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Jordan v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 3, 2017

PIERRE JORDAN, # M-07905, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). The Complaint includes claims that Plaintiff's serious mental health needs as well as medical needs were ignored, he was denied some meals, he was subjected to excessive force, he was assaulted by a fellow inmate after staff refused to move him, and he was found guilty of a fabricated disciplinary report. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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 plaintiff 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). Additionally, 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).

         Applying these standards, some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A. Addtionally, the Court shall consider whether certain distinct claims against different groups of Defendants may appropriately proceed together in the same case. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007) (unrelated claims against different defendants belong in separate lawsuits).

         The Complaint

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended request for relief (Doc. 10) shall be DENIED. Plaintiff submitted his one-page proposed amended request for relief along with his motion (Doc. 10, p. 2), indicating that the Court should substitute that page for the Complaint's original request for relief in a piecemeal fashion. A cut-and-paste amendment to a complaint is not permitted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Instead, all claims against all defendants must be set forth in a single document. Further, an amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint, rendering the original complaint void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n.1 (7th Cir. 2004).

         The allegations in the Complaint are as follows. Plaintiff attempted to commit suicide on July 21, 2014, at Pinckneyville. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 9). He had recently learned of the deaths of 2 family members, and requested emergency mental health crisis intervention. However, Flowers, Wagner, and Coffey refused to contact a mental health professional to assist Plaintiff before his suicide attempt. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff also claims that after he tried to kill himself, unidentified Defendants intentionally delayed their response to Plaintiff's cellmate's calls for help on his behalf. Id.

         Immediately after Plaintiff's suicide attempt, Wagner and Coffey grabbed Plaintiff by the arms, picked him up off his feet, and body-slammed him to the floor, hitting his head on a radiator. (Doc. 1, p. 7; Doc. 1-1, pp. 2, 4-6). Wagner then grabbed the electric extension cord that Plaintiff had used in his suicide attempt, and wrapped it around Plaintiff's neck, saying he would kill Plaintiff himself. Wagner and Coffey punched Plaintiff, called him names, and cuffed his hands behind his back so tightly that his circulation was cut off. They dragged him out of his cell and down 2 flights of stairs, intentionally banged his head on a door, and cuffed him to a shower railing where they left him for 2 hours. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). A mental health doctor came and talked to Plaintiff, but would not remove the handcuffs until they finished speaking.

         On July 21 and 28, 2014, Wagner, Flowers, and Chapman did not allow Plaintiff to eat brunch. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

         Plaintiff was in segregation from June 21 to July 28, 2014. While he was there, Wagner stole his Reebok shoes. Wagner also refused to properly label Plaintiff's clothing bag containing his gym shorts when Plaintiff went to segregation, so he never got the bagged clothing items back. (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 15). Somebody purposely broke his television. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Plaintiff complains that Counselor VanZandt (whom he does not include as a Defendant) failed to properly handle his grievances and became verbally abusive and physically aggressive when Plaintiff asked about them. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9).

         On July 28, 2014, Plaintiff was assaulted by a cellmate (Cosby or Crosby)[1] and suffered abrasions and lacerations. Before this attack, Plaintiff had notified unnamed Security C/O's that the cellmate's erratic and aggressive behavior made him fear for his safety. Plaintiff requested to be moved to a different cell, but the official(s) ignored his requests. (Doc. 1, p. 9-10). The cellmate punched Plaintiff in the face and continued the attack for about 10 minutes. (Doc. 1, p. 10). C/O DeDecker and Lt. Hoch[2] escorted Plaintiff to the Health Care Unit but he did not receive adequate treatment. Wagner and Chapman intentionally refused to call the Health Care Unit to obtain medical treatment for Plaintiff's injuries. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Plaintiff asked Internal Affairs staff (Bronnan)[3] for a “Keep Separate Order” against Cosby/Crosby, but this was not done. Later on, Cosby/Crosby was placed in the cell next to Plaintiff, and then in another cell in the same housing unit, despite Plaintiff's requests that they be housed in different locations. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11).

         On March 4, 2015, C/O Cacioppo falsely accused Plaintiff of sexual misconduct and wrote a fabricated disciplinary report on him. (Doc. 1, p. 12; Doc. 1-2, pp. 19-20). Plaintiff was found guilty by the disciplinary committee, but Lt. McBride[4] refused to call Plaintiff's requested witness at his hearing. Plaintiff was punished with 3 months in segregation. Warden Lashbrook allowed this punishment. Other inmates who heard about the incident began threatening Plaintiff with bodily harm when he got out of segregation.

         Plaintiff sought a transfer to another prison for his safety. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13). Lt. Furlow promised to transfer Plaintiff to another prison after he refused housing 3 times. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff refused housing assignments several times and incurred other disciplinary charges because he feared for his life if he returned to general population. He informed Lt. Hock[5] (who chaired the disciplinary committee) about his safety concerns and requested an investigation. However, he was punished with 192 days in segregation and lost 3 months and 15 days of good conduct credits. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff eventually was moved to Lawrence on a disciplinary transfer on September 9, 2015 (Doc. 1-3, p. 19).

         Finally, Plaintiff claims that C/O Wormack[6] retaliated against him by falsely claiming that some of Plaintiff's cassette tapes were “altered” and that he possessed more tapes than were permitted. (Doc. 1, pp. 14-15). Wormack either confiscated the cassette tapes or required Plaintiff to mail them to somebody outside the prison at Plaintiff's expense. Wormack also confiscated and destroyed 3 of Plaintiff's magazines. The taking of these items occurred after Wormack read Plaintiff's copies of his grievances against fellow officers Wagner, Coffey, and Chapman, and accused Plaintiff of lying about his “buddies” beating up Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Plaintiff seeks punitive damages and an investigation into the Defendants' misconduct. (Doc. 1, p. 16).

         Designation and Severance of Claims

          Based on the allegations of the 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 mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Flowers, Wagner, and Coffey, for failing to summon mental health assistance for Plaintiff when he informed them he was having a crisis and was suicidal on or about July 21, 2014;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Wagner, Flowers, and Chapman for depriving Plaintiff of two brunch meals on July 21 and July 28, 2014;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against Wagner and Coffey for using excessive force against Plaintiff on or about July 21, 2014, after his suicide attempt;
Count 4: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Wagner for taking or destroying Plaintiff's shoes and clothing;
Count 5: Eighth Amendment claim against Wagner and Chapman for refusing to summon medical assistance for Plaintiff on July 28, 2014, after he was injured by a cellmate who assaulted him;
Count 6: Eighth Amendment claim for failure to protect Plaintiff from the cellmate who attacked him despite Plaintiff's advance request to be moved;
Count 7: Fourteenth Amendment claim for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process against Cacioppo for writing a false disciplinary report on March 4, 2015, and against Lashbrook for allowing Plaintiff to be punished with 3 months in segregation after he was found guilty of the false charge;
Count 8: Claim against Furlow for failing to transfer Plaintiff for his protection, and against Lt. Heck/Hock for failing to investigate Plaintiff's claims ...

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