Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating - based on the pleadings, affidavits and/or information obtained via discovery - the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
After a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). See also Serednyj v. Beverly Healthcare, LLC, 656 F.3d 540, 547 (7th Cir. 2011) ("When a summary judgment motion is submitted and supported by evidence... the nonmoving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials in its pleadings"). A mere scintilla of evidence supporting the non-movant's position is insufficient to overcome summary judgment; a non-movant will prevail only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion. Estate of Escobedo v. Martin, 702 F.3d 388, 403 (7th Cir. 2012); Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2012). Summary judgment is only appropriate if, on the evidence provided, no reasonable juror could return a verdict in favor of the non-movant. Carlisle v. Deere & Co., 576 F.3d 649, 653 (7th Cir. 2009).
The Court's role on summary judgment is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge witness credibility, or to determine the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether a genuine issue of triable fact exists. Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court considers the facts in a light most favorable to the non-movant - here, Plaintiff. Srail v. Vill. of Lisle, 588 F.3d 940, 948 (7th Cir. 2009).
Defendant served as Plaintiff's counselor when Plaintiff lived in Menard's "South Upper" unit. (Pl's Dep., p. 5). (Plaintiff lived on South Upper from June 22, 2010 until December 2, 2010). (Doc. 49-1, p. 32). Defendant's duties include responding to inmate grievances and submitting and voting on inmate job requests. (Doc. 49-1, p. 29). However, Defendant neither worked in the mail room nor had any responsibilities with regard to prisoner mail. (Doc. 49-1, p. 29). Defendant denies that he conspired to interfere with Plaintiff's mail or interfered directly with Plaintiff's mail. (Doc. 49-1, p. 29).
Plaintiff experienced a variety of health problems in 2010, including stomach pains, back pain, throat irritation, and asthma. (Some of those health problems are at issue in Plaintiff's other lawsuits). (Pl.'s Dep., p. 6). Plaintiff did not believe that Menard's health care unit addressed his problems adequately, and wrote Defendant numerous grievances on the subject. (Doc. 49-1, p. 6). On two different occasions, Defendant came to Plaintiff's cell and acknowledged that he had received grievances from Plaintiff. (Pl.'s Dep., p.7).
Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant with Menard's Internal Affairs office. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 8). Some time later, Defendant came by Plaintiff's cell and told Plaintiff that he had been instructed to copy Plaintiff's grievances and sent them to Gayle Walls, the Director of Nursing. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 7). The policy at Menard is for a correctional counselor to send copies of grievances regarding medical issues to the director of nursing for a response. (Doc. 49-1, p. 30). Walls would make findings when the grievance addressed health issues. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 8).
Plaintiff assumed from the conversation regarding the procedure for medical grievances that Internal Affairs had spoken to Defendant about his complaints, but Defendant did not state that directly. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 19-20). Defendant, in fact, denies speaking to Internal Affairs about Plaintiff. (Doc. 49-1, p. 31).
Defendant implied that Walls had fifteen to sixteen of Plaintiff's grievances. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 7-8). Defendant claims he sent copies of all of Plaintiff's grievances to Walls and relied on her to respond to them. (Doc. 49-1, p. 31). Walls' response would have come to Defendant, who would have forwarded to Plaintiff. (Doc. 49-1, p. 31). Plaintiff never received responses on any of the grievances that were allegedly given to Walls for responses. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 9).
One day, Defendant came to Plaintiff's cell to ask what was wrong with him (i.e., why Plaintiff was filing so many grievances). (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 11-12). Plaintiff explained that he had health issues. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 12). Defendant told him to "stop filing motherfucking grievances or else." (Pl.'s Dep. ...