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Ingersoll v. Phelps

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 7, 2017

JACOB LEE INGERSOLL, #R-60318, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID B. PHELPS and UNKNOWN CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jacob Ingersoll, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Sheridan Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer David Phelps (internal affairs officer) and Officer John/Jane Doe (unknown correctional officer) for violating his constitutional rights at Menard Correctional Center in 2015. (Doc. 1). According to the Complaint, Officer Doe allowed two masked inmates to enter Plaintiff's cell at Menard and attack him on April 17, 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Officer Phelps investigated the assault but ultimately took disciplinary action against Plaintiff. Id. In addition to the assault, Plaintiff endured 30 days in administrative segregation, 90 days in disciplinary segregation, and a delayed prison transfer. Id. During this same time period, he was denied access to mental health services at the prison. Id. Plaintiff now seeks monetary damages against Officers Doe and Phelps for violating Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations in the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         On April 17, 2015, an unknown officer at Menard (“Officer Doe”) allowed two masked inmates to enter Plaintiff's cell and assault him. (Doc. 1, p. 5). The inmates beat Plaintiff until he nearly lost consciousness. Id. He sustained severe head injuries during the attack. Id. Plaintiff was immediately taken to Menard's Health Care Unit (“HCU”) for treatment and photographs of his injuries. Id. He remained there until he recovered, and he complains of no lingering injuries. Id.

         While in the HCU, Officer Phelps interviewed Plaintiff about the assault. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was then placed in administrative segregation on investigative status for 30 days, while Officer Phelps continued to investigate the matter. Id. During several interviews with Plaintiff, Officer Phelps suggested that Plaintiff was involved in prison tattoo work and that a dispute over this work resulted in his attack. Id. Plaintiff denied any involvement in tattoo work. Id.

         Officer Phelps nevertheless issued Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket for undisclosed rule violations. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was found guilty of the violations and punished with 90 days in disciplinary segregation. Id. His transfer to Sheridan was also “terminated”[1] as part of his punishment. Id.

         During the four months he spent in segregation, Plaintiff was denied access to mental health professionals at the prison. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He filed several grievances to complain about this deprivation, but those grievances were either destroyed or disappeared. Id.

         Plaintiff now claims that the conduct of Officers Doe and Phelps violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff seeks monetary relief against these individuals. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Discussion

         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court has organized the claims in Plaintiff's pro se Complaint into the following enumerated counts:

Count 1 - Eighth Amendment claim against Officer Doe for failing to protect Plaintiff from the inmate attack that occurred on April 17, 2015.
Count 2 - Fourteenth Amendment claim against Officer Phelps for depriving Plaintiff of a protected liberty interest without due process of law by issuing him a false disciplinary ticket that resulted in his punishment with segregation and a delayed prison transfer.
Count 3 - Eighth Amendment claim against both defendants for denying Plaintiff mental health treatment during his four ...

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