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Faison v. Held

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 27, 2016

JEAN-MARC FAISON, # R-41130, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O HELD, SERGEANT DILLINGHAM, KIMBERLY S. BUTLER, and C/O WARD, Defendants.

          Jean-Marc Faison, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

         Plaintiff, an inmate currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his First Amendment right to free speech by retaliating against him for exercising his free speech as a law clerk in the law library. In connection with his retaliation claims, he alleges a conspiracy amongst Defendants to punish him for exercising his First Amendment rights. He also alleges a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights based upon the conditions of his confinement in what he characterizes as a special cell block of the facility. Finally, he alleges a Fourth Amendment violation based upon an officer's conduct during a urine test, which he believed was overly intrusive and improper.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. As part of the § 1915A screening, the Court possesses the discretion to sever claims into separate complaints if the claims are not related to one another. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007) (unrelated claims against different defendants belong in separate lawsuits). Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a potential First Amendment claim against Defendants identified below in association with that claim. As to the Eighth Amendment claim, the Court finds that Plaintiff has provided sufficient factual information to support a potentially colorable claim; that claim will proceed as to Defendant Butler. The Court is exercising its authority to sever the Fourth Amendment claim because it relates to an incident that is factually remote in time, and the complaint lacks explicit facts tying the incident to the First or Eighth Amendment claims.

         This Memorandum and Order addresses the First and Eighth Amendment claims; the Fourth Amendment claim will receive separate § 1915A screening once it has been assigned a new case number, assessed filing fees, and received a judge assignment.

         Background

         The factual allegations relating to the First and Eighth Amendment claims are as follows: Plaintiff worked in the law library at Menard, where part of his job included issuing library passes to other inmates to visit the library facility (Doc. 8 at 3). Between October and November of 2014, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Held-acting as a law library security officer- approached him and instructed him not to issue law library passes to a "black list" of inmates who had filed grievances against Held or Held's friends ( Id. ). Plaintiff orally responded, indicating that he would not comply with Held's request ( Id. at 3-4). Plaintiff alleges that as a result of his refusal to participate in Held's scheme, Held fired him from his job and conspired with Defendant Dillingham (internal affairs department) to have Plaintiff transferred from his cell to a special cell in the "North 2 Cell house" region of Menard ( Id. at 4). North 2 is apparently known as a "modified Tamms" step-down program, meant to house violent, sexually predatory inmates, or those unable to reside with cellmates ( Id. ).

         Plaintiff's new cell in North 2 did not have any window exposure and was in the direct line of a light that was on twenty-four hours a day ( Id. ). The cell was located directly above "crisis watch" cells whose occupants made noise at all hours and caused disruptions by smearing feces about their cells ( Id. ). Plaintiff alleges that his mental illness was exacerbated by this placement, and the placement ultimately required him to recommence psychotropic medication ( Id. at 4-5). He claims that while in North 2 for six months, he suffered sleep deprivation, insomnia, intense anxiety, panic attacks, delusions, and depression ( Id. at 5). Plaintiff filed grievances about his deteriorating health while housed in North 2 ( Id. ).

         Plaintiff alleges that one such emergency grievance that he lodged with the Warden was ignored, constituting deliberate indifference ( Id. ). He subsequently raised the issue with his prison counselor, who helped him to secure administrative review through the grievance procedure ( Id. ). On October 23, 2015, a grievance officer found that Plaintiff's allegations about retaliatory firing and his relocation to North 2 were substantiated ( Id. at 6, 22). The grievance officer found, however, that the grievance had been rendered moot by Plaintiff's move from North 2 to a new cell ( Id. ). The grievance form declined monetary relief ( Id. ). The Administrative Review Board declined review of the grievance in January 2016, noting that the grievance was rendered moot by Plaintiff's new housing location ( Id. at 6-7, 22).

         In support of his claims, Plaintiff provided the grievance that his counselor assisted him with, as well as affidavits of inmates who witnessed and heard about his interaction with Held in the law library and who had similarly been transferred to North 2 ( Id. at 10-18).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se complaint into the following enumerated claims. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion regarding their merit.

Count 1: First Amendment claim of retaliation for Defendant Held's firing of Plaintiff from the law library after Plaintiff refused to prevent other inmates from library access;
Count 2: First Amendment claim of retaliation for Defendants Held and Dillingham's transfer of Plaintiff to the North 2 cell house as added punishment for the library incident;
Count 3: Conspiracy claim against Defendants Held and Dillingham for the firing and housing transfer of Plaintiff;
Count 4: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement claim for conditions of the North 2 cell house as it relates to Defendant Butler's failure to ...

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