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Shaw v. Buchner

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 2, 2016

GERMAINE SHAW, #B-01886, Plaintiff,
LT. BUCHNER and C/O MITCHELL, Defendants.


          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Germaine Shaw, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Western Illinois Correctional Center, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two officials at Lawrence Correctional Center who allegedly failed to protect him from a known risk of assault by his cellmate in November 2014 (Doc. 1, pp. 1-5). In connection with this claim, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against the two defendants (Doc. 1, p. 6).

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

         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 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).

         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). Plaintiff's Complaint does not survive § 1915A review under this standard and shall be dismissed.

         The Complaint

         During his incarceration at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”) in November 2014, Plaintiff requested a housing transfer (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff explained that he did not get along with his cellmate (i.e., Inmate Gause) and that he wished to avoid an altercation. In response to his request, Plaintiff was moved from Building R-1-B Upper 22 to Building R-1-C Lower 16. Two days later, Plaintiff learned that he would be transferred back to Building R-1-B Upper 22, where he would again be housed with Inmate Gause (id.).

         Plaintiff objected to the transfer. He explained that he suffers from a mental illness and that there would be “trouble” if Inmate Gause “did or said anything to disrespect or offend [Plaintiff]” (id.). After Plaintiff was told that he would be placed in segregation for rejecting the housing assignment, he reluctantly agreed to move back into the same cell with Inmate Gause. Soon thereafter, Plaintiff and Inmate Gause were involved in an altercation. The Complaint offers no details regarding the events leading up to the fight or the fight itself. However, Plaintiff alleges that both inmates were injured and required medical treatment (id.).


         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 claim in Plaintiff's pro se Complaint into the following count:

         Count 1:Defendants failed to protect Plaintiff from a known risk of harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they forced Plaintiff to share a cell with Inmate Gause in November 2014.

         The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of this count does not constitute an opinion as to its merit.

         Prison officials have a duty to protect inmates from violence at the hands of other inmates. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994) (internal citations omitted); Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 889 (7th Cir. 2006). However, not every harm caused by another inmate translates into constitutional liability for the prison official who is responsible for the inmate's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. In order to state a claim based on the failure to protect an inmate, a plaintiff must show that he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, and the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to that danger. Id.; Pinkston, 440 F.3d at 889. A plaintiff also must prove that prison officials were aware of a specific, impending and substantial threat to his safety, often by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996).

         Plaintiff's claim fails to pass muster under § 1915A. Neither defendant is mentioned in the statement of claim (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff does not even refer to “Defendants” in general. Instead, he repeatedly uses “they” when referring to the prison officials who made the decision to move him back into the same cell with Inmate Gause. The Court does not ...

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