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Malone v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 29, 2016

WILLIAM A. MALONE, # B-52858, Plaintiff
v.
JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Some of the matters included in Plaintiff's Complaint overlap with the claims he raised in Malone v. Heidemann, et al., Case No. 15-cv-1104-MJR-SCW (S.D. Ill., filed Oct. 6, 2015). However, Plaintiff also raises a number of claims unrelated to that earlier-filed case and includes numerous other Defendants. These claims include retaliation, inadequate medical care, denial of access to the law library and excessive force, among others. The Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. 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 Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

Plaintiff names 53 individuals as Defendants in this action as well as the Orange Crush shakedown team, the Pinckneyville Law Library, Wexler Health Care Services, the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) and Unknown Parties. The Complaint spans 90 pages, the majority of which consists of various documents put forth as exhibits.

         Plaintiff's statement of claim is only two pages long. It appears to be a listing of a number of grievances Plaintiff has filed (Doc. 1, pp. 13-14). The narrative consists of 42 individually dated statements of alleged constitutional violations, presented in more or less chronological order, encompassing incidents from September 2013 through September 2015. Most of these accounts are presented in cursory fashion with little detail. Some claims identify the particular Defendants allegedly responsible, but others do not. The Court will dissect the claims as much as possible for review purposes.

         The first claim states, “2/13/14 & 1/12/14 - Retaliation by State Employees for Complaints Filed, Counselor Fritts.” Plaintiff also mentions another incident of retaliation on 5/13/14, where he claims a prison official planted contraband in his cell, but he does not identify the perpetrator (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         A number of the statements complain about the action or inaction of prison medical staff. On 3/1/14, Defendants Brown and Shah refused Plaintiff's chronic medication, claiming the IDOC has video footage of Plaintiff playing basketball (Doc. 1, p. 13). He includes several other incidents (1/14/14, 1/16/14, 4/14/14, 5/28/14, 10/4/14, and 4/11/15) where he was not given medication, involving Defendants Brown, Rector, Marsh Hill and Shah (Doc. 1, pp. 13-14). On 12/1/14, unnamed health care staff “refused to repair broken tooth emergency” (Doc. 1, p. 14). On 2/1/15, Defendants Shah, Christine Brown and Stacey Brown “refused emergency, ” and on 7/14/15, Defendants Shah and Laura “refused Plaintiff emergency service.” Id.

         Plaintiff notes several incidents of loss of his personal property or funds. On 1/14/14 Defendant C/O Hill witnessed the theft of $250 worth of Plaintiff's personal property, and on 1/21/14, C/O Bowerman[1] confiscated three of Plaintiff's detergent bottles. On two occasions (3/22/14 and 6/11/14), some of his “indigent funds” were “confiscated” or “stolen” by the prison administration. He also claims in an entry dated 6/12/14 that the commissary overcharged him by 7% over three and a half years (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Defendant Belford was allegedly responsible for the following violations; these claims overlap with Plaintiff's earlier-filed suit now pending in this Court under Malone v. Heidemann, et al., Case No. 15-cv-1104-MJR-SCW (S.D. Ill., filed Oct. 6, 2015).[2] On 1/16/14, Defendant Belford told Plaintiff that he stopped Plaintiff's transfer to another prison, and that regardless of where Plaintiff was moved, he or his co-workers would be able to “get” him. From 9/16/13 onward, Defendant Belford repeatedly spread lies to other inmates and prison employees, creating a hostile and life-threatening environment (Doc. 1, p. 13). On 4/22/14, Defendant Belford attacked Plaintiff in the chow hall, witnessed by Defendant Lawless (Doc. 1, p. 14). On 6/20/14, Defendant Belford displayed one of Plaintiff's grievances and stated that it would look good on his walls at home. Defendant Lively took the grievance from Defendant Belford, and Defendants Flatt, Gabby, and Hoff witnessed the incident.

         From 11/19/13 through 1/7/14, Plaintiff claims he had no access to the law library (Doc. 1, p. 13). Later, on 2/14/15, when an elevator was broken, he could only access the law library by sliding on his buttocks up two flights of stairs. On 4/14/15, he was denied access to the law library again, which may have affected deadlines (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Plaintiff provides the most detail in describing a 3/24/14 encounter with the Defendant Orange Crush team. Orange Crush officers cuffed Plaintiff's hands behind him, pushed his head down between his knees, and shoved his wheelchair so that his head and knees hit a brick wall. They poked him in the back with a blackjack stick, and spit and yelled at him. They kicked his wheelchair so that it almost tipped over, and grabbed Plaintiff by the back of his neck to keep the chair upright. He was forced to remain in the same position for an hour and 40 minutes, during which he had to urinate and defecate on himself. When he returned to his cell, he learned that all of his personal property was destroyed (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         On 10/9/14, Defendant Selby destroyed or discarded Plaintiff's bible concordance, with the approval of Defendant Malcome. On 7/30/15, Defendant Duvall denied Plaintiff access to religious services.

         Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Selby, on 10/10/14, threatened to take Plaintiff to segregation if he asked to remain in the shower for more than 15 minutes.

         A number of Plaintiff's claims relate to the alleged denial of rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Plaintiff needs a wheelchair to mobilize. He asserts that as of 10/10/14, the administration “continues to not provide ADA programs for ADA [prisoners]” (Doc. 1, p. 14). On 12/1/14, he was refused proper clothing for winter weather. On 12/30/14, Plaintiff notes that the prison “refused all ADA's Plaintiff EEOC jobs for Plaintiff.” Id. On 1/2/15, Defendant Bailey falsely told Plaintiff that ADA inmates are limited to one shower per week, and threatened him with segregation if he requested more. On 2/17/15, Defendant Bailey refused Plaintiff an “ADA shower.” Id. Finally, on 9/29/15, he states that IDOC, AFSCME members, and Defendant Wexler HCSC “conspire[d] against Plaintiff to Gravely Impact Incarcerated ADA's.” Id.

         Plaintiff includes another claim against Defendant Bailey, for issuing false disciplinary reports (IDR's) against him on 8/29/15. He also accuses Defendants Winberry and Vanzandt of issuing the false IDR's.

         Plaintiff includes several other miscellaneous allegations. He claims that from 12/13/13 to date, unnamed parties “forced Plaintiff to reside in hostil[e] life threatening” (he did not finish the sentence) (Doc. 1, p. 13). For 1/15/14, he notes, “Violation brunch program forced upon Plaintiff.” Id. On 1/27/15, an elevator malfunctioned and dropped eight feet, throwing Plaintiff to the floor. On 5/5/15, the “Admin. [was] in violation of witness tampering” (Doc. 1, p. 14). On 7/10/15, Defendants Groves and Ebbers threatened and intimidated Plaintiff. On September 28, 2015, “Admin.” placed violent inmates in Plaintiff's cell.[3]

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages (Doc. 1-2, p. 15)

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action 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 as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Retaliation claims against Defendant Fritts, for taking unspecified action on 1/12/14 and 2/13/14 against Plaintiff because Plaintiff filed complaints; and against unidentified Defendants for planting contraband in Plaintiff's cell on 5/13/14;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Shah, Christine Brown, Stacy Brown, Rector, Marsh Hill, and Laura, for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs on multiple occasions between January 2014 and April 2015;
Count 3: Fourteenth Amendment claim for deprivation of personal property and/or inmate trust fund monies without due process on various dates in 2014, against Defendants C/O Hill, Bowerman, and unidentified Defendants;
Count 4: Eighth Amendment claims and retaliation claims against Defendant Belford, for threatening Plaintiff with harm, assaulting him, disseminating information to other inmates that placed Plaintiff at risk of harm, and interfering with Plaintiff's grievances; and against Defendants Lawless, Lively, Flatt, Gabby, and Hoff for observing these incident(s) and failing to intervene on Plaintiff's behalf, between September 2013 and June 2014;
Count 5: Claims against unidentified Defendants for denial of access to the courts/denial of access to the law library, between November 2013-January 2014, and in February and April 2015;
Count 6: Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against members of the Defendant Orange Crush team, for assaulting Plaintiff on March 24, 2014, and forcing him to remain in his wheelchair until he urinated and defecated on himself;
Count 7: First Amendment claim against Defendants Selby and Malcome for interfering with Plaintiff's practice of his religion, by destroying or discarding Plaintiff's bible concordance on October 9, 2014;
Count 8: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Selby for threatening Plaintiff with segregation over his use of the shower on October 10, 2014;
Count 9: First Amendment claim against Defendant Duvall for denying Plaintiff access to religious services ...

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