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Turley v. Clendenin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 2, 2015

GREGORY J. TURLEY, # N-080830, Plaintiff,
v.
JENNIFER L. CLENDENIN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that Defendant Clendenin has retaliated against him after he filed grievances alleging that she interfered with his access to the prison law library and was unqualified for her job.

More specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Clendenin worked in the law library in October 2011. He filed a grievance against her on October 6, 2011, in which he asserted that she was not qualified to serve as a paralegal assistant and that she had failed to conduct tours in the West Cellhouse to determine whether inmates on lockdown had upcoming court deadlines ("Exhibit A, " found at Doc. 1, pp. 12-18).

Plaintiff knew that Defendant Clendenin was aware of his grievance against her, because she made hostile comments to him in reference to his "lies." On December 9, 2011, Plaintiff gave Defendant Clendenin a motion to be filed in this Court ("Exhibit B, " Doc. 1, pp. 19-21) in which he requested an FBI investigation of some correctional officers who had recently assaulted him (Doc. 1, p. 6). He believes that Defendant Clendenin immediately "alerted" those officers that he had filed the "inflammatory" motion in order to retaliate against him and to induce those officers to take action in retaliation.

The very next day, December 10, 2011, officers Todaro and Maue "attacked" Plaintiff, assaulting him and shaking down his cell. During the assault/shakedown, Todaro divulged his knowledge of the grievance by mentioning Plaintiff's request for the FBI investigation and stating that Plaintiff had misspelled his name (which Plaintiff had done). As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was placed in segregation.

Between March 13, 2012, and April 1, 2012, Defendant Clendenin allegedly further retaliated against Plaintiff by destroying numerous electronic case filing notices that had been transmitted to Plaintiff from this Court. Soon after this, Defendant Clendenin was removed from her position in the law library (Doc. 1, p. 7).

In addition to requesting nominal and punitive damages against Defendant Clendenin, Turley seeks an injunction against her to protect him from further retaliation. He states that Defendant Clendenin was reassigned back to a law library position in 2014. As recently as December 5 and December 12, 2014, she refused to issue Plaintiff a law library pass, even though she knew he had a court deadline (Doc. 1, p. 9).

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.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that at this stage of the litigation, Plaintiff has articulated a colorable First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Clendenin.

Prison officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing grievances or otherwise complaining about their conditions of confinement. See, e.g., Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir. 2012); Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005 (7th Cir. 2002); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607 (7th Cir. 2000); Babcock v. White, 102 F.3d 267 (7th Cir. 1996); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139 (7th Cir. 1988). Furthermore, "[a]ll that need be specified is the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). Identifying the protected activity and the act(s) of retaliation is all that is necessary to state a claim of improper retaliation. Id. Plaintiff has done so in the instant case.

At issue here is whether Plaintiff experienced an adverse action that would likely deter First Amendment activity in the future, and whether the First Amendment activity was "at least a motivating factor" in the Defendant's decision to take the retaliatory action. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 551 (7th Cir. 2009). This is a question that cannot be resolved at the pleading stages of this case. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claim shall proceed for further review.

Disposition

The Clerk of Court shall prepare for Defendant CLENDENIN: (1) Form 5 (Notice of a Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of a Summons), and (2) Form 6 (Waiver of Service of Summons). The Clerk is DIRECTED to mail these forms, a copy of the complaint, and this Memorandum and Order to Defendant's place of employment as identified by Plaintiff. If Defendant fails to sign and return the Waiver of Service of Summons (Form 6) to the Clerk within 30 days from the date the forms were sent, the Clerk shall take appropriate steps to effect formal service on Defendant, ...


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