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Smith v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 18, 2015

RONALD SMITH, #R-07226, Plaintiff,
v.
KIM BUTLER, OFFICER CLARK, HEAD WARDEN JOHN DOE, TACTICAL COMMANDER JOHN DOE, and INTERNAL AFFAIRS JOHN DOES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ronald Smith, an inmate currently incarcerated at Western Illinois Correctional Center, brings this pro se civil rights action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint arises out of events that occurred while Plaintiff was an inmate at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard").

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

The complaint is before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). 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). 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011); Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint survives preliminary review under § 1915A.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, on or about April 8, 2014, the tactical team for the Illinois Department of Corrections conducted a shakedown of the South Upper cell house at Menard. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff and all of the other South Upper inmates were rear handcuffed, escorted out of the cell house, and forced to stand in a line with their heads down. Id.

While standing in line, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Clark, a tactical officer standing next to him, placed his hand on Plaintiff's neck, squeezed, and forcefully bent Plaintiff's neck down toward the ground for approximately twenty seconds. Id. As Defendant Clark was holding Plaintiff's head down, another unknown tactical officer told Defendant Clark to "chill out" because internal affairs was watching. Id. Plaintiff claims that because he was rear handcuffed, Defendant Clark's action caused him to suffer excruciating pain in the neck and shoulder area. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Clark's actions were not undertaken in a "good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline." Id. at 11. Instead, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Clark acted "maliciously and sadistically to cause harm to Plaintiff." Id. Plaintiff never received a disciplinary ticket, and he insists that he was complying with all orders.

In addition to other members of the tactical team, Defendant Butler (assistant warden of Menard) and Defendant Head Warden John Doe were present. Plaintiff believes that Defendant Butler and the Head Warden observed Defendant Clark's actions (because they were present in the yard), but they did nothing to stop Defendant Clark. Id. at 7-8.

Next, Plaintiff and the other inmates from his cell house were escorted to the chapel where members of the tactical team forced them to stand with handcuffs behind their backs and their heads facing the floor for a "prolonged period of time, " even though there were chairs available. Id. at 8. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Tactical Commander John Doe authorized and/or ordered tactical team members to enforce this standing position. Id. at 12. After standing in this same position for an extended period of time, some of the inmates began to fall to the ground, including Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts that the pain in his neck and shoulder was "excruciating" and "unbearable." Id. at 8. Members of the medical technical team attended to Plaintiff and the other inmates who had collapsed. Only after members of the medical team intervened were the inmates allowed to sit down. Id. Even then, members of the tactical team continued to taunt the inmates. Plaintiff was advised by the medical technical team that they would follow up with him later, but he contends that they never did. (Doc. 1, Ex. E2). He claims that his neck and shoulder continued to hurt for the next couple of weeks.

Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the events that occurred on April 8, 2014. The grievance officer was unable to substantiate the allegations, and the grievance was forward to the office of internal affairs for further investigation. Id. at 9. On June 13, 2014, Plaintiff received another response from the grievance office, which stated in pertinent part that the office "cannot identify anyone the offender is referencing" and that Plaintiff had not named "Wardens or tact members or even describe them for an investigation." (Doc. 1, Ex. E1). The response further noted that the Statewide Tactical Commander, who had been contacted, had advised "procedure was followed and allegations of misconduct were denied." Id. Plaintiff asserts that the grievance officer ignored information he had in fact provided identifying Officer Clark, Assistant Warden Butler, and the Head Warden in a previous grievance. (Doc. 1, Ex. D).

Plaintiff asserts claims against Tactical Officer Clark, Assistant Warden Butler, Head Warden John Doe, Tactical Commander John Doe, and unnamed/unspecified officers in Internal Affairs.[1]

Discussion

To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court finds it appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff's pro se complaint, as shown below. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial ...


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