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Thomas v. C/O Reichert

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 1, 2016

FRANK THOMAS, Plaintiff,
C/O REICHERT, Defendant.


          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Frank Thomas, a pretrial detainee at the Madison County Jail in Illinois, brings this pro se action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 2). The sole claim in this case was severed from Thomas's original complaint, filed in Case No. 15-cv-00988-NJR-DGW. This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Thomas alleges that Defendant Reichert violated his First Amendment rights and acted in retaliation by shaking down his cell, seizing some of his property, and punishing him with 48 hours in segregation.

         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).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that Thomas's claims against Defendant Reichert are insufficient to proceed beyond the screening phase at this juncture.

         The Complaint

         Appended to his complaint, Thomas included an affidavit wherein he alleged acts of retaliation taken by Defendant Reichert (Doc. 2-3 at 3). Specifically, Thomas indicated that he and Reichert engaged in a verbal confrontation that included cussing (Id.). Following the confrontation, Reichert shook down his cell, seized some of his personal property, and assessed 48 hours of lockdown (Id.). Thomas alleges that these consequences were retaliatory (Id.).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         The Court is using the same designation of counts set forth in its previous severance order, thus the pertinent count is:

Count 7: Reichert retaliated against plaintiff for cursing and using profanity by shaking down his cell in October 2015.

         Count 7

         In the prison context, where an inmate is alleging retaliation, it is not enough to simply state the cause of action. The inmate must identify the reasons that retaliation has been taken, as well as “the act or acts claimed to have constituted retaliation, ” so as to put those charged with the retaliation on notice of the claim(s). Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). As stated above, the inmate need not plead facts to establish the claim beyond doubt, but need only provide the bare essentials of the claim, and in a claim for retaliation the reason for the retaliation and the acts taken in an effort to retaliate suffice. Id.

         Without expressing any opinion on the merits of Thomas's allegations about his interaction with Reichert, this Court finds that it is appropriate to dismiss Count 7 against Reichert because Thomas failed to list Reichert as a defendant in the caption of the case or the list of defendants. See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005) (for an individual to be considered a party he must be specified in the caption). If Thomas wishes to bring a retaliation claim against defendant Reichert, he will need to amend his complaint consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. Rule 15 permits amendment one time “as a matter of course” within “21 days after serving it” or, “if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.” The Court expresses no opinion as to the merits of such a claim.

         D ...

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