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Merritte v. Rolla

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 7, 2016

CALVIN MERRITTE, #R-53322, Plaintiff,
v.
BILLY ROLLA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge

         Now before the Court for consideration is the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 33) filed on behalf of Plaintiff Calvin Merritte by Attorney Andrew Liefer. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"). He brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that officials at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville") and Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence") interfered with his access to the courts in 2014 (Doc. 33, pp. 1-5). He also challenges a policy, custom or practice instituted by high-ranking officials in the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") that has deprived Plaintiff of access to his legal materials when traveling on court writs (id. at 4). In connection with all three claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief (id. at 5).

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

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner Complaints, including the Second Amended Complaint at issue, to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the Second Amended 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 Second Amended Complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

         Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff sets forth three access-to-courts claims in his Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 33, pp. 1-5). The first claim (Count 1) arises from events that occurred at Lawrence in 2014. The second claim (Count 2) arises from events that occurred at Pinckneyville the same year. Finally, the third claim (Count 3) arises from a statewide policy, custom or practice that has allegedly interfered with Plaintiffs access to legal materials repeatedly since 2014. The factual allegations offered in support of each claim are set forth below.

         Count 1

         On or around January 14, 2014, Plaintiff was scheduled to attend a hearing mMerritte v. Templeton, et ah, No. 12-MR-121, a case that was pending in LaSalle County, Illinois (id. at 3). The Court made arrangements for him to appear by telephone. On the date of the hearing, Kevin Horton, C/O Jenkins and several unknown staff members at Lawrence intentionally denied Plaintiff access to equipment that was needed to attend the hearing by phone.

         Horton told the Court that Plaintiff chose not to attend the hearing. Plaintiff claims that he was prevented from doing so. Because he did not attend, Plaintiffs "pending motion was denied by the court in the listed cause and Plaintiff suffered actual harm in that he was not allowed to be heard by the court on that matter" (id).

         Count 2

         In October 2014, Plaintiff was placed in segregation at Pinckneyville (id. at 3-4). While there, Billy Rolla, Dana Prusacki, Thomas Spiller and several other unknown staff members at Pinckneyville denied him access to writing instruments and paper (id. at 4). He was also denied access to the prison's law library. As a result, Plaintiff was unable to conduct research for his pending cases and his contemplated litigation. He was also denied access to telephones and could not contact legal counsel or witnesses (id).

         Count 3

         Finally, Plaintiff challenges a policy, custom or practice of the IDOC that regularly deprives him of access to his legal materials (id. at 4). When an inmate is required to make a court appearance, the IDOC transfers that inmate to a facility that is close to the hearing location. The inmate is prohibited from bringing any legal materials that are unrelated to the hearing. On a number of occasions, this policy has prevented Plaintiff from bringing "notes, writing instruments, work product, paper and legal documents from cases other than the one that is scheduled" (id). As a result, Plaintiff has repeatedly ...


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