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Brooks v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 6, 2016

EMANUEL O BROOKS, # B-90011, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief District Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Jacksonville Correctional Center, brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The harms Plaintiff Brooks complains of occurred while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Brooks alleges that the Defendants failed to protect him from attack by a former cellmate, and failed to appropriately respond to his grievance about the attack in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In connection with his claims, Brooks specifically names Defendants Lt. Mich, Kenneth Donnals (officer), and Kim Butler (warden). Brooks seeks monetary compensation, and injunctive relief. The operative pleading before the Court is Brooks's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 12), which he filed in a timely fashion after this Court dismissed his initial complaint for failure to tie the allegations in the complaint to specific defendants. 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 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).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On September 24, 2015, Brooks was awakened by his cellmate, D. Sankey, slamming things around the cell (Doc. 12 at 6). Neighboring inmates asked Sankey to quiet down, which resulted in the exchange of foul language (Id.). Sankey's conduct gave Brooks cause for concern, so he wrote on a slip of paper that he was in fear for his safety and attempted to pass the slip thru the cell door to on-duty officer, Kenneth Donnals (Id.). Donnals told him to give the slip to Officer Mich. on his way to the chow line (Id.).

         Brooks followed the instructions to give the slip to Mich. and was met with mockery (Id.). Mich. allegedly took the slip and read it aloud, falsely stating that it said Brooks's cellie was raping him (Id.). Upon returning from morning chow, Brooks again inquired with Mich. about his fear of Sankey and was told to just go to his cell (Id.). Brooks followed the direction (Id. at 7). A short while later Defendant Donnals locked Sankey and Brooks in their cell and took their identification cards (Id.).

         Donnals's conduct apparently angered Sankey, who in turn started beating Brooks with a fan. Brooks managed to get the fan away, but Sankey then procured a razor, got Brooks on the floor, and began cutting him. Neighboring cellies yelled for help to no avail. Sankey eventually tired of beating Brooks (Id.). A few hours later Defendant Donnals reported to the cell to check on Brooks and Sankey per a tip from an unknown individual (Id.). Donnals discovered that Brooks and Sankey were bloody (Id.).

         Brooks was sent to the medical unit for care (Id.). Medical notes, dated September 24, 2015, reflect injuries to Brooks and note that some were possibly due to a razor (Id. at 12-13). The notes recommend certain blood tests at 3, 6, and 9 months after the fight (Id.). Test results are appended for approximately the 3 and 6 month mark after the fight, but there is nothing for the 9 month mark (Id. at 10-12).

         A disciplinary report reflects that Brooks received a ticket for fighting on September 24, 2015 (Id. at 9). Brooks contested the circumstances that led to the fight via grievance (Id. at 10). And a grievance officer's report, signed by Defendant Butler, rejected any appeal of the disciplinary ticket (Id. at 11).

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

         Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action 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 failure to protect claim against Defendant Donnals for failing to act upon Brooks's statement that he ...

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