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Grubb v. Korte

United States District Court, Southern District of Illinois

January 22, 2015

ERIC A. GRUBB, # K-96055, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF P. KORTE and SANDRA FUNK, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge

Plaintiff Eric Grubb, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, brings this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). According to the complaint, Plaintiff was wrongfully transferred from Western Illinois Correctional Center (“Western”) to Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) on December 3, 2014. Plaintiff has three known enemies at Menard, which the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) has allegedly documented, and Plaintiff claims that transfer to Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) was more appropriate. Plaintiff now names Jeff Korte (Western’s warden) and Sandra Funk (IDOC’s transfer coordinator) as defendants in this action. Plaintiff seeks $300, 000.00 for pain and suffering and a prison transfer (Doc. 1, p. 6).

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). The complaint does not survive preliminary review under this standard and shall be dismissed.

The Complaint

According to the allegations in the complaint, Plaintiff was transferred from Western to Menard on December 3, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 5). Beyond describing Plaintiff’s transfer as “disciplinary” in nature, the complaint provides no other reason for his transfer.

Plaintiff has three known enemies at Menard. Of these, one is a high-ranking gang member. The IDOC has documented these three relationships, and Plaintiff also discussed them with one of Western’s counselors, T. Moore.[1] Because of these known enemies, Counselor Moore requested that Plaintiff be transferred to Stateville. However, Defendant Funk ultimately changed this to Menard. Plaintiff claims that his transfer to Menard places him in danger. He offers no more specifics, including any suggestion that Plaintiff is housed near his enemies, has been threatened by his enemies, or has actually been harmed by them.

Plaintiff admits that Western and Menard have a grievance procedure, which he did not exhaust before filing this action. When he inquired into the procedure for challenging the transfer, Counselor Moore (at Western) told Plaintiff that the issue is “nongrievable” (sic) (Doc. 1, p. 5). Counselor Moore allegedly agreed to testify to this fact.

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Korte and Funk pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, the complaint does not mention any constitutional basis for relief. Plaintiff seeks a prison transfer and $300, 000.00 in monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Discussion

The complaint fails to articulate a viable claim against Defendants Korte and Funk. Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “Section 1983 creates a federal remedy against anyone who, under color of state law, deprives ‘any citizen of the United States . . . of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.’” Planned Parenthood of Indiana, Inc. v. Commissioner of Indiana State Dept. Health, 699 F.3d 962, 972 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). In the complaint, Plaintiff invokes no constitutional or statutory basis for relief. Upon review, the Court can find none.

As a general matter, Plaintiff’s transfer to Menard – a prison that he does not prefer – states no claim for relief when viewed in terms of a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim (Count 1). The United States Supreme Court has long recognized that the Constitution does not guarantee placement in any particular prison. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 224 (1976). This is because “prisoners possess neither liberty nor property in their classifications and prison assignments. States may move their charges to any prison in the system.” DeTomaso v. McGinnis, 970 F.2d 211, 212 (7th Cir. 1992) (citing Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236 (1976)). Plaintiff’s transfer to Menard, standing alone, does not give rise to a cognizable claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. Accordingly, Count 1 against Defendant Korte and Funk shall be dismissed with prejudice.

But Plaintiff is not just complaining about his transfer to a different prison. He challenges his transfer to a more dangerous prison, i.e., one that houses three of his known enemies. His complaint suggests that Defendants Korte and/or Funk failed to protect him from the potential harm he may face at Menard. These allegations ...


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