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Kitterman v. Dennison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 22, 2017

SHANE A. KITTERMAN, #B-80577, Plaintiff,


          STACI M. YANDLE District Judge

         Plaintiff Shane Kitterman, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to “42 U.S.C. §§ 1331(1) and 1343.”[1] (Doc. 1). In the Complaint, he claims that officials at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”) retaliated against him for filing grievances and complaints about the prison's video visitation program by removing him from his job assignment, interfering with his court access, assaulting him and ultimately transferring him to Shawnee. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-5). Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         This case is now before the Court for 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). The Complaint does not survive preliminary review under this standard.


         Plaintiff was housed at Big Muddy from January 20, 2016 until January 9, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 2, 5). During this time period, the prison allegedly offered inmates the option of participating in “video visitation” with their families. (Doc. 1, p. 2). Acting on behalf of the prison, Warden Garnett worked with Global Tel-Link, Corp. (“GTL”) to make this service available. Id. GTL set up kiosks in the prison. Id. Inmates who were interested in video visitation were required to purchase an MP3 player and I-mail messaging services from GTL. Id. Their families were required to sign a contract for in-home internet services with the same company. Id.

         Plaintiff wished to participate in the program, so he purchased an MP3 player and other products from GTL. (Doc. 1, p. 3). His family also entered into a contract with the company for internet services. Id. After thirty-two days, Plaintiff learned that his MP3 player was “used, defective, and unmerchantable.” Id. He maintains that video visitation “never existed.” Id.

         Plaintiff attempted to recover the money that he and his family spent on the device, related products, and internet services. (Doc. 1, p. 3). He filed grievances and appealed to the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) Director. Id. However, his grievances “fell on deaf ears” and were denied. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). When he attempted to communicate his complaints directly to GTL through the kiosk, Plaintiff was “sanctioned.” (Doc. 1, p. 4). This caused him “unwarranted stress and mental anguish.” Id.

         Around the same time, Plaintiff secured a job in the prison law library. (Doc. 1, p. 3). He was assigned the position of law clerk and worked under the supervision of Joanne Hosch. Id. Plaintiff had access to hundreds of IDOC inmates in this position and he assisted them in drafting pleadings and other legal documents. Id. In the process, he prepared pleadings on behalf of numerous inmates who wanted to recover from the loss of money associated with the prison's video visitation program. Id.

         Garnett, Hosch and several unknown correctional officers warned Plaintiff “to stop helping other inmates file grievances and complaints against GTL and [D]efendant Garnett.” (Doc. 1, p. 3). When he continued to do so, Plaintiff was allegedly assaulted by an unknown correctional officer. Id. He offers no details regarding the assault or any injuries he sustained as a result of it. Id.

         While working in the library in September and October 2016, Plaintiff observed Hosch and a fellow inmate engage in sexual conduct on several occasions. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff reported each incident to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) hotline. Id. The PREA representative relayed details of his allegations to Lieutenant Denise Minor, [2] who shared the information with Hosch. Id. As soon as Hosch learned about Plaintiff's allegations against her, she “immediately removed the plaintiff from his assigned job as a law clerk.” Id. No disciplinary report or reprimand was ever issued against Hosch. Id.

         Plaintiff eventually filed suit in Illinois state court under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1 et seq.[3] (Doc. 1, p. 4). Chris Brinkley allegedly instructed correctional officers to threaten and intimidate Plaintiff in an effort to discourage him from pursuing his claims. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). These officers threatened Plaintiff and his family. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff provides no details regarding the date, time, context or substance of any threats. Id. In response to them, however, he requested a prison transfer to a comparable facility, but the IDOC Director determined that he was “properly placed.” Id.

         The IDOC Director, Garnett and Brinkley changed their minds about Plaintiff's placement after they were served with an order in the pending state case compelling them to produce documents pertaining to the unlawful sale of defective products to unsuspecting inmates. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to Shawnee on January 10, 2017. Id. He alleges that the facility is not comparable to Big Muddy. Id. Shawnee houses the “worst offenders in the State of Illinois.” Id. Prison gang activity and violence are significant problems there. Id. Inmates are denied access to court-ordered drug and alcohol programs. Id. Shawnee is also located farther away from Plaintiff's family than Big Muddy. Id. He vaguely alludes to “several incidents of assault by Warden Dennison and his officers that resulted from Plaintiff's continued efforts to pursue his claims against the Director, Garnett, Brinkley and several unknown correctional officers. Id. He also refers to instances in which the mailroom staff at Shawnee “blocked and destroyed several legal documents placed in the prison mail system.” Id. Plaintiff now asserts claims against the defendants for retaliation. (Doc. 1). In addition, he brings claims of interference with court access, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and monetary relief. Id. He also requests injunctive relief, in the form of an order requiring prison officials to reinstate his job and transfer him to a facility that is closer to his family. Id.


         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court deems it appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff's pro se Complaint into the following counts:

Count 1 - Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendants for denying Plaintiff access to video visitation with his family even after he purchased the equipment and service plan necessary to ...

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