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Stepney v. Johnson

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 3, 2016

LAURENCE STEPNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CLEO JOHNSON and JOHN DOE in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Cleo Johnson's (“Johnson”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff Laurence Stepney's (“Stepney”) Third Amended Complaint (the “Complaint”), Dkt. 67, in its entirety, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Rule 12(b)(6)”). Dkt. 74. For the reasons set forth below, Johnson's motion is denied as to Count I and granted as to Counts II and III.

         BACKGROUND

         For purposes of the instant motion, the following well-pleaded allegations derived from the Complaint are accepted as true. Ed Miniat. Inc. v. Global Life Ins. Grp., Inc., 805 F.2d 732, 733 (7th Cir. 1986); Dilallo v. Miller & Steeno, P.C., et al., No. 16 C 51, 2016 WL 4530319, at *1 (N.D.Ill. Aug. 30, 2016). This principle, however, does not apply to legal conclusions; the Court will not consider conclusory claims. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Stepney and construes all allegations in the light most favorable to him. Ed Miniat. Inc., 805 F.2d at 733; Dilallo, 2016 WL 4530319, at *1.

         Stepney, who, as of May 24, 1996, is a convicted sex offender, must register as such annually. Dkt. 67 ¶¶ 12-13; see 730 ILCS 150.0/6. Additionally, should his address or contact information change, Stepney is required to inform a reporting agency. Dkt. 67 ¶ 13. On April 13, 2010, police arrested Stepney because he did not register his new address after he moved. See Id. ¶ 14; 730 ILCS 150.0/6. Thereafter, on November 15, 2011, Stepney was convicted of a Class 3 felony. Dkt. 67 ¶ 15. A judge sentenced Stepney to two (2) years in prison, subject to time served, and a one (1) year mandatory supervised release (“MSR”) term. Id. at ¶ 15-16. Cook County had custody over Stepney from April 4, 2010 until November 18, 2011. Id. at ¶ 17. He served a total of five hundred eighty four (584) days in Cook County's physical custody. Id. at ¶ 18. Cook County transferred Stepney to the Illinois Department of Corrections (the “IDOC”) on November 18, 2011. Id.

         Stepney claims that, when he entered the North Reception and Classification Center (the “NRC”) at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) within the IDOC on November 18, 2011, he “was entitled to be released from incarceration to serve his term of MSR, having served nineteen (19) months and five (5) days with accompanying good time credits on a two-year sentence.” Id. at ¶ 19. However, the IDOC allegedly follows a procedure whereby “all sex offenders who enter [the] IDOC from county custody having served their sentence and [been] approved for parole, will remain in IDOC custody for at least a few additional days, ” which provides the IDOC with time “to assign an agent to investigate the inmate's proposed housing site and approve or deny it.” Id. at ¶ 37. This process has come to be known “as ‘turnaround' or ‘violation at the door.'” Id. at ¶ 32. Thus, upon entry into the IDOC's physical custody, in accordance with standard protocol, the IDOC cited Stepney for failing to have approved housing. Id. at ¶ 31. As a result, the IDOC readmitted Stepney into its physical custody on that same day. Id. at ¶ 32.

         To be released from the IDOC's physical custody on MSR, Stepney was required to have approved housing, among other conditions. Id. at ¶ 20. A suitable housing location would be one that fulfills the general MSR housing conditions and has a landline telephone, necessary for electronic monitoring. See Id. at ¶¶ 21-22. On November 18, 2011, Stepney allegedly provided Johnson, a counselor at the NRC at Stateville, with two proposed housing sites for investigation. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10, ¶ 24. The addresses included: 3861 West Maypole (“Maypole”) and 1130 East 82nd Street (“82nd”). Id. Stepney claims that Johnson recorded one of these addresses “on a hand-written form.” Id. at ¶ 33. To investigate and approve or deny an inmate's suggested housing site, an IDOC employee enters the proposed address into a program called the Offender Tracking System (the “OTS”). See Id. at ¶ 23. From the OTS, a supervisor assigns the recommended housing site to an agent for investigation. See Id. Agents are required to personally visit the location to verify whether a site is suitable for electronic monitoring. See Id. Stepney contends that the responsibility to enter his suggested housing sites into the OTS fell on Johnson, and that he did not enter the addresses into the OTS, nor were they “assigned to a supervisor[, ] or investigated by an agent.” Id. at ¶ 23, ¶ 26, ¶ 33. According to Stepney, had Johnson entered his proposed addresses into the OTS, it would be reflected in the system. See id. at ¶¶ 27-28.

         Allegedly, a counselor by the first or last name of Kahn (“Counselor Kahn”) notified Stepney that, as of November 22, 2011, he did not have any addresses awaiting investigation in the OTS. Id. at ¶ 34. Stepney states that he then provided Counselor Kahn with the same addresses. Id. Stepney claims that on February 13, 2012 the IDOC investigated one of his proposed housing sites for the first time. See id. at ¶ 29, ¶ 30, ¶ 35. It is unknown whether the IDOC investigated Maypole or 82nd at this time because, without specifying an address, the agent's notes read: “Placement denied, address does not exist, no number to contact host.” Id. at ¶ 35 (internal quotation marks omitted). The IDOC investigated Maypole on February 23, 2012, and deemed it unsuitable.[1] See Id. at ¶ 36. After February 23, 2012, the IDOC did not investigate any additional housing sites. Id. Stepney remained in the IDOC's physical custody until May 18, 2012, when the IDOC released him to 82nd. Id. at ¶ 38. Since Stepney allegedly provided Johnson with 82nd for investigation on November 18, 2011, he claims that he spent “six (6) additional months in IDOC custody because his proposed housing site was never investigated.” Id.

         Stepney asserts that he exhausted the available inmate grievance procedures, and that he grieved informally to Counselor Kahn on November 22, 2011. See Id. at ¶ 39-40. Stepney states that on December 5, 2011, he alerted the Illinois Prison Review Board (the “PRB”) of his alleged “prolonged incarceration” in a “five (5) page statement, explaining that he gave Johnson his proposed housing sites and she failed to put them in the computer system or assign them to a supervisor for assignment to an agent and investigation.” Id. at ¶ 41. On January 5, 2012, Stepney allegedly wrote to the PRB “regarding [the] IDOC's failure to investigate his proposed housing site.” Id. at ¶ 42. “On February 27, 2012, . . . [Stepney] filed an Offender's Grievance, alleging that he provided addresses and phone numbers to Johnson for investigation, ” and that she did not enter them into the OTS. Id. at ¶ 43.

         Stepney's Complaint contains three counts alleging a violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See generally Dkt. 67. Each of the three counts outlines four prayers for relief against Defendants Johnson and John Doe (collectively, “Defendants”) jointly and severally: (i) compensatory damages; (ii) punitive damages; (iii) attorneys' fees and costs; and (iv) such other relief as the Court deems proper and necessary. Id. p. 8 ¶¶ A-D, p. 10-11 ¶¶ A-D, p. 12 ¶¶ A-D. Stepney has issued a jury demand for all such triable claims. Id. at p. 12. On July 12, 2016, Johnson moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Dkt. 74-1, p. 1.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to “‘test[ ] the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case.'” McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 694 F.3d 873, 878 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., No. 08 C 6105, 2011 WL 1196859, at *2 (N.D.Ill. Mar. 29, 2011), aff'd 694 F.3d 873 (2012)). The allegations in a complaint must set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff must describe his or her claims “in sufficient detail to give the defendant ‘fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007)). A plaintiff need not offer “detailed factual allegations, ” but he or she must provide enough factual support “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” are insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the pleadings permit a “court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 663 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Should a complaint “plead[ ] facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). ‚ÄúDetermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for ...


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