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Moore v. Madison County Jail

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 5, 2015

DEMETRIUS D. MOORE, #71174, Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Demetrius D. Moore, who is currently detained at Madison County Jail ("Jail"), brings this action against the Jail and Jail Superintendent Gary Bost pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that he has been subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Jail (Doc. 1, p. 5). He seeks monetary damages (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.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff is currently housed at Madison County Jail ("Jail") in Madison County, Illinois. There, he is allegedly exposed to "filt[h]y" conditions (Doc. 1, p. 5). The statement of claim lists eight conditions giving rise to this action: (1) foul odor of human waste; (2) very small amounts of food per serving; (3) inadequate access to the law library; (4) denial of recreation; (5) insects; (6) peeling paint; (7) denial of cleaning supplies; and (8) water on the dayroom floor (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff concludes his statement of claim by stating, "[T]his is a constitutional right violation" (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Along with the complaint, Plaintiff filed a copy of three grievances (Doc. 1, pp. 7-9). They are dated December 22, 2014 (two grievances), and December 23, 2014 (one grievance). In them, Plaintiff complains of those conditions described above, but he does not refer to the defendants. The grievances are also not addressed to anyone in particular. Plaintiff now sues the Jail and Jail Superintendent Bost for monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 6).


The applicable legal standard for Plaintiff's conditions of confinement claim (Count 1) depends on his status as a pretrial detainee or an inmate while he was housed at the Jail. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs claims of pretrial detainees, and the Eighth Amendment applies to claims of inmates. See Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012); Forest v. Prine, 620 F.3d 739, 744-45 (7th Cir. 2010); Klebanowski v. Sheahan, 540 F.3d 633, 637 (7th Cir. 2008). However, in cases involving unconstitutional conditions of confinement, the Court can look to both Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment case law for guidance. Id.

Not all prison conditions trigger Eighth Amendment scrutiny-only deprivations of basic human needs, like food, medical care, sanitation, and physical safety. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981); see also James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992). Jail officials violate the Eighth Amendment when they show deliberate indifference to adverse conditions that deny "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, " including "adequate sanitation and personal hygiene items." Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (citation omitted); Rice, 675 F.3d at 664).

Even if certain conditions are not individually serious enough to work constitutional violations, the Seventh Circuit has observed that "conditions of confinement may violate the Constitution in combination when they have a mutually enforcing effect that produces the deprivation of a single, identifiable human need.'" Budd, 711 F.3d at 842 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 304 (1991); see also Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 721 (7th Cir. 1995)). At the early pleadings stage, the allegations in the complaint suggest that some conditions at the Jail, whether alone or in combination, may violate constitutional norms. However, the analysis does not end there.

In order to survive preliminary review on a claim of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, the complaint must also suggest that a particular prison official had a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298. The relevant state of mind is deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety; the official must be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he also must draw the inference. See, e.g., Farmer, 511 U.S. 837; Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303; Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Del Raine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024, 1032 (7th Cir. 1994).

Although the Jail and Jail Superintendent Bost are named as Defendants, the complaint does not suggest that either exhibited deliberate indifference toward Plaintiff's health or safety. Both are listed in the case caption and the list of defendants, but nowhere else. Neither Defendant is mentioned in the statement of claim or in any of the attached grievances. This is insufficient to state a claim against either Defendant. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998). Section 1983 requires more by creating a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, "to be liable under [Section] 1983, an individual defendant must have caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation." Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809, 810 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations ...

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