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Owens v. Heck

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 24, 2017



          David R. Herndon United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Tyrone Owens and Kendall Jackson, inmates at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (Pinckneyville) bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Although Jackson is identified as a plaintiff in the case caption and is referenced in the complaint, the complaint focuses on alleged deprivations of Owens' constitutional rights. Essentially, plaintiff alleges he was retaliated against and placed in segregation for acting as a jailhouse lawyer. In connection with these claims, Owens seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a preliminary injunction ordering his release from segregation and ordering Pinckneyville officials to stop retaliating against him by placing him in segregation. In connection with his request for injunctive relief, Owens asks for an “emergency hearing.”

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint 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 of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         According to the complaint, on three separate occasions, Heck, Myers, Mcbride, and Love placed Owens in segregation in retaliation for assisting other inmates in filing grievances and lawsuits involving Pinckneyville staff. (Doc. 1, p. 7). This allegation is also directed against an individual identified as “Lt. Sean Furlow.” Id. However, Furlow is not a named defendant in this action. Owens further alleges that he was the subject of several retaliatory “shake-downs” (meaning Owens' cell was searched by Defendants) (Doc. 1, pp. 7-9). During the alleged shake-downs, legal paperwork belonging to other inmates was strewn about Owens' cell, confiscated, and/or destroyed. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-9). Owens' placement in segregation and the repeated searches of his cell have interfered with the ability of other inmates to access the Courts. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-9). At least one of the shake-downs was ordered by non-party Lt. Sean Furlow.

         Owens specifically alleges that on two occasions in 2016, Heck, Myers, and McBride placed him in segregation in retaliation for his activities as a jailhouse lawyer. At one point, Heck told Owens if “you keep filing lawsuits, I'll keep you in [segregation].” (Doc. 1, p. 9). Myers then said, “give his ass the max.” Id.

         Owens alleges that in 2017, Vandekerlove and Gilley searched his cell and confiscated dozens of documents, including legal documents. (Doc. 1, p. 8-9). This incident was apparently in retaliation for Owens' attempt to assist Jackson in filing his first lawsuit. Id. Although not entirely clear, it appears that following this search, Owens was placed in segregation for a third time. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 9)

         Owens contends that he has filed grievances and/or written letters to Love and Baldwin regarding the alleged constitutional violations. (Doc. 1, p. 8). However, his complaints have been ignored. Id.

         Owens claims that he has been in segregation for a total of a year as retaliation for assisting other inmates in filing grievances and/or lawsuits. (Doc. 1, p. 9). He states the continued segregation is causing severe headaches and depression. Id. Additionally, Owens contends he is hearing voices. Id.

         Finally, Owens alleges that Heck, Myers, Love, Baldwin, Gilley, Vandekerlove, McBride, and non-party Lt. Sean Furlow conspired to violate his rights by instituting a policy of retaliating against inmates that file grievances and/or law suits by placing them in segregation. (Doc. 1, p. 7).


         The Plaintiffs

         As a preliminary matter, it is necessary to clarify who is a plaintiff in the instant action. The caption of the complaint lists Owens and Jackson as plaintiffs. However, the only plaintiff identified in the complaint's list of parties is Owens. Additionally, Owens is the only individual that has signed the Complaint.

         There is no reason to believe Owens is an attorney. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(a) requires each party or his attorney to sign the complaint and all other pleadings. Although individuals may represent themselves in federal court, pro se litigants and non-lawyers cannot represent other individuals or corporations. Nocula v. Tooling Systems International Corp., 520 F.3d 719, 725 (7th Cir. 2008) (“corporations cannot appear pro se, and one pro se litigant cannot represent another”) (citations omitted). Therefore, Owens cannot proceed as though he is representing anyone other than himself.

         Not only must each plaintiff sign the complaint, each must also pay the $400 filing fee ($350 for those granted pauper status). See Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852, 855-56 (7th Cir. 2004). Each plaintiff's individual obligation to pay the filing fee for this action was, theoretically, incurred at the time the action was filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); Lucien v. Jockisch, 133 F.3d 464, 467 (7th Cir. 1998). However, because the complaint was Dated:ly by plaintiff Owens, the ...

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