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McCray v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 21, 2016

ALAN McCRAY, # K-52575, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Alan McCray, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). In his complaint, Plaintiff claims that Menard officials violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments (Doc. 1, pp. 1-35). He also brings a claim under Illinois state law against one of these officials for intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. at 24-25). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and a prison transfer (id. at 36).

         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). The complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.


         The complaint is unnecessarily long, unfocused, and confusing (Doc. 1, pp. 1-36; Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-48). This style of pleading is strongly discouraged by the Court and by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which both require “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). Long complaints are difficult to decipher and even more difficult to answer. As a result, they are more likely than short complaints to be dismissed for violating the Court's local rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When it comes to preparing a complaint, “short and simple” is the rule of thumb.

         Under the circumstances, the Court has done its best to organize the factual allegations in the complaint into a coherent summary. Likewise, the Court has included a discussion of all claims it could identify in Plaintiff's complaint. Any claims not discussed herein are considered dismissed without prejudice, as are claims against individuals who are not named as defendants in the case caption of the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) (noting that the title of the complaint “must name all the parties”); Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005) (holding that to be properly considered a party, a defendant must be “specif[ied] in the caption”).

         According to the complaint, Plaintiff was disciplined in 2012 for assaulting a correctional officer at Menard (Doc. 1, p. 5). He transferred to another facility before returning to Menard in 2014 (id.). Following his return, Plaintiff claims that prison officials violated his constitutional rights in retaliation for the prior staff assault by subjecting him to the unauthorized use of force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment, inadequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the deprivation of a protected liberty interest without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the denial of court access in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments (id.). A summary of the allegations offered in support of each claim is set forth below.

         1. Excessive Force

         When Plaintiff arrived at Menard on September 24, 2014, Lieutenant Richard asked him if he was returning to the prison (Doc. 1, pp. 5-7). Plaintiff indicated that he was (id. at 5). Lieutenant Richard then handcuffed Plaintiff so tightly that he lost circulation in his hands as the lieutenant escorted Plaintiff directly to segregation. When Plaintiff asked the lieutenant why he was “doing that to him, ” Lieutenant Richard said that he knew what Plaintiff “had done” (id. at 6). Plaintiff asked the lieutenant to loosen the cuffs, and, in response, Lieutenant Richard choked Plaintiff, twisted his handcuffs, and “snatched” him up into the air. This caused Plaintiff to scream out in pain. He suffered from soreness and scratches to his neck and wrists as a result of the incident (id. at 6-7). He was denied medical treatment for these injuries. Plaintiff claims that the use of force against him was excessive and caused him to suffer from emotional distress.

         2. Disciplinary Ticket and Hearing

         Lieutenant Richard then issued Plaintiff a false disciplinary ticket for yelling at other inmates while standing in line (Doc. 1, pp. 7-13). Warden Butler appointed no one to investigate the charges, although C/O John Doe 1 signed a statement indicating that he did (id. at 9-10; Doc. 1-1, p. 3). At Plaintiff's adjustment committee hearing on September 29, 2014, C/O Brookman and C/O Hart denied his request to call two witnesses (Doc. 1, pp. 9-11). The adjustment committee instead accepted the unchallenged statement of Lieutenant Richard and found Plaintiff guilty of the rule violation. Plaintiff was punished with three months of segregation, demotion to C-grade, and commissary restriction (Doc. 1-1, p. 3).

         On the final hearing summary, C/O Brookman and C/O Hart falsely stated that Plaintiff never requested witnesses at his hearing (Doc. 1, p. 11). Warden Butler, Director Godinez, and Ex-Director Stolworthy are generally aware of this practice at Menard (id. at 11-13). However, they took no action to stop it in Plaintiff's case.

         3. Conditions of Confinement

         As punishment, Plaintiff was placed in segregation for three months (Doc. 1, pp. 16-24). He was housed in a filthy, “condemned cell” (id. at 16). There were hairballs on the floor and feces and blood smeared across the walls (id. at 17-18). Ants and flies infested the cell. When Plaintiff asked Lieutenant Richard and an officer in the North-2 Cell House for cleaning supplies, both individuals denied his request (id. at 17).

         Plaintiff was also denied a mattress, sheets, and a pillow (id. at 18-19). He had to sleep on a steel bed, which caused him to suffer back pain (id. at 19-20). In addition, he was denied access to his fan as temperatures outside soared (id. at 19).

         The cell lacked running water, a working toilet, and toilet paper (id. at 16-24). Plaintiff's lack of access to drinking water caused him to experience symptoms of dehydration, including dark urine, headaches, and muscle cramping (id. at 20). Because Plaintiff had no access to his personal property, he also had no personal hygiene supplies (id. at 17-18). Plaintiff claims that Warden Butler, Director Godinez, and Ex-Director Stolworthy were generally aware of the conditions at Menard because of a report issued by the John Howard Association, but they took no action to address the conditions in Plaintiff's cell (id. at 17, 23).

         4. Denial of Access to Courts

         Plaintiff alleges that he was unable to exhaust his administrative remedies and file suit because the prison's mailroom was understaffed (Doc. 1, pp. 13-16). As a result, his grievances were not delivered to the intended recipients or returned to him. His mail was often delayed or lost.

         Grievance Officer John Doe 2, Mailroom Supervisor John Doe 3, Warden Butler, Director Godinez, and Ex-Director Stolworthy were generally aware of these issues but took no steps to address them (id. at 14-15). Further, Warden Butler, Director Godinez, and Ex-Director Stolworthy refused to provide timely responses to the grievances that Plaintiff filed to address the constitutional deprivations described in his complaint (id. at 16).

         5. Denial of Medical Care

         Scattered throughout Plaintiff's complaint are allegations that various defendants denied his miscellaneous requests for medical treatment. For example, Plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Richard denied his request for medical care for a sore and scratched neck and wrists after the lieutenant used excessive force against him on September 24, 2014 (id. at 25-26).

         Nurse Jane Doe also denied Plaintiff medical care for his neck pain, scratches, and dehydration. In addition, he asked her to treat residual pain in his leg and foot that was associated with an old gunshot wound (id. at 31). She simply told Plaintiff that there was not much that she could do and discouraged him from filing more sick call requests and grievances. Nurse Doe explained that Wexford would not authorize treatment of old injuries or refer him to an outside provider for expensive diagnostic testing (id. at 31-33). At most, Nurse Doe predicted that Plaintiff would receive nonprescription pain medication to treat his pain (id. at 32). Plaintiff continued filing grievances and was finally seen by an unnamed individual on February 7, 2016. Just as the nurse warned, Plaintiff's requests for a referral, diagnostic testing, and pain medication were denied.

         Plaintiff spoke with several other unnamed officers who were assigned to his gallery and asked them for medical treatment. They also refused his request for treatment. He stopped several unidentified nurses who were passing out medication and reported his injuries. The nurses also declined to treat Plaintiff (id. at 20, 26).

         Warden Butler allegedly ignored emergency grievance filed by Plaintiff (id. at 26, 28). In them, Plaintiff described the injuries he suffered when Lieutenant Richard used excessive force against him. He also described his symptoms of dehydration that resulted from his placement in a cell without running water in late 2014 (id. at 28). ...

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