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Firkins v. McLaurin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 3, 2017

JACK L. FIRKINS, #315562, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Jack Firkins, an inmate in St. Clair County Jail (“Jail”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his Amended Complaint (Doc 9), Plaintiff claims the defendants subjected him to an improper search and unconstitutional conditions of confinement and deprived him of writing materials and access to his attorney. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Amended Complaint[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 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 Amended Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         In his Amended Complaint (Doc. 9), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: on January 8, 2017, when Plaintiff asked to be sent for a visit that was scheduled for 2:30pm, he was instead taken to booking where he was strip searched by officer Chris Hearnis, along with three other male inmates. (Doc. 9, p. 5). When Plaintiff asked why he was being strip searched, Hearnis responded that he was “just doing [his] job” and that he “got some information.” Id. Plaintiff missed his scheduled visit because of this search. Id.

         During his time at the Jail, Plaintiff was subjected to poor living conditions, including mold in the showers, paint peeling and cracks on the walls and ceilings, and dust in the ventilation system. (Doc. 9, p. 5). Plaintiff has not been given a second uniform, so he has to walk in a blanket while he waits for his uniform to be laundered. Id. There is also “inadequate portions of food on trays” and inmates “are charged too much for commissary and Aramark food services.” Id. Plaintiff was unable to purchase writing paper or stamped envelopes for correspondence for two weeks, from March 6, 2017 to March 19, 2017. (Doc. 9, p. 6). During this time, he was also not able to use the telephone to call an attorney. Id. He filed a complaint at the Jail regarding these issues, but has not received a response. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from the defendants. (Doc. 9, p. 6).


         Based on the allegations of the Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate three counts in this pro se action. 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.

Count 1 - Defendants subjected Plaintiff to an unconstitutional strip search on January 8, 2017 in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Count 2 - Defendants subjected Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while he was incarcerated at St. Clair County Jail in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Count 3 - Defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by preventing him from purchasing writing paper, purchasing stamped envelopes, and using the telephone to call his attorney from March 6, 2017 to March 19, 2017 and denying him access to the law library for 4 weeks.

         As discussed in more detail below, Counts 1, 2, and 3 will be dismissed without prejudice. Notably, Plaintiff has indicated on his Amended Complaint that he intends to also bring a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. (Doc. 9, p. 1). The FTCA provides jurisdiction for suits against the United States regarding torts committed by federal officials, not state officials. The defendants named herein are not federal officials. Therefore, Plaintiff's claim does not fall within the jurisdiction of the FTCA. Any FTCA claim Plaintiff sought to bring in this action is therefore dismissed with prejudice. Any other intended claim that has not been recognized by the Court is also considered dismissed with prejudice as inadequately pleaded under the Twombly pleading standard.


         Before analyzing Plaintiff's allegations, the Court finds it appropriate to address Plaintiff's failure to include specific allegations against Defendant Phillip McLaurin (Jail Superintendent) and St. Clair County Jail in the body of his Amended Complaint, despite his having listed them among the defendants. Plaintiffs are required to associate specific defendants with specific claims, so that defendants are put on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can properly answer the complaint. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Where a plaintiff has not included a defendant in his statement of claim, the defendant cannot be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are directed against him. Furthermore, merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 ...

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