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Jones v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 22, 2016

JACOB JONES, # Y-11598, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. Chief 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. Plaintiff claims that Defendants conspired to serve a soy-based diet at Pinckneyville and make money from increased commissary sales. Plaintiff believes that his consumption of soy has caused him to suffer medical problems. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint 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).

         After fully considering and liberally construing the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint, the Court concludes that it fails to state a constitutional claim upon which relief may be granted.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's complaint follows a familiar format, incorporating claims and language that have been included in a number of previously-filed lawsuits from other Pinckneyville inmates. Defendants Lashbrook (Warden), Spiller (Assistant Warden), the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), Wexford Medical Sources (“Wexford”), Bailey (Food Service Administrator), and the Unknown Commissary Owners, allegedly “conspired to violate Plaintiff's rights by instituting a policy to serve inmates at (IDOC) a soy-based diet” (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff claims that female inmates are no longer served soy foods after winning a lawsuit, and after that legal victory, the amount of soy fed to the male prisoners increased. When Plaintiff complained to Defendants Lashbrook, Bailey, and Spiller about the soy content of the diet, he was told, “Well, don't eat it, just buy more commissary.” Id. In Plaintiff's eyes, this proved the conspiracy.

         Plaintiff entered IDOC custody on February 26, 2016, and was placed at Stateville Correctional Center. He has been served a soy-based diet ever since. He claims to have experienced “severe medical injuries” as a result. The complaint does not indicate the date when he was moved to Pinckneyville. The allegations suggest that all or most of the following incidents occurred at Pinckneyville.

         In March 2016, Plaintiff had two fights with other inmates because of the extreme gas allegedly caused by the soy diet. Between March 21 and 27, 2016, he was so severely constipated that he could not pass stool. On March 28, 2016, he finally had a bowel movement which tore his anus, causing profuse bleeding. Plaintiff wrote three sick call requests which were not answered.

         At some point before April 11, 2016, Plaintiff followed a directive posted by Defendant Wexford, directing inmates who have received “unfavorable responses” to forward their complaints to “Wexford Inmate Advocate/Inmate Issues” (Doc. 1, p. 7). On April 11, 2016, Plaintiff's relatives attempted to call a representative of Defendant Wexford without success. On April 13 and 15, 2016, Plaintiff spoke in person to Defendants Lashbrook and Spiller about the soy diet issue. He does not further describe what he communicated to them. In response, he was told to “Man up, or buy commissary.” Id. Defendant Lashbrook stated, “You mistake me for someone who gives a f**k.” Id. Defendant Bailey refused to respond to Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff and other inmates spoke to a woman whom he believes is “the owner” of the Pinckneyville commissary. She “made a smart remark that indicated ‘so sue me.'” Id.

         Not long before filing the instant suit, Plaintiff endured a four- to six-day bout of severe stomach pains. He also suffers from severe headaches, in addition to the constipation and gas mentioned above. He claims that Defendants “knew or should have known” that their actions could cause him injury.

         Plaintiff seeks a preliminary injunction, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

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

         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: Defendants conspired together to violate Plaintiff's rights by implementing the policy to serve a soy-based diet;
Count 2: Defendant Wexford has been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs by failing to respond to his sick call requests seeking medical attention for the symptoms he attributes to his ongoing consumption of soy products, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 3: Defendants Lashbrook, Spiller, Bailey, and the IDOC Director have significant amounts of soy products in the prison diet, in violation of ...

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