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Miller v. Duncan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 5, 2015

HARLEY THOMAS MILLER, # S-00346, Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHEN DUNCAN, and JOHN DOES 1 & 2, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to a humiliating strip search and other cruel and unusual punishment during a "shakedown" at Lawrence on July 7, 2014.

According to the complaint, Defendant Duncan (Warden/Chief Administrative Officer) ordered the Department of Corrections Tactical Team (Orange Crush) to conduct a shakedown of Plaintiff's housing unit during the 7:00am to 3:00 p.m. shift on July 7 (Doc. 1, p. 6). The John Doe Defendants #1 and #2, both correctional officers and Tactical Team members, carried out the shakedown. First, they forced Plaintiff to undergo a strip search in front of his cellmate, during which the John Doe Defendants made sexually humiliating comments and gestures directed at Plaintiff (Doc. 1, p. 8). One John Doe Defendant grabbed his own crotch, while telling Plaintiff that he had "a nice tight ass." Id.

Plaintiff was then forced to line up behind another prisoner, standing in the "nut-to-butt" position, and ordered to place his head down between the shoulders of the prisoner in front of him. Plaintiff was made to hold his neck in this chin-to-chest stress position for over two hours. During this time, Plaintiff's hands were cuffed behind his back. When Plaintiff moved his head out of this stress position because of his neck pain, a John Doe Defendant smacked Plaintiff on the back of his head and pushed his head into the man in front of him (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Finally, Plaintiff was forced to sit in another stress position for over two hours, during which he was denied access to drinking water and toilet facilities. He was then escorted back to his housing unit (Doc. 1, p. 10).

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action, which shall receive further review:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against all Defendants for subjecting Plaintiff to a humiliating strip search;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against all Defendants for subjecting Plaintiff to excessive force and physical pain.

Count 1 - Strip Search

Strip searches that are not related to legitimate security needs or are conducted in a harassing manner in order to humiliate and inflict psychological pain, may be found unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. And even if a valid penological reason existed for the search, "the manner in which the searches were conducted must itself pass constitutional muster." Mays v. Springborn, 719 F.3d 631, 634, (7th Cir. 2013) (group of inmates were strip searched together, gratuitously exposing prisoners' nude bodies to each other, while guards uttered demeaning comments) (quoting Mays v. Springborn, 575 F.3d 643, 649 (7th Cir. 2009)); Mays v. Springborn, 575 F.3d 643, 649-50 (7th Cir. 2009); Calhoun v. DeTella, 319 F.3d 936, 939 (7th Cir. 2003) (a strip search conducted in a harassing manner intended to humiliate and inflict psychological pain could violate the Eighth Amendment); see also Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408 (7th Cir. 1987) (allegation of calculated harassment by strip searches stated Eighth Amendment claim), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 935 (1987).

Under the above authority, even though there may have been a valid reason for the search, the manner in which it was allegedly conducted by the John Doe Defendants indicates that further review of Plaintiff's claim is appropriate. Plaintiff is entitled to conduct discovery to ...


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