United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
WALTER L. HILL, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM CARAWAY, MICHAEL DURBIN, and MAJOR PITT, Defendants.
G. WILKERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Amend filed by
Plaintiff, Walter L. Hill, on November 16, 2016 (Doc. 45),
the Motion for Appointment of Counsel filed by Plaintiff on
December 14, 2016 (Doc. 47), and the Motion Regarding
Sufficiency of an Answer filed by Plaintiff on January 26,
2017 (Doc. 52). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion
to Amend is DENIED, the Motion for
Appointment of Counsel is DENIED, and the
Motion Regarding Sufficiency of an Answer is
Order entered on August 16, 2016 (Doc. 35), this Court
addressed, in detail, Plaintiff's attempts to sue new
defendants, Chamness and Sanders, on claims related to the
alleged failure to respond to or the losing of
Plaintiff's grievances. This Court held that while
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 provides that leave to
amend should be freely given when justice so requires,
Plaintiff's claims were futile. See Life Plans, Inc.
v. Security Life of Denver Ins. Co., 800 F.3d 343,
357-358 (7th Cir. 2015). In particular, this Court found that
Plaintiff cannot pursue a free-standing due process claim
concerning a prison's internal grievance process.
See, e.g., Courtney v. Devore, 595
F. App'x 618, 620-21 (7th Cir. 2014) (“[S]tate
grievance procedures do not create substantive liberty
interests protected by due process.”).
now alleges that by destroying or failing to respond to
grievances, Defendant Chamness and Sanders violated his First
Amendment rights by preventing him from “seeking
redress through the grievance process.” Plaintiff
claims that they are retaliating against him for filing
grievances about staff misconduct by intentionally
withholding responses to his grievances or by destroying
those grievances. As stated previously, the failure of prison
officials to follow their own procedures regarding
grievances, by ignoring them or destroying them, does not
state a constitutional claim. Maust v. Headley, 959
F.2d 644, 648 (7th Cir. 1992). As to Plaintiff's
purported First Amendment retaliation claim, there is no
allegation that his speech has been chilled by any of the
actions of these Defendants. See Gomez v. Randle,
680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir.2012); see also Conyers v.
Abitz, 416 F.3d 580, 586 (7th Cir. 2005)
(plaintiff's argument that conspiracy by prison officials
to deny administrative review of his grievances by dismissing
them was frivolous where plaintiff had access to the
grievance procedure but he did not obtain the outcome he
desired). Similarly, Plaintiff states no claim against the
defendants for impeding his access to the courts by
preventing him from exhausting his administrative remedies.
If a prisoner can establish that administrative remedies were
unavailable under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the
prisoner is excused from the requirement that he exhaust all
administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court.
See Lewis v. Washington, 300 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir.
2002). In other words, a prison official's destruction,
delay, or disregard of a prisoner's grievances does not
actually preclude the prisoner from filing suit. No claim
arises from the mishandling of Plaintiff's grievances.
Plaintiff's gripe is that they simply have not responded
to his grievances or haven't given him a response; such a
concern does not implicate either the First or the Fourteenth
for Recruitment of Counsel
has no constitutional nor statutory right to a
Court-appointed attorney in this matter. See Pruitt v.
Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 649 (7th Cir. 2007). However, 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) provides that the Court “may
request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford
counsel.” Prior to making such a request, the Court
must first determine whether Plaintiff has made reasonable
efforts to secure counsel without Court intervention (or
whether has he been effectively prevented from doing so).
Jackson v. County of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070, 1073
(7th Cir. 1992). If he has, then the Court next considers
whether, “given the difficulty of the case, [does] the
plaintiff appear to be competent to try it himself . . .
.” Farmer v. Haas, 990 F.2d 319, 321-322 (7th
Cir. 1993); Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655 (“the
question is whether the difficulty of the case - factually
and legally - exceeds the particular plaintiff's capacity
as a layperson to coherently present it to the judge or jury
himself.”). In order to make such a determination, the
Court may consider, among other things, the complexity of the
issues presented and the Plaintiff's education, skill,
and experience as revealed by the record. Pruitt,
503 F.3d at 655-656. Ultimately, the Court must “take
account of all [relevant] evidence in the record” and
determine whether Plaintiff has the capacity to litigate this
matter without the assistance of counsel. Navejar v.
Iyiola, 718 F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 2013).
Court finds that Plaintiff has met his threshold burden on
trying to secure counsel without Court assistance. However,
counsel will not be recruited at this time. Plaintiff
represents that he has a high school education and his
pleadings to date have been concise and easy to understand.
While Plaintiff is not well-versed in the law and may not be
familiar with legal “arcana, ” neither is
necessary to prosecute this relatively simple action.
Plaintiff's only claims relates to a single incident of
excessive force. Such a claim will not require extensive or
expert discovery. To the extent that Plaintiff suffers delays
in receiving and filing motions, he can seek reasonable
extensions of time.
Regarding Sufficiency of an Answer
objects to various responses made by Defendants to his
requests to admit (Doc. 51). The Court has reviewed the
responses and Plaintiffs objections. Defendants objected to
all of Plaintiffs requests for admission but nonetheless
provided appropriate answers. Plaintiffs objections to those
answers go to disputes of fact rather than to the sufficiency
of the answers. Defendants are likewise not required to
explain their answers; such explanations could be sought
through interrogatories or a deposition. Plaintiff will be
entitled to highlight any discrepancies between
Defendants' responses and other evidence on record either
on summary judgment or at trial.
foregoing reasons, the Motion to Amend filed by Plaintiff,
Walter L. Hill, on November 16, 2016 (Doc. 45) is
DENIED, the Motion for Appointment of
Counsel filed by Plaintiff on December 14, 2016 (Doc. 47) is
DENIED, and the Motion Regarding Sufficiency
of an Answer filed by Plaintiff on January 26, 2017 (Doc. 52)