United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL, United States District Judge.
Benjamin Sangraal, formerly an inmate at Centralia
Correctional Center and Pinckneyville Correctional Center,
brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional
rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Sangraal originally
filed suit in Case No. 16-cv-550-MJR-SCW on May 17, 2016. The
claim in this case was severed from that action on July 6,
2016. (Doc. 1). Although Sangraal is no longer incarcerated,
he has moved to proceed in forma pauperis (without
prepaying the filing fee); thus, the Court will conduct a
preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). That statute provides:
Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that
may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any
time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal
i. is frivolous or malicious;
ii. fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
iii. seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune
from such relief.
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). Frivolousness is an
objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable
person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209
F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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. At
this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se
complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v.
Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir.
to the complaint, on May 19, 2014, Sangraal wrote a letter to
the Director of the Illinois State Police, requesting an
investigation into the harassment he had been allegedly
experiencing at Centralia Correctional Center. (Doc. 1, p.
36). The letter specifically named Correctional Staff Flagg,
Leek, Murray, McCabe, McCance, Mathis, and Lieutenant
Johnson. Sangraal marked the envelope as
“confidential” and sent it out. (Doc. 1, p. 36).
Sangraal attached a money voucher to the letter, which was
returned to him stamped “Legal Mail.” (Doc. 1, p.
26). When the letter was returned by the postal service as
“undeliverable, ” however, the staff at Centralia
opened the letter. (Doc. 1, p. 37). Sangraal brings this suit
against the unknown mailroom employee who opened the letter.
He alleges that as a result of the letter having been
returned to him opened, he suffered an acute anxiety attack
and had to request a crisis team. (Doc. 1, p. 37).
prior review by Chief Judge Reagan found that Sangraal had
stated one claim against the John Doe mailroom employee who
opened the letter:
Count 22: By opening Plaintiff’s returned mail to the
State Police Director, John Doe violated Plaintiff’s
First Amendment rights.
the First Amendment offers some protection to all kinds of
inmate mail, the law distinguishes between legal and
non-legal mail. Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 782
(7th Cir. 1999) (“Prison regulations or practices that
affect a prisoner’s legal mail are of particular
concern because of the potential for interference with a
prisoner’s right of access to the courts.”).
Prison officials may inspect all mail for contraband, but a
prisoner’s rights may be violated when legal mail is
opened outside of his presence. Wolff v. McDonnell,
418 U.S. 539, 575-77 (1974); Kaufman v. McCaughtry,
419 F.3d 678, 685-86 (7th Cir. 2005). A letter marked with an
attorney’s name and a warning that the letter is legal
mail will be considered legal mail. Kaufman, 419
F.3d at 685-686.
does not distinguish between privileged mail and
non-privileged mail; privileged mail is a creation of
Illinois Department of Corrections regulations. See
Jenkins v. Huntley, 235 F. App’x 374, 376 (7th
Cir. 2007). Prisoners have no constitutional right to see
that the Illinois Department of Corrections regulations are
enforced. See Whitman v. Nesic, 368 F.3d 931, 935 n.
1 (7th Cir. 2004); Scott v. Edinburg, 346 F.3d 752,
760 (7th Cir. 2003) (finding that § 1983 provides a
remedy for constitutional violations, not violations of state
statutes and regulations). Even allegations that a party
violated a state mandatory rule do not necessarily state a
constitutional claim. Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d
641, 647 (7th Cir. 2001); White v. Henman, 977 F.2d
292, 295 (7th Cir. 1992) (the violation of an administrative
rule is not the same as a violation of the Constitution). The
fact that Centralia officials may have violated the Illinois
Administrative Code is not relevant to the analysis of
whether Sangraal has stated a cognizable legal claim.
Sangraal has alleged that he sent privileged mail to the
Director of the Illinois State Police, not for the purpose of
filing or pursuing a lawsuit, but rather the ask the Director
to open an investigation into the conduct of certain guards
at Centralia. Sangraal was not writing to an attorney or
seeking legal advice. The letter was not marked with as
attorneys’ mail nor ...