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Owens v. Duncan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 22, 2016

JAMES OWENS No. K83253, Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHEN DUNCAN, CHRISTIAN, BROOKS, TAYLOR, and TREADWAY Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff James Owens, an inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff requests nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages and a temporary restraining order to the effect that the Defendants must provide him with a means to transport his legal paperwork in between his cell and the law library. (Doc. 12, p. 9). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Amended 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.

         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). 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 Amended Complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Plaintiff originally filed this case on September 11, 2015. (Doc. 1). The Complaint was dismissed for failure to state a claim on October 28, 2015, but Plaintiff was granted leave to amend on or before November 27, 2015. (Doc. 11). Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint was filed on November 30, 2015, although his envelope was postmarked November 23, 2015, bringing him within the Court’s deadline. (Doc. 12).

         Upon careful review of the Amended Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff has a medical permit to use a cane. (Doc. 12, p. 3). He alleges that he has nerve damage to his left hip and that his left leg will collapse if he stands too long or puts too much weight on it. (Doc. 12, p. 3). He is also a frequent litigator; he has filed eight cases in this Court alone including this one, seven of which are currently pending. Owens v. IDOC, 13-cv-0530-SCW; Owens v. IDOC, 13-cv-0594-MJR-SCW (closed 3/7/2016); Owens v. Duncan, 14-cv-1093-MJR-SCW; Owens v. Butler, 14-cv-055-NJR-DGW; Owens v. Butler, 15-cv-0327-SMY-PMF; Owens v. Baldwin, 15-cv-1085-NJR-SCW; and Owens v. Duncan, 15-cv-1143-MJR-SCW.[1] As a result, Plaintiff has four excess legal storage boxes in the law library, which he alleges he must access once a week. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Plaintiff is permitted to access the boxes for 30 to 40 minutes per week, followed by 90 minutes in the law library. (Doc. 12, p. 3). After law library, lunch is served in the dining room, and there is not sufficient time for an inmate to return to his cell to drop of legal materials. (Doc. 12, p. 3).

         In June 2015, Duncan, the Warden at Lawrence, changed the institutional policy and prohibited inmates from using bags to carry their legal materials to the law library. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Prior to that time, Plaintiff used a mesh bag to carry his legal materials, which permitted him to carry their weight on his back, without implicating his bad hip. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Plaintiff alleges that there is no legitimate penological reason for this rule change other than to limit the amount of legal work an inmate can carry to and from the law library. (Doc. 12, p. 3). As a result of the new policy, Plaintiff’s plastic bag was confiscated by Christian on July 7, 2015. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Plaintiff then filed an emergency grievance regarding the confiscation of his plastic bag, as well as several kites to Treadway. (Doc. 12, p. 3-4). Plaintiff’s grievance was denied on July 9, 2015, and Duncan also declined to make an exception for Plaintiff when Plaintiff spoke to him in person. (Doc. 12, p. 4).

         On September 4, 2015, Plaintiff entered the dining room with a large folder of legal materials. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Brooks yelled at him to take off his hat, which Plaintiff did, although he alleges that he had to lean against the wall and balance on his good leg. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Brooks then told Plaintiff that he could not set his legal papers down on a table before getting a lunch tray, as he had been doing since the “no-bags” order came down. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Plaintiff then approached Taylor and Duncan explained the situation to them. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Brooks told Plaintiff he could hang his cane over his arm and thus carry both his tray and his legal papers. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Taylor told Plaintiff just to deal with the situation. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Duncan said nothing. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Ultimately, a dining room employee brought Plaintiff his tray. (Doc. 12, p. 4-5). Taylor then looked through Plaintiff’s legal papers, including correspondence between Plaintiff and his attorneys. (Doc. 12, p. 5).

         On September 17, 2015, Plaintiff went to lunch after a law library session and Brooks again refused to allow him to leave his legal materials unattended on the table. (Doc. 12, p. 5). Brooks also refused to permit another inmate to bring Plaintiff a tray and told Plaintiff he had to find a way to carry his legal ...


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