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Lewis v. Bludworth

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 4, 2015

JERRY LEE LEWIS, No. B20581, Plaintiff,
v.
DARLENE BLUDWORTH, DEPUTY BURGRADE, ROBERT TELLER, DEPUTY BRONE, DEPUTY MICKULAS, OFFICER SMITH, and DEPUTY SWIFT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jerry Lee Lewis, an inmate serving a 180-day term of imprisonment in the Jackson County Jail, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has recently been released from jail.

The original complaint was dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim (Doc. 10). An amended complaint was filed (Doc. 13), but Plaintiff subsequently attempted, in fits and starts, to file a second amended complaint. Despite being given multiple extensions of time, Plaintiff failed to meet the deadline for properly filing a second amended complaint. Therefore, the amended complaint (Doc. 13) is the controlling pleading, now ripe for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

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). 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).

The Amended Complaint

According to the amended complaint, after Plaintiff began filing administrative grievances, Sgt. Bludworth and Corporal Stratton (who is not a defendant to the amended complaint) ordered Deputy Mickulas to place Plaintiff in a cell that was infested with ants. The toilet/sink unit also leaked urine, and the cell had the odor of an outhouse. It is also alleged that Deputy Mickulas stole "legal" letters and documents from Plaintiff's cell.

At some point in time, an argument erupted between Plaintiff, Deputy Brone and Deputy Burgrade about Plaintiff filing grievances against Sheriff Burns (who is not a defendant to the amended complaint). Sgt. Bludworth approached Plaintiff with a stun gun and directed Brone and Burgrade to have Plaintiff gather his belongings. Brone and Burgrade then escorted Plaintiff, who is black, in a unit of all white prisoners, simultaneously announcing that the prisoners should make Plaintiff "feel at home."

Initially, Sgt. Bludworth attempted to cell Plaintiff with a known murderer, who would "shut Plaintiff up." Because that prisoner already had a cellmate, Plaintiff was celled with a inmate Manson, who is black. According to the complaint, Bludworth hoped that the two blacks would kill each other. Deputy Swift and Officer Smith subsequently brought Manson extra food trays, yelling into the cell that Manson was "not doing his job."

The section of the form complaint designated for listing the relief sought mentions the inadequate diet served at the jail, a need for unspecified medical care, overpriced commissary items, and a need for gender-specific clothing for prisoners. Compensatory damages are sought, as well as Plaintiff's release from jail. The Court also liberally construes the complaint as seeking injunctive relief.

Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following broad 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: Sgt. Bludworth and Deputy Mickulas retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of the First Amendment, and celled him under unsanitary conditions of confinement, in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and
Count 2: Deputy Brone, Deputy Burgrade, Sgt. Bludworth, Deputy Swift and Officer Smith retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of the First Amendment, and endangered his safety, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

No claim has been recognized relative to Deputy Mickulas taking Plaintiff's "legal" letters and documents" because it is unclear whether Plaintiff intends to assert a First Amendment claim, or a claim for damages based on the taking itself. In any event, that bare assertion falls short under the Twombly ...


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