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Robinson v. Kurtis

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 27, 2015



STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

On April 20, 2015, Plaintiff Robinson filed suit in this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his federally secured constitutional rights during his pretrial detention at the St. Clair County Jail. This matter is again before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's motions to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"), i.e., without prepaying the filing fee (Docs. 2, 7).

Plaintiff has complied with the Court's order (Doc. 6) to clarify the mailing date of his complaint. He states that although he prepared his pleading while he was incarcerated, he did not have the funds to mail it until after his April 10, 2015, release from prison (Doc. 7-1). Therefore, the instant complaint was both mailed and filed while Plaintiff was no longer in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, but instead was housed in a personal residence. Thus, at the pertinent time, Plaintiff did not meet the statutory definition of prisoner[1] for purposes of the in forma pauperis (IFP) statute, which states that "[t]he term prisoner' means any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), a federal district court may allow a civil case to proceed without prepayment of fees, if the movant "submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets [he] possesses [showing] that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor." Plaintiff has done so in the instant case. But the Court's inquiry does not end there, because 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) requires careful threshold scrutiny of the complaint filed by an IFP plaintiff.

A court can deny a qualified plaintiff leave to file IFP or can dismiss a case if the action is clearly frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim or is a claim for money damages against an immune Defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The test for determining if an action is frivolous or without merit is whether the plaintiff can make a rational argument on the law or facts in support of the claim. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Corgain v. Miller, 708 F.2d 1241, 1247 (7th Cir. 1983). An action fails to state a claim 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). When assessing a petition to proceed IFP, a district court should inquire into the merits of the petitioner's claims, and if the court finds them to be frivolous, it should deny leave to proceed IFP. Lucien v. Roegner, 682 F.2d 625, 626 (7th Cir. 1982).

The Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that while he was a pretrial detainee in the St. Clair County Jail between July 15, 2013, and January 2014, Defendants subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Specifically, because of overcrowding, he was housed in the jail's recreation area or gym, where he had to sleep on a mat on the floor (Doc. 1, p. 4). This caused him to develop back problems. There was no shower in this makeshift housing area, so he was limited to taking a shower only on certain days, after inmates on the wings where the showers were located were locked down. Only one toilet was provided for more than 60 inmates in the gym area. Plaintiff was never given cleaning supplies. He developed a boil in his anal area. This wound began to discharge, and he was unable to clean himself properly (Doc. 1, p. 5).

The gym had no air conditioning, and Plaintiff suffered from the extreme heat in the summer. In the winter, the place was too cold because it lacked any heat; Plaintiff's single blanket was not enough to keep him warm. Defendants Struberg and Trice knew of the bad conditions and the fact that the gym was condemned, yet required Plaintiff and other inmates to be housed there.

In addition to the harsh and unsanitary conditions, when Plaintiff was booked into the jail, Defendant Kurtis made him undress in front of eight other detainees. This included a "full cavity body search" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff also claims that his First Amendment rights were violated when jail employees allowed him to be photographed and publicly identified by the news media, who were documenting the overcrowded living conditions. Finally, he asserts that he suffered mental and emotional injuries as a result of the boil and back problems caused by the jail conditions.

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages (Doc. 1, p. 8).


Plaintiff's complaint survives review under § 1915(e)(2). His sworn IFP motions establish that he is indigent for purposes of IFP review. Nothing indicates that his action is frivolous or malicious. The named Defendants are not immune from relief. And at this point, the Court cannot conclude that the complaint fails to state any claim upon which relief could be granted.

Accordingly, Plaintiff's motions (Docs. 2 & 7) for leave to proceed IFP are GRANTED. Plaintiff will be allowed to proceed in the action without payment of any fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1); Haynes v. Scott, 116 F.3d 137, 140 (5th Cir. 1997) (fee requirement of § 1915(a)(1) and (b) applies only to prisoners; non-prisoners granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis are not responsible for paying filing fee at all).

IT IS ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall prepare for Defendants WATSON, STRUBERG, TRICE, and KURTIS (1) Form 5 (Notice of a Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of a Summons), and (2) Form 6 (Waiver of Service of Summons). The Clerk is DIRECTED to mail these forms, a copy of the complaint, and this Memorandum and Order to each Defendant's place of employment as identified by Plaintiff. If a Defendant fails to sign and return the Waiver of Service of Summons (Form 6) to the Clerk within 30 days from the date the forms were sent, the Clerk shall take appropriate steps to effect formal service on that ...

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