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Brown v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 16, 2017

KENNETH BROWN, # K-75200, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BALDWIN, SHERRY BENTON, SANDRA FUNK, and STATE of ILLINOIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Central District of Illinois. The case was filed there on July 14, 2016, under Case No. 16-cv-3215. Plaintiff asserted claims that arose during his incarceration at Taylorville Correctional Center (“Taylorville”), as well as issues concerning his later confinement at Shawnee.

         On September 20, 2016, the Central District dismissed Plaintiff's original Complaint (Doc. 1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and allowed him 30 days to re-plead. (Doc. 7). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 17) likewise failed to state a claim for the violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights to be free of cruel and unusual punishment during his incarceration at Taylorville Correctional Center. (Doc. 16). On March 21, 2017, the Central District dismissed Plaintiff's complaint as it relates to Taylorville for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. (Doc. 16, p. 8). The court terminated the Defendants associated with Taylorville, and transferred the matter to this Court for a threshold determination as to whether Plaintiff stated any colorable claims arising from his incarceration at Shawnee. (Doc. 16).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A of the claims relating to Plaintiff's confinement at Shawnee contained in the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 17).

         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).

         After fully considering the factual allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         The remaining Defendants in this action are John Baldwin (Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections - IDOC), Sherry Benton (IDOC Administrative Review Board Member), Sandra Funk (IDOC Transfer Coordinator), and the State of Illinois. Each of the individual Defendants is based in Springfield, Illinois (Doc. 17, p. 2).

         In Plaintiff's statement of claim, pages 5-7 describe incidents that occurred at Taylorville which have already been considered and dismissed by the Central District. Plaintiff's narrative turns to Shawnee at the bottom of page 7 and continues through page 8 of the Complaint. (Doc. 17, pp. 7-8).

         In July 2014, Plaintiff had a hearing on a disciplinary report at Taylorville. He was found guilty of the infraction, and part of his recommended punishment was a disciplinary transfer to Shawnee. Plaintiff filed a grievance over the discipline imposed, and that grievance was still pending on July 30, 2014, when Plaintiff was transferred to Shawnee. (Doc. 17, p. 7). Plaintiff asserts that Funk was responsible for transferring him from Taylorville to Shawnee, and that the transfer violated an Illinois statute, which provides that an agency's administrative decision does not become final until rehearing or review is “had or denied.” (Doc. 17, pp. 7-8 (referencing 735 ILCS 5/3-101)). He further claims that Funk knew that Shawnee staff would “continue the disciplinary infraction” imposed on him despite the fact that his segregation time should have ended on July 30, 2014.

         Upon Plaintiff's arrival at Shawnee on July 30, 2014, he was placed in “Receiving” for 21 days rather than in general population. While there, Plaintiff was treated like he was in segregation - he could not walk to meals, and was given only 2 showers and 2 hours in the yard during the 21-day period. During the time in “Receiving, ” Plaintiff also had no gym or dayroom privileges (he states that dayroom would ordinarily have been allowed for 1.5 hours twice a day). In his cell, the plugs for electronics had something stuck in them and the cable outlet had been removed from the wall. (Doc. 17, p. 8).

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from the Illinois Department of Corrections for the alleged violations of his rights from July 15 through August 19, 2014. (Doc. 17, p. 9).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 ...


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