United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JAMES OWENS No. K83253, Plaintiff,
STEPHEN DUNCAN, CHRISTIAN, BROOKS, TAYLOR, and TREADWAY Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. District Judge.
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
(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
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).
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).
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
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. 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).
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).
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,
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 ...