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Bell v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 1, 2017

TEAONE SHASHAWN BELL, # B-59870, Plaintiff,
v.
KIMBERLY BUTLER, KENT BROOKMAN, and ANTHONY WILLS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Staci M. Yandle United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Teaone Shashawn Bell filed this action while he was incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center, complaining that his due process rights were violated in a disciplinary action that took place while he was a prisoner at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). He has since notified the Court that he has been released from incarceration. (Doc. 7).

         Bell's original Complaint was dismissed on December 22, 2016 for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 5). The Court characterized his single claim as follows:

Count 1: Fourteenth Amendment claim for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process, for punishing Plaintiff with 6 months in segregation based on no evidence other than the reporting officer's statement.

         Bell was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint in order to re-plead the claim designated as Count 1. He filed his First Amended Complaint on January 13, 2017 (Doc. 6) which is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non- meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the Bell pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         After fully considering the allegations in Bell's First Amended Complaint, the Court concludes that it also fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. This action is therefore subject to summary dismissal under § 1915A.

         The First Amended Complaint

         In support of his due process claim (Count 1), Bell offers similar allegations to those he presented in the original pleading: Brookman and Wills allegedly violated his due process rights “when they denied Bell a fair hearing by an impartial hearing body” on April 21, 2015. (Doc. 6, p. 5).[1] They found Bell guilty “without any evidence[2] to substantiate their decision, ” and subjected him to 6 months in disciplinary segregation in a small cell, along with 6 months of commissary restriction and a C-grade demotion.

         In addition to the original due process claim, the First Amended Complaint includes a second claim asserting that the conditions in Bell's segregation cell constituted cruel and unusual punishment. (Doc. 6, p. 5). He asserts that the cell was small, encased with steel, concrete, and glass, without proper ventilation during the “extremely hot Summer heat.” Id. He was denied cleaning supplies such as a broom and mop. In order to clean the cell, Bell swept up dirt and dust with a washcloth while on his hands and knees. He developed a skin rash on both forearms and on the back of his hands, which required medical treatment. He complained to Warden Butler via a grievance, but got no response. Bell also complains that during his segregation time, he was allowed only one shower per week, was given yard time only once per week, and was restrained with his hands behind his back each time he was escorted out of his cell. (Doc. 6, p. 6).

         As relief, Bell requests compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 6, p. 7). Notably, he ties his prayer for relief to an allegation that he was subjected to 120 days of disciplinary segregation as a result of the Defendants' actions. Id. This is in contrast to his assertion that Brookman and Wills recommended that he be punished with 6 months (or 180 days) in segregation.

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the First Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. 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. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is ...


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