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Wellss v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 12, 2017

SAM WELLS, Plaintiff,
v.
KIMBERLY S. BUTLER, MINH T. SCOTT, REBECCA COWAN, RANDY S. PFISTER, CHAD M. BROWN, ABERARDO SALINAS, SALVADOR A. GODINEZ, and LESLIE MCCARTY Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, DISTRICT JUDGE:

         Plaintiff Sam Wells, an inmate in Hill Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for events that happened at Menard Correctional Center and Pontiac Correctional Center. Plaintiff requests monetary damages. 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; this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         While incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, plaintiff was placed on investigative status on March 28, 2014. (Doc. 1-1, p. 3). On April 22, 2014 plaintiff was served with an inmate disciplinary report for participation in a security threat group (“STG”). (Doc. 1, p. 8) (Doc. 1-1, pp 5-6). Plaintiff was put on temporary confinement, and his adjustment committee hearing was delayed until May 8, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 8). At that time, plaintiff was served with another disciplinary report dated May 8, 2014, although that report referenced the same subject as the April 22, 2014 report. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 8-9). The second disciplinary report was written at the behest of the Chief Administrative Officer, Kimberly Butler. (Doc. 1, p. 8). She directed that the report be revised in order to include additional information to substantiate the charge against plaintiff. (Doc. 1-1, p. 16). She also directed the adjustment committee to impose discipline of 1 year segregation, 1 year C-grade, and LOC. Id. Plaintiff alleges that this instruction violated the Illinois Administrative Code, specifically the section that prohibits the CAO from influencing an adjustment committee decision. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff also alleges that Butler improperly increased his sanction, although the Complaint explicitly states that he was denied a hearing until after Butler remanded the initial disciplinary report and the exhibits submitted in support of the complaint do not show that an initial disciplinary hearing was performed or that discipline was imposed prior to the 1 year punishment. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-10).

         Minh Scott and Rebecca Cowan imposed the sanction recommended by Butler in violation of the Illinois Administrative Code. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff filed grievances contesting the alleged arbitrary acts by Butler, Scott, and Cowan. Id. On October 20, 2014, the Administrative Review Board (“ARB”), specifically McCarty and Godinez, remanded the ticket back to Menard so that the reporting officer could provide additional information to substantiate the charge and directed Pontiac to rehear the ticket. Id. However, the remand order failed to address the allegedly improper 9 month sanction increase recommended by Butler. Plaintiff alleges that Godinez and McCarty violated the Illinois Administrative Code by failing to address this point. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff further alleges that Godinez and McCarty were deliberately indifferent to the 4 months that plaintiff had already spent in segregation past the 3 months he should have received. Id.

         Plaintiff was not reissued a new disciplinary ticket until approximately 3 months after the remand from the ARB. (Doc. 1-1, p. 21). The January 20, 2015 report was substantially the same as the April 22, 2014 and the May 8, 2014 reports. (Doc. 1, p. 11). On January 22, 2015, plaintiff appeared before the Pontiac Correctional Center Adjustment Committee, composed of Chad Brown and Aberarado Salinas. Id. The Pontiac Committee again found plaintiff guilty and sanctioned him to 1 year of segregation, despite the fact that plaintiff explained how Butler had violated the administrative code. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Brown, Salinas, and Pfister also violated the Illinois Administrative Code when they failed to act to reverse Butler's wrongful act. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Brown, Salinas, and Pfister retaliated against him because of letters, request slips, and grievance that plaintiff had filed. Id.

         Plaintiff was released from segregation on March 27, 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 12). On April 27, 2015, the ARB issued a decision that the sanction increase from 3 months to 1 year violated the Illinois Administrative Code, and directed prison administrators to reduce Plaintiff's punishment to 3 months. Id. However, by this time, plaintiff had already served the full year at Pontiac Correctional Center. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the extra 273 days he had to spend in segregation posed an atypical and significant hardship in relation to prison life in general population. Id. Specifically he alleges that while in general population, he had a job assignment and access to vocational classes, religious services, school, recreation, activities, and other support programs. Id. He also received 5 contact visits per month, daily telephone access, 3 showers per week, and 8 hours of recreation per week. Id. In contrast, in disciplinary segregation, plaintiff was confined to his cell 24 hours a day. Id. He received no telephone privileges, only 2 non-contact visits per month, 1 shower per week, 4 hours of recreation per week, and no support or recreational programing. Id. Plaintiff was also subject to restrictions on what property he could keep in his cell or purchase at the commissary. Id.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 5 counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a ...


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