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Miller v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 11, 2016

JEFFREY MILLER, #N-90929, Plaintiff,
v.
S. A. GODINEZ, DONALD STOLWORTHY, ZACHORY ROECKEMAN, JOSEPH YURKOVICH, and JANE & JOHN DOES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 14) filed by Plaintiff Jeffrey Miller, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”). Plaintiff claims that Big Muddy's Orange Crush Tactical Team[1] subjected him to a humiliating strip search and excessive force during a shakedown of Housing Unit R1 on May 13, 2014 (Doc. 14, pp. 1-23). The conduct of these officials allegedly amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment (id. at 6).

         Plaintiff now brings this pro se civil rights action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) officials who were allegedly involved in the incident, including S. A. Godinez (former IDOC Director), Donald Stolworthy (former IDOC Acting Director), Zachory Roeckeman (Big Muddy's warden), Joseph Yurkovich (Big Muddy's Chief of Operations), and numerous unknown members of Big Muddy's Orange Crush Tactical Team (“Jane and John Does”). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against them (id. at 6).

         The First Amended Complaint (Doc. 14) is now before the Court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner Complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to 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). The First Amended Complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

         First Amended Complaint

         On or around May 13, 2014, the Orange Crush Tactical Team at Big Muddy conducted a shakedown of Plaintiff's housing unit, i.e., Housing Unit R1 (Doc. 14, p. 19). The team consisted of both male and female officers whose faces were covered (id. at 5). They wore no badges and failed to identify themselves (id. at 19). During the shakedown of Plaintiff's cell, one member of the team allegedly “beat” Plaintiff in the head and pushed him into a wall. Meanwhile, other team members destroyed his personal property “for simply no reason” (id.).

         Plaintiff and his fellow inmates were next ordered to undress in front of female officers. The inmates were initially subjected to a visual search before being ordered to touch their genitals and place their hands in their mouths. Plaintiff was humiliated (id.).

         Each of the inmates was then placed in “extremely tight” handcuffs behind their backs and ordered to walk in line with their chins and foreheads pressed against the inmate standing in front of them. In the process, Plaintiff's genitals came into contact with the buttocks and hands of the inmate in front of him (id. at 19-20). This caused further humiliation.

         After walking in this manner to the chow hall, the inmates were ordered to place their heads on the table for an hour (id. at 19). At the time, Plaintiff's hands were still cuffed behind his back and this stress position caused pain. When the inmates were eventually allowed to return to their cells, an officer slammed Plaintiff's head into another inmate's head because Plaintiff was moving too slowly. A large knot formed on Plaintiff's head (id.).

         He now claims that each of the defendants was personally responsible for violations of his Eighth Amendment rights at Big Muddy on May 13, 2014. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against them (id. at 6).

         Discussion

         The Court will begin with a preliminary note concerning the handling of Orange Crush cases in the Southern District of Illinois. Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 14) raises allegations similar to the pleading in Ross v. Gossett, Case No. 15-cv-309-SMY-SCW, which was filed in this Court on March 19, 2015. The plaintiff in Ross is seeking injunctive relief and damages on behalf of himself and a class of prisoners who were subjected to similar strip searches while incarcerated at Illinois prisons during 2014. Should the Ross class be certified, Plaintiff could potentially be a member of that class. Against this backdrop, the Court will evaluate the claims in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court deems it appropriate to organize the claims in the pro se First Amended Complaint into the following enumerated counts:

COUNT 1: Eighth Amendment claim against all Defendants for inflicting unnecessary physical and emotional pain and suffering upon Plaintiff during the strip search, shakedown, and related action ...

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