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Montanez v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 20, 2015

PIERRE MONTANEZ, No. M30561, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Pierre Montanez, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the events surrounding a disciplinary conviction after a knife was found in Plaintiff's cell. The original complaint was dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim (Doc. 9). Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration was denied (Doc. 20). An amended complaint (Doc. 10) is now before the Court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal.- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Miscellaneous Motions

As a preliminary matter, multiple motions filed by Plaintiff must be addressed. Plaintiff's motions all stem from a snafu in the electronic filing of the original complaint. Plaintiff appears to distrust the electronic filing system and/or the prison officials tasked with transmitting documents to the Clerk of Court.

Plaintiff's "Motion for Clarification and Courtesy Copy Amended Complaint and Attach # (1) Exhibits Part 1" (Doc. 11) essentially seeks a copy of the 96-page amended complaint (Doc. 10) in order to prove that all 96 pages were transmitted to the Court. Plaintiff explains that he received a notice of electronic filing from the Clerk of Court indicating that the 96-page amended complaint was filed, but the prison officials who transmitted the document on Plaintiff's behalf only returned to him "Attachment 2, " the 37-page affidavit of Geoffrey W. Freeman ( see Doc. 10-2). The notice of electronic filing serves as confirmation of what the Court received and, in this instance, there is no discrepancy. Any questions regarding what happened with Plaintiff's documents at the prison must be addressed to prison officials. If Plaintiff would like a copy of the amended complaint, he may submit a request to the Clerk of Court, accompanied by the copying cost (50¢ per page). For these reasons, Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 11) will be DENIED.

Plaintiff also seeks leave to file a supplement to Exhibit 23 (Doc. 10-2)-the typed affidavit of Geoffrey W. Freeman and supporting documentation. Although amendment by interlineation is not permitted under Local Rule 15.1, in this instance, where an exhibit is being added and no claim is altered, the Court will make a rare exception in order to move this case along. Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 12) will be GRANTED. The Clerk of Court will file the supplemental exhibit that was submitted with this motion. The supplemental exhibit will be considered to be a part of the amended complaint (Doc. 10).

Plaintiff's "Motion for Clarification..." (Doc. 13) merely reflects Plaintiff's confusion regarding the practice of filing a motion seeking leave to file a document (e.g., Doc. 12), but not filing the accompanying proposed document until the Court has authorized the filing. More specifically, Plaintiff seeks clarification of what became of his supplement to Exhibit 23. As just discussed, the supplement will be filed contemporaneously with this order. Consequently, Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 13) will be DENIED.

Plaintiff's "Motion to Perfect Delivery of Documents by Means of Signature" (Doc. 14), is an expression of Plaintiff's distrust of the prison officials who electronically transmit documents to the Court on his behalf. Plaintiff appears to be asking that prison officials be ordered to properly transmit documents to the Court. Although there was a transmission snafu related to the original complaint, Plaintiff was not prejudiced, in that he was allowed to file an amended complaint (and the Court can now say that the additional materials clearly would not have saved the original complaint). Because Plaintiff is pro se, and because the Court recognizes that there are occasional glitches in the electronic transmission of documents (from prisons and law offices alike) the Court does not perceive any prejudice to Plaintiff, or any need for further action. The Clerk of Court works closely with the prisons regarding the electronic filing of documents, and the system is continually being monitored and improved on both ends. For these reasons, Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 14) will be DENIED.

Plaintiff's "Motion for Civil Docket Sheet" (Doc. 15) will also be DENIED. Plaintiff indicates that he wants to ensure that he is notified of all activity in his case. The Court's electronic filing system automatically sends a notice any time something occurs in the case.

Most recently, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting a copy of the docket sheet, and seeking the "substitution" of the undersigned district judge in order to expedite review of the amended complaint (Doc. 21). If Plaintiff is dissatisfied with the notices of case activity ("NEF's") sent by the Clerk of Court, he may pay for a full copy of the docket sheet (which at present is 4 pages and would cost $2). Insofar as Plaintiff seeks to have this case assigned to another district judge, he has not cited any bias; rather, he is merely impatient. With the filing of this order, all pending motions will have been addressed, and the amended complaint will be served upon the defendants. For these reasons, Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 21) will be DENIED in all respects.

The Amended Complaint

According to the amended complaint, on April 14, 2014, the cell Plaintiff Montanez inhabited with inmate Freeman was searched by the Tactical Team and a knife was found. Plaintiff and Freeman were questioned separately and there was insufficient evidence to determine which inmate owned the knife. Warden Kim Butler told Plaintiff that if he would say the weapon was Freeman's, and that he had seen Freeman in actual possession of the knife, Plaintiff "would be excluded from the whole deal"-presumably meaning that Plaintiff would not face any punishment. Warden Butler explained that if Plaintiff did not implicate his cellmate, the Adjustment Committee-at the Warden's direction-would find Plaintiff guilty of possessing the knife. Plaintiff refused to provide a false statement.

Although there was no evidence linking Plaintiff or his cellmate to the knife, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary report for possessing dangerous contraband ( see Doc. 10-1, p. 3 (the disciplinary report was issued by a correctional officer who is not a defendant to this case). Lt. Scott, the Adjustment Committee chairperson, refused Plaintiff's request for an investigation and polygraph examination. Plaintiff was ultimately convicted of the disciplinary offense and punished with one year in segregation, demotion to C grade, commissary restrictions, yard restrictions, and other associated indignities, such as having to wear a striped ...

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