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Bell v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 7, 2016

TEAONE BELL, #B-59870, Plaintiff,
v.
KIMBERLY BUTLER, KENT BROOKMAN, and JASON HART, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Teaone Bell, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”), brings this pro se action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's claims stem from a disciplinary action at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) for which he lost a number of privileges. He asserts that the defendants violated his Due Process rights and his Eighth Amendment rights via deliberate indifference and unconstitutional conditions of confinement. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sues Kimberly Butler (warden), Kent Brookman (hearing committee chairperson) and Jason Hart (hearing committee member). Plaintiff seeks monetary compensation.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 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 Complaint

         Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint is nearly identical to his original Complaint (Doc. 1). In short, Plaintiff claims that he was charged with sexual misconduct and that he appeared before a hearing committee review panel, denied the allegations and was found guilty solely based upon the incident report filed by two prison guards (Doc. 7 at 5). He alleges that the hearing committee was not impartial and thus his Due Process rights were violated (Id.). He further claims that Defendant Butler exacerbated this violation by signing off on the hearing committee's recommended discipline-six months of segregation, C-grade status and restricted commissary access (Id.).

         The most notable addition to the Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint is the inclusion of additional facts regarding the conditions of his confinement in segregation (Id. at 6). Plaintiff alleges that his cell had improper climate control, that he was denied cleaning supplies, that he was forced to clean the cell by hand with a washcloth to maintain a semblance of sanitary conditions and that he developed an armpit boil due to the environment (Id.). However, Plaintiff does not allege that any of the named defendants caused or were aware of these conditions (Id.). Plaintiff maintains that he suffered physical harm of weight loss, and psychological harm, including suicidal ideation as a result of these conditions (Id.).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se complaint into the following enumerated claims which track the designations the Plaintiff assigned in his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7 at 5-6). 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 regarding their merit.

Count 1:Fourteenth Amendment Due process violation for failing to afford the Plaintiff an adequate and fair opportunity to present evidence on his behalf to refute charges at a hearing committee hearing;
Count 2:Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Butler for approving the hearing committee's decision regarding discipline for the Plaintiff; and,
Count 3:Eighth Amendment unconstitutional conditions of confinement claim for subjecting Plaintiff to 120 days of disciplinary segregation in a cell without proper sanitation and ill-equipped for winter and summer weather conditions.

         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, 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). After carefully considering the allegations in the First Amended Complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims are subject to dismissal under § 1915A.

         Coun ...


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