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Brown v. Godinez

United States District Court, Southern District of Illinois

March 5, 2015

FLOYD BROWN, No. K53884, Plaintiff,



Plaintiff Floyd Brown, a transgender inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of her[1] constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on repeatedly being denied a prison job; being denied a bra; being denied timely, consistent medical care associated with her gender reassignment; generally being treated less favorably than heterosexual inmates; and the conditions of confinement at Lawrence.

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 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).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff Brown repeatedly sought and was denied a prison job. A variety of innocuous reasons were given, which Plaintiff perceives as pretenses for discriminating against her because she is transgender. Plaintiff witnessed other inmates receiving job assignments, even though they should have been denied work under the criteria used to deny Plaintiff work. Defendant Mary Weaver is in charge of job assignments; she ignored Plaintiff's many job requests. Defendants Salvadore Godinez, Stephen B. Duncan, Richard Moore, Beth Treadway, Kyle Henton, Diana Musgrave and Darren Williams are described as having "at some point responded to grievance[s] and denied Plaintiff … an employment opportunity. Each Defendant continuously passes the buck." (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Director of Health Care at Lawrence, Dr. John Coe, and Warden Stephen B. Duncan allegedly discriminated against Plaintiff because she is transgender. Plaintiff requested a bra and was "denied on every hand" (Doc. 1, p. 7). Counselor Darren Williams did not grant Plaintiff's related grievance.

It is further alleged that Dr. Coe and Wexford Medical Health Sources, the corporate healthcare provider for the prison, have been "grossly indifferent" to Plaintiff's medical needs associated with her gender reassignment. Medications are not delivered on schedule, and bras are denied-as already mentioned. Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") Salvadore Godinez ignored related grievances.

Plaintiff also takes issue with Lawrence being designated as a "Level 2" (less harsh) prison, but nevertheless lacking in conditions of confinement prescribed for a prison at that level. According to the complaint, inmates are denied daily opportunities for exercise, and the day room lacks working showers, faucets, toilets, a phone, tables, and a television. Also, the working toilets flush automatically every 15-to-30 minutes, resulting in inmates being splashed with the mix of urine and feces that accumulates between timed flushes. Director Godinez has ignored related grievances.

Citing what several transgender support organizations and publications set as the "standard of care" for gender transition medical treatment, Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Coe, Wexford Medical Heath Sources, Warden Duncan, Assistant Warden Tredway, Assistant Warden Moore and Counselor Henton denied Plaintiff complete and adequate medical treatment.

The complaint references the Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and the denial of adequate medical care, and the Fourteenth Amendment right to the equal protection of the laws. The ten named defendants are sued in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Based on the allegations in 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: C/O Mary Weaver repeatedly denied Plaintiff a prison job because Plaintiff is transgender, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment;
Count 2: Dr. John Coe and Warden Stephen B. Duncan denied Plaintiff a bra, in violation of the Equal Protection ...

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