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Phelps v. Does

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 17, 2015

KEVIN PHELPS, # K-78191, Plaintiff,


STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is a long-term inmate who is confined to a wheelchair and does not have use of his legs. He claims that he was subjected to a strip search and an invasive body cavity search that was sexually humiliating, and was then beaten by correctional officers and made to sit in his own waste. He asserts violations of his civil rights, as well as of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §12101, et seq., and/or the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. § 794.

In his complaint, Plaintiff states that at around 11:00 a.m. on July 7, 2014, his housing unit was searched by members of the Tactical Team. Defendant Officers John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 conducted the search. These Defendants did not wear name tags or badges, so Plaintiff was unable to identify them (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13). After Plaintiff was initially strip-searched, Defendant John Doe #1 made him get out of his wheelchair and told him, "Since you can't stand up, you got to get back in bed and roll over so I can check your ass hole to make sure you ain't hiding anything up there since you say you can't walk or bend over to cough" (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff got on the bed expecting a pat-down. However, Defendant John Doe #1 "put his finger in [Plaintiff's] rear end." Id. Plaintiff protested, and Defendant John Doe #1 told him, "you probably can't feel it anyway, " provoking laughter from Defendant John Doe #2, who had been observing the incident.

Plaintiff asked to speak to a lieutenant or a nurse. Defendant John Doe #1 responded by telling Plaintiff to shut the f*** up and get back in his wheelchair. When Plaintiff repeated his request, Defendant John Doe #1 told Defendant John Doe #2 to take Plaintiff to the shower and "beat his ass" (Doc. 1, p. 13). Defendant John Doe #2 hit Plaintiff twice in his side with a stick. He cuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back and told him to be quiet or he would come back and "beat [his] black ass out of that wheelchair." Id. The Defendants then kept Plaintiff in the shower with his hands cuffed. His repeated requests to be allowed to go to the bathroom were refused. Plaintiff urinated on himself because he has no bladder control, and was made to sit in his own urine for about two hours.

Plaintiff states that Defendants Moore (assistant warden) and Duncan (warden) were present during this time, and allowed the John Doe officers to violate his rights without taking any action (Doc. 1, p. 13; Doc. 1-1). Defendant Treadway (assistant warden) was "aware of the situation" yet failed to do anything. Plaintiff sent grievances to all three of these Defendants. He wrote to Defendant Godinez (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections) to complain, but received no response.

Along with his complaint, Plaintiff filed 58 pages of exhibits. Some are relevant to the above events. However, a majority of these pages contain logs, grievances, and correspondence relating to Plaintiff's complaints over being denied access to a medically authorized daily shower to address his disability-related health needs (Docs. 1-2, 1-3, 1-4). Plaintiff's statement of claim makes no mention of any incidents of shower denials, but includes only the above factual summary of the July 7, 2014, search and assault.

Plaintiff asserts claims against all Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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.

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. 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: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant John Doe #1 for subjecting Plaintiff to a humiliating and intrusive body cavity search during a strip search, and against Defendants John Doe #2, Duncan, and Moore, for observing the search and failing to intervene;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant John Doe #2 for hitting Plaintiff; against Defendant John Doe #1 for ordering the beating; and against Defendants Duncan and Moore, for observing the beating and failing to intervene;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants John Doe #1, John Doe #2, Duncan, and Moore, for denying Plaintiff access to the bathroom and leaving him to sit in his own urine;
Count 4: Claims under the ADA and/or RA for unequal treatment and/or discrimination against Plaintiff on account of his disability, including an invasive body cavity search, excessive force, and denial of access to bathroom facilities;
Count 5: Potential claims against other Unidentified (John Doe) Defendants for denying Plaintiff access to a medically-authorized daily shower.

As shall be discussed below, the claims in Counts 1-4 each state a colorable federal cause of action against one or more Defendants, and shall be allowed to proceed for further review. However, Count 5 ...

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