United States District Court, Southern District of Illinois
ROBERT L. GREEN, # K-71866, Plaintiff,
C/O GOODWIN, J. BELFORD, and C/O BUMGARNER, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on events that occurred while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”).
On June 19, 2013, Plaintiff sued the same Defendant Belford named above, along with several other Pinckneyville officials, because they subjected him to a series of strip searches that he alleges violated his constitutional rights. Green v. Belford, et al., Case No. 13-cv-587-MJR-SCW (that case shall be referred to herein as Green I). Green I is still pending before this Court. Among other claims, Plaintiff asserts in the instant case that Defendants retaliated against him and harassed him because he pursued the claims in Green I, in an effort to deter him from prosecuting that matter.
Plaintiff’s complaint (Doc. 1) is 59 pages long, most of which consists of copies of Plaintiff’s grievances, letters, administrative responses, and affidavits from fellow inmates. His statement of claim begins on page 50, and includes the following information.
On the evening of June 26, 2013, Defendants Goodwin and Bumgarner singled Plaintiff out because of his sexual orientation and forbade him from showering with the other inmates in his housing unit. Plaintiff was required to shower alone, despite his claim that there are no rules, regulations, or memos specifying that homosexual inmates are not allowed to shower with their fellow prisoners. He complains that the only single showers in the facility are in segregation (Doc. 1, p. 50).
On July 23, 2013, Plaintiff returned from his evening college class along with a group of his classmates and used the showers with those other inmates. After he finished, Defendant Goodwin confronted him and accused him of violating her direct order to shower alone. She threatened that if he did not shower alone in the future, she would issue him a disciplinary ticket and get him kicked out of class and sent to segregation. Plaintiff claims this was the second time he was harassed and threatened in retaliation for the lawsuit he had filed against Defendant Belford and others (Green I).
The following evening (July 24, 2013), Defendant Goodwin allowed the group of students who lived on the top deck of their housing area to shower as a group. When she came to the bottom deck, where Plaintiff was housed, she let the inmates out cell by cell, in order to discourage Plaintiff and cut short his shower time.
Plaintiff claims that the above incidents involving Defendants Goodwin and Bumgarner were motivated in part by retaliation for Plaintiff’s lawsuit in Green I. He states that Defendant Belford started working in Plaintiff’s housing unit on or about June 20, 2013, and must have informed the other Defendants about the pending suit (Doc. 1, pp. 50-51).
The harassment continued on September 11, 2013, when Defendant Goodwin searched Plaintiff’s cell and property and threatened to write disciplinary tickets (Doc. 1, p. 51). Following that incident, Defendant Goodwin on a daily basis attempted to get Plaintiff to “react to her tactics” so that she could write him a ticket and send him to segregation. He never responded, and apparently he was not subjected to disciplinary action.
On September 13, 2013, when Plaintiff was leaving the vocational building, Defendant Belford called out to him to ask if he got good time for attending school. Plaintiff answered that he did not, whereupon Defendant Belford said, “Good, because you wasn’t gonna get it anyway for filing that bogus ass law suit on me [sic]” (Doc. 1, p. 51). Plaintiff claims this was a threat to his liberty interest as well as further retaliation for bringing Green I.
Several months later, on April 3, 2014, Defendant Belford was again assigned to Plaintiff’s unit during a morning count. He came to Plaintiff’s cell and loudly announced, “the only reason they single cell inmates is either he’s a predator or vulnerable [sic].” Id. Later on, Defendant Belford told Plaintiff he was taking note of his name and cell number, “so I’ll remember where you live and won’t say something I’ll be sued for later.” Id. Plaintiff asserts this conversation was a violation of his HIPAA rights, as well as further retaliation, and an attempt to subject Plaintiff to harm from other inmates who overheard the exchange.
Based on these facts, Plaintiff asserts that his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments were violated and that the threats made against him were equivalent to “the torts of a ‘hate crime’” based on his sexual orientation (Doc. 1, p. 54). He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages (Doc. 1, p. 56).
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.
For the convenience of the Court, Plaintiff’s claims shall be designated as follows. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.
Count 1: Defendants Goodwin (and Defendant Bumgarner on June 26, 2013, only) singled out Plaintiff for unequal treatment because of his sexual orientation, by preventing him from showering with other inmates, shortening his shower time, and threatening him with disciplinary action in June and July 2013, violating his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection;
Count 2: Defendant Goodwin and Defendant Bumgarner retaliated against Plaintiff for pursuing legal action in Green I, by imposing special showering rules on him; Defendant Goodwin’s retaliation included threatening Plaintiff with disciplinary action, searching his cell, and attempting to goad him into a conduct violation, between June and September 2013, in violation of the First Amendment;
Count 3: Defendant Belford retaliated against Plaintiff for suing him in Green I, by telling Plaintiff he would not be eligible for good conduct time because of that lawsuit, in violation of the First Amendment;
Count 4: Defendant Belford retaliated against Plaintiff for suing him in Green I, by suggesting to other inmates that Plaintiff was a predator or a vulnerable inmate;
Count 5: Defendant Belford’s comment that Plaintiff was either a predator or a vulnerable inmate subjected Plaintiff to a risk of harm ...