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Hilliard v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 25, 2015

DEON D. HILLIARD (No. R63769) and DENZEL L. HARRIS (No. M47960), Plaintiffs,
v.
S.A. GODINEZ, and JAMES LUTH, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Deon D. Hilliard and Denzel L. Harris, inmates in Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"), bring this action for deprivations of their constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the conditions of confinement at Vandalia. In accordance with Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852 (7th Cir. 2004), by order dated January 28, 2015, Hilliard and Harris were informed that they each would have to pay a filing fee, warned about the hazards associated with joint litigation, and given an opportunity to opt out of this action. Neither plaintiff has opted out.

Although Hilliard and Harris are proceeding with the knowledge that they each are now obligated to pay the $400 filing fee ($350 if pauper status is granted), neither of them has paid the $400 fee or properly moved for leave to proceed as a pauper under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. See generally Jones v. Assoc. of Flight Attendants-CWA, No. 14-1482, 2015 WL 400905 at *3 (7th Cir. Jan. 30, 2015) (requiring either payment of the filing fee or a motion to proceed as a pauper). The joint motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) that was submitted along with the complaint is not signed by either inmate. Furthermore, neither of them has filed a certified copy of their prison trust fund account statement, as required. Plaintiffs will be granted a brief period of time within which to either pay the filing fees or file motions for pauper status (accompanied by the required trust fund statements). In the interim, the Court will proceed with the required preliminary review of the complaint, which is necessary whether the filing fees are paid or pauper status is granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. If at the expiration of the prescribed deadline the fee issue has not been resolved relative to either plaintiff, that plaintiff will be dismissed from this action without prejudice, and the full $400 filing fee will be collected pursuant to the procedure set forth in Section 1915(b)(2).

The Complaint

Plaintiffs Hilliard and Harris contend that they and the other inmates at Vandalia Correctional Center are being exposed to mold, mildew, dust, chipping paint, and asbestos-covered pipes. Harris sleeps beneath an old, rusty heater and poorly patched ceiling. Harris is described as having a "skin irritation" caused by these conditions. Plaintiffs have purportedly tried to contact Warden Luth to secure relief, to no avail. A grievance was also submitted, requesting to speak to S.A. Godinez, Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Plaintiffs ask the Court to "step in" relative to the conditions of their confinement; they also request that they be transferred out of Vandalia Correctional Center. Harris and Hilliard also pray that they be "justly compensated for being exposed to unhealthy[, ] hazardous conditions."

Based on those allegations, the Court construes the complaint as asserting the following overarching claim:

Count 1: Director Godinez and Warden Luth, individually and in their official capacities, have subjected Plaintiff to unhealthy conditions of confinement that amount to "cruel and unusual punishment, " in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The complaint contains additional information regarding the prison law library being closed, and Plaintiff Hilliard having "mental health problems." The Court does not construe those allegations as being a part of the "conditions of confinement" claim, but instead as bearing some relation to Plaintiffs' pro se status. Any intended claim based upon those facts should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Discussion

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint 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 ...

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