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Calvin Merritte v. Ingram

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 2, 2015

CALVIN MERRITTE (No. R53322), LEONDOUS COLEMAN (No. S13805), PRISONERS, and CORRECTIONAL STAFF, Plaintiffs,
v.
STEPHANIE INGRAM, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Calvin Merritte and Leondous Coleman, inmates in Pinckneyville Correctional Center, bring this action for deprivations of their constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on a wide variety of incidents that occurred at seven correctional facilities from 2009 to the present. All prisoners within the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), and all "Correctional Staff" are also listed as plaintiffs.[1] Seventy-two IDOC officials are named as defendants, and 11 "group" defendants, such as Correctional Staff, Mailroom Staff, Lieutenants and Dietary Supervisors.

In accordance with Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852 (7th Cir. 2004), the Court explained the hazards of joint litigation and afforded Plaintiffs Merritte and Coleman an opportunity to back out of this case without incurring a filing fee (Doc. 6). A response was filed, indicating that both plaintiffs wanted to proceed, but the document was signed only by Coleman (Doc. 8). Despite Merritte failing to sign the document indicating he desired to proceed, the Boriboune directive (Doc. 6) specified that this was an "opt out" situation and a failure to respond would leave a plaintiff in the case and responsible for the filing fee.

Merritte and Coleman also have both signed and filed a form "Motion for Hearing" (Doc. 9). They request a hearing on their: (1) response to the Boriboune directive (Doc. 8); and (2) signed authorizations to proceed before a magistrate judge (Doc. 7). With respect to the opportunity to opt out of the case, there is no readily apparent reason for a hearing and the motion offers no explanation for the request. Each plaintiff could opt out of the case, and if either of them did not affirmatively opt out, it was made clear that that person would remain a plaintiff. They both have opted in. Relative to Plaintiffs' signed authorizations to proceed before a magistrate judge, Plaintiffs have not explained why a hearing is requested. More important, this case cannot be referred to a magistrate judge for all further proceedings until it passes preliminary review and all defendants consent to have the case handled by a magistrate judge. For these reasons, Plaintiffs' motion for a hearing (Doc. 9) is DENIED in all respects.

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

Considering the number of defendants, the complaint is relatively succinct: 25 pages, with the narrative broken into 98 numbered paragraphs-most stating a single, self-contained allegation (only nine of which pertain to Coleman; the others are all specific to Merritte). Plaintiffs then groups the allegations into nine broad claims. Further combining overlapping or similar claims, the Court construes the complaint as presenting the following broad counts.[2]

Count 1: Various Defendants retaliated against Plaintiffs, in violation of the First Amendment;
Count 2: Various Defendants endangered Plaintiffs by labeling them "snitches, " in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 3: Various Defendants failed to protect Plaintiffs when they required them to actually incur physical harm or incur discipline before they could qualify for protective custody, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 4: Various Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the danger of physical assault from other inmates over the use of the telephone, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 5: Various Defendants used excessive force against Plaintiff Merritte, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 6: Various Defendants denied Plaintiff Merritte due process in connection with his requests ...

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