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Tidwell v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 5, 2016



          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for events that occurred at Menard Correctional Center. Plaintiff seeks declarative, injunctive, monetary relief for violations of his constitutional rights that arose when Plaintiff was issued an allegedly false disciplinary ticket and disciplined without due process. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         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). 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). A complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff’s claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. However, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Service, 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         On September 22, 2015[1] Internal Affairs Officer Ward came to Plaintiff’s cell and asked if he had ever written to Reverend Z. Lee. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff acknowledged that he had. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Ward told Plaintiff that Menard had received an anonymous phone call from Jane Doe that accused Plaintiff of making intimidating remarks in a letter to Lee. Plaintiff does not believe that the caller was Lee himself. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff agreed not to write to Lee any longer, but asked to see the threatening letter. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Ward told him that the letter had not been forwarded to the institution and that he was acting on the phone call alone. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Ward also admitted that he had not personally spoken to the caller. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Ward asked Plaintiff if he had ever told Lee: “You snaked me.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff stated that he might have, but in his opinion, the expression was harmless. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff wanted to see the letter at issue so that he could put the statement in context. (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         On September 24, 2015, Plaintiff received a disciplinary ticket written by Ward for intimidation and threats. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Monte signed off on the ticket. (Doc. 1, p. 2). The Adjustment Committee relied solely on the phone call in finding Plaintiff guilty. (Doc. 1, p. 5). The letter was never entered into evidence and appears never to have been in the possession of anyone at Menard. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Brookman was the Committee Chairman. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Butler signed off on the discipline. (Doc. 1, p. 9). As a result of this incident, Plaintiff received a verbal reprimand. (Doc. 1, p. 25). Bochantin denied Plaintiff’s grievance regarding the disciplinary report. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Plaintiff has divided his Complaint into three Counts, which the Court adopts and will use in all further pleadings:

COUNT 1: Brookman and Butler violated Plaintiff’s due process rights when they found him guilty of a disciplinary infraction on September 30, 2015 without sufficient evidence, and Bochantin violated Plaintiff’s due process rights when she sustained a grievance regarding same.
COUNT 2: Ward and Monte violated Plaintiff’s due process rights by failing to adequately investigate the anonymous phone call that provided the basis ...

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