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Miller v. Walton

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 14, 2015

ROBERT E. MILLER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
J. S. WALTON, MR. SCHUMER, MR. BROOKS, MR. MALCOLM, MR. BENNETT, MR. BUSER, MS. BYRAM, MR. BURGESS, MS. SIEREVELD, MR. COPE, PAUL M. LAIRD, RICHARD SCHOTT, and HARRELL WATTS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Miller is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. (Doc. 1 at 1.) Proceeding pro se, Miller has filed a Bivens action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1331, along with claims under other federal statutes. ( Id. at 4.) Miller alleges a number of claims concerning his tenure at Marion, including claims related to the conditions in the Communications Management Unit at Marion, the handling of his incident reports, threats by other prisoners, the failure of prison officials to protect him from those threats, and transfers to other prison units or programs. ( Id. at 1-4.) Miller seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief, and has also filed a motion seeking Rule 65 relief. (Doc. 1 at 17-18; Doc. 3 at 6.)

This matter is now before the Court for an expedited review of Miller's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court shall review a "complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a government entity." During this preliminary review pursuant to § 1915A, the court "shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, " if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted" or if it "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief."

Background

In March 2011, Miller was placed in the Special Housing Unit at the United States Penitentiary in Lee, Virginia. (Doc. 1 at 6.) While in the Special Housing Unit, an officer with the Bureau of Prisons' Counterterrorism Unit opened Miller's mail addressed to the United States Attorney's Office in Atlanta and, given the content of the mail, charged Miller with extortion. ( Id. at 7.) Miller did not take kindly to the charge and wrote a letter to the officer, calling him "a sick human being" and accusing him of terrorism. ( Id. ) The officer dubbed Miller's letter a threat and, according to Miller, conspired with officials to get Miller assigned to the Communications Management Unit at Lee. ( Id. ) Communications Management Units are "self-contained general population unit[s]" in place at some federal prisons "whose prisoners are placed there because authorities believe these inmates need to have their communications closely monitored." See Lindh v. Warden, Federal Correctional Inst., Terre Haute, Ind., No. 2:09-cv-00215, 2012 WL 379737, at *2 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 3, 2012).

Miller entered the Communications Management Unit at Lee on September 13, 2011, and was moved to units at other prisons until his ultimate transfer to the unit at Marion on or before 2014. (Doc. 1 at 7, 11.) Since arriving at Marion, Miller claims that baseless incident reports have been filed against him by officials to keep him in the unit and to retaliate against him for filing legal actions. ( Id. at 8.) These incident reports run the gamut, but largely center on Miller's efforts to secure debt owed to him via UCC filings in other states. ( Id. ) In addition, Miller alleges that his disciplinary hearings at Marion have lacked due process, as Miller has not been able to call witnesses in his defense or have witnesses investigated by prison counselors or other officials. ( Id. at 9.) Furthermore, Miller claims that the conditions at the Marion unit are improper, as the unit is unclean, has poor ventilation, and does not have any of the exercise or food-related amenities enjoyed by prisoners in the general population. ( Id. at 13-14.) Finally, Miller claims that the rules at the Marion unit are unconstitutional, as they deprive him of access to family and friends and require close monitoring of his mail. ( Id. at 16-17.)

Miller's issues with officials at Marion reached a peak in January 2015, when Miller was attacked by an ISIS-affiliated prisoner despite warning officials of a threat against his life. ( Id. at 11.) Since the attack, ISIS-affiliated prisoners have made additional threats against Miller, and Miller claims he will soon be in danger given prison officials' transfer plans. (Doc. 1 at 11; Doc. 3 at 2.) According to Miller, the prison will soon transfer him to a "BOP gang violence program, " where he will be exposed to members of the Nazi Low Riders or the G27s who have "hits" out on him; or to another Communications Management Unit, where he will be exposed to ISIS-affiliated prisoners "who are obligated under their jihad oath to follow their leader's orders" and harm Miller. (Doc. 1 at 12; Doc. 3 at 3-4.) Miller claims he advised prison officials of these threats, but his transfer into dangerous gang conditions will still occur. (Doc. 1 at 12.)

Unsatisfied with the prison's response, Miller filed the instant action on May 11, 2015, naming Marion employees and officials throughout the federal system. (Doc. 1 at 1.)

Discussion

While Miller purports to state three causes of action in his complaint, those causes of action include a mishmash of allegations under numerous sections of the United States Constitution and United States Code, making Miller's effort to sub-divide confusing. To facilitate the management of future proceedings, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 10, the Court will redo that work and break the claims in Miller's pro se complaint into numbered counts, as shown below. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by the Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

COUNT 1: Incident reports were filed against Miller in retaliation for filing claims with various courts, in violation of his constitutional and statutory rights.
COUNT 2: Miller was denied the opportunity to interview witnesses connected to his incident reports, in violation of his constitutional and statutory rights.
COUNT 3: Miller was attacked by Bennett during a search of his cell at an unspecified point in the past, in violation ...

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