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Bentz v. Gregson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 27, 2017

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, #S03210, Plaintiff,
v.
SHANE GREGSON, JENNIFER CLENDENIN, DIA RODELY, MORGAN TEAS, JENNIFER WHITLEY, and UNKNOWN PARTIES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE District Judge, United States District Court.

         Plaintiff David Bentz, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings the instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several Menard officials who allegedly violated his constitutional rights. (Doc. 2). This case was opened after a single claim (“Count 6”) was severed from Bentz v. Gregson, et al., No. 16-cv-01349-DRH (S.D. Ill. 2016) (“Gregson I”), pursuant to a Memorandum and Order entered in Gregson I on January 9, 2017. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff brings the claim against members of Menard's law library staff, including Shane Gregson, Jennifer Clendenin, Dia Rodely, Morgan Teas, Jennifer Whitley and other unknown individuals, [1] for denying him access to the courts in 2016. (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 10; Doc. 2, pp. 30-31). He seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages and injunctive relief against them. (Doc. 2, pp. 39-41).

         This severed case is now subject to preliminary review under 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). Count 6 survives preliminary review under this standard.

         Complaint

         Relevant to Count 6, Plaintiff asserts that the law library staff at Menard, including Defendants Gregson, Clendenin, Rodely, Teas, Whitley and other “John and/or Jane Does, ” impeded his access to the Courts in 2016. (Doc. 2, pp. 30-31). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that these individuals regularly failed to electronically file his court documents or to give him copies of documents that were filed in his pending cases. (Doc. 2, p. 30). On a number of occasions, they stamped Plaintiff's documents as “filed” when they were not. Id.

         Plaintiff wrote grievances to complain about the law library staff's misconduct as early as January 28, 2016. Id. However, the grievances did not resolve the problem. The law library continued this pattern even after Plaintiff filed Bentz v. Maue, No. 16-cv-00854-NJR (S.D. Ill. 2016) (“Maue”). (Doc. 2, p. 31). Plaintiff alleges that Maue was ultimately dismissed because of the law library staff's failure to file documents pertaining to his request for in forma pauperis status and related matters. Plaintiff further claims that he missed a deadline imposed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in another case as a result of the law library staff's misconduct. (Doc. 2, p. 30).

         Discussion

         This case involves the following claim that was severed from Gregson I:

Count 6 - Violation of Plaintiff's right to access the courts by Gregson, Clendenin, Rodely, Teas, Whitley, and other ...

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