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Butusov v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 5, 2016

KENNETH BUTUSOV, #K-55823, Plaintiff,
v.
C. RAY, WARDEN STEPHEN DUNCAN, ASST. WARDEN TREADWAY, GRIEVANCE OFFICER, LESLIE McCARTHY, and DIRECTOR BALDWIN, Defendants.

          Kenneth Butusov, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

         Plaintiff Kenneth Butusov, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Sheridan Correctional Center ("Sheridan"), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) for constitutional deprivations that occurred at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence") in 2014-15 (Doc. 1, pp. 7-9). In the Complaint, Plaintiff claims that officials in the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") systematically mishandled his grievances, in violation of his right to use the IDOC's grievance process to exhaust his administrative remedies and access the courts. Plaintiff's Complaint focuses on the conduct of Counselor Ray, a grievance counselor at Lawrence who ignored numerous grievances that Plaintiff filed over the course of seven months ( id. at 7). When Plaintiff complained, Counselor Ray told him not to expect any responses because the counselor had no time for "grievances or staff conduct or bullshit'" ( id. ).

         Counselor Ray's refusal to address Plaintiff's grievances became the focus of Plaintiff's subsequent complaints and the instant lawsuit. Plaintiff sent Warden Duncan an emergency grievance to complain about the fact that Counselor Ray routinely ignored his grievances. Warden Duncan denied the emergency grievance and instructed Plaintiff to send it through normal channels.

         Before doing so, Plaintiff spoke with Assistant Warden Treadway about Counselor Ray's conduct ( id. at 8). She contacted Counselor Ray and asked him to explain why he would not respond to Plaintiff's grievances. Following this conversation, the assistant warden instructed Plaintiff to resubmit all of his grievances. Plaintiff did so, but nothing changed.

         Plaintiff prepared a formal grievance to complain about Lawrence's corrupt grievance process. He first submitted the grievance to an unknown grievance officer but received no response. Next, Plaintiff sent a copy of the grievance to the Administrative Review Board in Springfield, Illinois. Leslie McCarthy denied the grievance as untimely ( id. at 9). On February 26, 2016, Plaintiff directed one final grievance to IDOC Director Baldwin but, again, received no response.

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff now claims that the routine mishandling of his grievances by IDOC officials violated his right to use the IDOC's internal grievance process and his right to access the courts. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff now sues the following IDOC officials: Director Baldwin, Leslie McCarthy, Warden Duncan, Assistant Warden Treadway, Counselor Ray, and the unknown grievance officer. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

         Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner Complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. Conversely, 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, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), 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. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se Complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the Complaint does not survive review under § 1915A and shall therefore be dismissed.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se Complaint into the following counts. 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: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendants for interfering with Plaintiff's efforts to exhaust his administrative remedies within the ...

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