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Bell v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 1, 2016

TEAONE SHASHAWN BELL, # B-59870, Plaintiff,
v.
KIMBERLY S. BUTLER, DAVID L. EVELSIZER, TERRENCE T. JACKSON, and NICOLE L. MARSHALL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge.

         Now before the Court for consideration is the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7) filed by Plaintiff Teaone Bell, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”). Plaintiff challenges a disciplinary ticket he received for sexual misconduct at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) on May 10, 2015 (Doc. 7, pp. 5-6). He takes issue with the fact that a medical technician issued the ticket, and Menard's Adjustment Committee relied on her statement to find Plaintiff guilty of the rule violation. Plaintiff was punished with one year of segregation, demotion to C-grade status, and commissary restrictions (id.). Plaintiff brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Kimberly Butler (warden), David Evelsizer (hearing committee chairperson), Terrence Jackson (hearing committee member), and Nicole Marshall (medical technician) for depriving him of a protected liberty interest without due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. He seeks monetary relief (id. at 6).

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

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints, including amended complaints, to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the amended 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). The First Amended Complaint does not survive review under this standard and shall be dismissed.

         First Amended Complaint

         During his incarceration at Menard, Plaintiff alleges that a medical technician, named Nicole Marshall, issued him a disciplinary ticket for sexual misconduct on May 10, 2015 (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 8). According to the report, Plaintiff “had his penis outside of the chuck hole fondling himself”[1] as Marshall made her rounds to pass out medication on his wing (id. at 9).

         Plaintiff attended a disciplinary hearing before Chairperson Evelsizer and Officer Jackson on May 19, 2015 (id. at 5-6, 9). Relying on Marshall's observations of Plaintiff, as described in the disciplinary report, the Adjustment Committee found Plaintiff guilty of the rule violation. Marshall's account was uncorroborated by any other witness. Even so, Plaintiff was punished with one year of segregation, demotion to C-grade status, and restrictions on his commissary privileges (id. at 5, 9). On May 21, 2015, Kimberly Butler (warden) approved of the Adjustment Committee's decision (id. at 6).

         Plaintiff now challenges the disciplinary action on due process grounds. He claims that Marshall lacked authority to issue the disciplinary ticket because she is not an employee of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”); Evelsizer and Jackson failed to provide Plaintiff with an impartial disciplinary hearing because they ultimately relied on Marshall's statement to find him guilty; and Butler approved of the recommended disciplinary action (id. at 5-6). Plaintiff now sues all four defendants for denying him due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (id.). He seeks monetary damages (id. at 6)

         Discussion

         In its initial screening order (Doc. 5), this Court identified the following counts for consideration:

Count 1: Defendants deprived Plaintiff of a protected liberty interest without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when they punished him with one year of segregation following the issuance of a disciplinary ticket and an unfair disciplinary hearing.
Count 2: Defendants subjected Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they placed him in segregation for one year.
Count 3: Defendants ignored a known risk that Plaintiff would attempt to commit suicide in violation of ...

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