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Dunigan v. Coffey

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 21, 2016

GREG DUNIGAN, # B-87014, Plaintiff,
v.
MELISSA COFFEY, COUNSELOR GROTT, WARDENS, ADJUSTMENT COMMITTEE, COUNSELOR RYANN, COUNSELOR NIPPE, GAIL WALLS, OFFICER ELLETTE, NICOLE LEWIS, MORGAN TEAS, LT. PHAROE, SGT. SCOTT, GETTING, LORI OAKLEY, DR. FURENTES, MENARD CORRECTIONAL CENTER, and UNKNOWN PARTIES Mailroom, Medical Records, Jane Doe Nurse, and John Doe Physical, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court for a status review. On September 20, 2016, the Court evaluated Plaintiff's original complaint and subsequent attempts to amend or supplement the complaint and concluded that none of the proposed amendments/supplements could stand alone as an amended complaint (Doc. 15). The Court advised Plaintiff that if he wished to amend the original complaint, he must submit a new amended complaint no later than October 25, 2016. If no amended pleading was filed, the Court would conduct the required merits review on the original complaint (Doc. 1).

         Plaintiff has not submitted an amended complaint, and he has not responded to the September 20 Order in any way. Thus his original pleading (Doc. 1) stands as the operative complaint and is now ripe for review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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 Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's claims arose while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). He has since been released on parole (Doc. 13). The complaint consists of 24 pages (Docs. 1, 1-1) and includes 50 pages of exhibits (Docs. 1-2, 1-3). Thirteen individuals are named as Defendants. Several unknown parties, the Adjustment Committee, and Menard Correctional Center are also named. The statement of claim begins with:

This Complaint is against Menard and Menard Medical Staff for violating my constitutional rights in various different ways starting from denial of medical, and mental treatment, assistance, and medication for serious and deadly illnesses beginning from 2-13-15 . . . until today which is 10-22-15.

(Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff then accuses Defendants generally of committing a host of offenses against him, ranging from verbal abuse to theft, bribery, conspiracy, and attempted murder. Id.

         The statement of claim includes general allegations of deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs (Doc. 1, pp. 5-12). The majority of the attached exhibits also relate to medical and mental health matters. Plaintiff claims to suffer from stage three syphilis, herpes, seizures, high blood pressure, asthma, osteomyelitis (“a deadly bone infection of the mouth”), migraine headaches from a previous brain surgery, and severe stress and depression (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 10). As a result of Defendants' failure to provide timely treatment for his syphilis and herpes, Plaintiff asserts that he is at risk for developing liver cancer and AIDS, and he concludes, “I am the walking dead” (Doc. 1, p. 7). He states that over his nine months of confinement at Menard, he should have received six different medications for his various conditions. However, the only medication given to him was his seizure medication-which was provided for only a two-month period and was then discontinued (Doc. 1, p. 11). The complaint does not identify which of the named Defendants failed to provide medical treatment to Plaintiff.

         The statement of claim then shifts to an entirely different issue. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Melissa Coffey (Mental Health) and Grott (Counselor) conspired to falsely accuse him of sexual misconduct in order to have him thrown into “solitary confinement” (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13; Doc. 1-1, pp. 3-5). He heard the two discussing filing disciplinary charges against him when he came to Defendant Grott's office to take a telephone call from his attorney (Doc. 1-1, p. 4). Defendants Coffey and Grott then overheard Plaintiff's phone call with the attorney, during which Plaintiff and the attorney discussed legal documents (including a re-drafted complaint for his earlier-filed case) that Plaintiff planned to give the attorney at an upcoming visit. He claims that these Defendants knew that they “had become defendants too” in the revised complaint, and that they would be in “big trouble” if Plaintiff were able to give his attorney the documents and evidence against them (Doc. 1, p. 12). Soon after this attorney phone call, Defendants Coffey and Grott filed the disciplinary charges against Plaintiff (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13).

         Plaintiff additionally claims that Defendants Coffey and Grott pretended to be in an improper relationship with him in order to set him up to go to solitary confinement for 60 days (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). He also indicates that they brought the disciplinary charges because he found out about an illicit relationship that Defendant Coffey was involved in (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). Plaintiff spent 60 days in segregation as a result of the allegedly false charges[1] (Doc. 1-1, pp. 1, 4). He filed three grievances against Defendant Coffey for sexual misconduct and for falsely accusing Plaintiff of that offense (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). The grievances were ignored.

         The attorney referenced by Plaintiff had been appointed by the undersigned to represent him in a previously-filed case which is still pending before this Court, Dunigan v. Lang, et al., Case No. 15-cv-487-NJR-DGW (for clarity, that earlier case will be referred to in this order as Dunigan I).[2]While Plaintiff was in solitary confinement, Defendants Coffey and Grott withheld Plaintiff's legal mail and his re-drafted complaint from Dunigan I, so that he was unable to give the papers to his lawyer (Doc. 1-1, p. 6). Because of those missing documents, Plaintiff claims that twenty defendants were left out of Dunigan I [3] (Doc. 1-1, p. 6). The documents also included evidence against Defendants Coffey and Grott (information which Plaintiff says that he did ultimately send to the lawyer) (Doc. 1-1, p. 1-2). Plaintiff claims that “the Wardens and Medical are connected in this scam” (Doc. 1-1, p. 5).

         Plaintiff abruptly concludes his statement of claim by saying that he is out of ink and will “send the rest next week” (Doc. 1-1, p. 6). As detailed in this Court's Order on September 20, 2016 (Doc. 15), the documents Plaintiff subsequently sent to the Court cannot be considered as part of the operative complaint.

         The complaint includes a request for relief, in which Plaintiff seeks immediate medical release from prison, dismissal of the criminal conviction for which he was then serving time, financial compensation for the neglect of his medical conditions, a divorce from his wife, and that Defendants Pollion, Lang, [4] Furentes, Walls, and Lewis be sentenced to jail time (Doc. 1-1, pp. 9-10).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide Plaintiff's claims into the following counts. 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 as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical and mental health needs, in that he did not receive treatment or medication for his serious medical conditions, with the exception that he was given mental health medication for two months while at Menard;
Count 2: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendants Coffey and Grott, for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process, for bringing false disciplinary charges against Plaintiff that resulted in his ...

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