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Price v. Sanders

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 5, 2017

JARRON PRICE, No. M16872, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL SANDERS, VENTURES JACKSON, JASON GARNETT, and KENNETH FINNEY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Jarron Price, currently an inmate in Hill Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's claims pertain to his former incarceration at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”) and a false disciplinary report allegedly filed against the Plaintiff as an act of retaliation. In connection with his claims, Plaintiff seeks damages from Michael Sanders (adjustment committee chairperson), Ventures Jackson (lieutenant), Jason Garnett (Big Muddy warden), and Kenneth Finney (correctional officer). 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 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

         On June 10, 2015, Plaintiff was confined to isolation and under suicide watch. (Doc. 10, p. 4). Plaintiff directed a question to Finney, a corrections officer, and Finney responded with racially charged remarks. Id. Specifically, Finney stated “you niggers disgust me, always claiming to want to kill yourself but when it's time to die you beg for forgiveness. Just die already and do yourself a favor.” Id. Plaintiff immediately told Finney that he intended to file a grievance regarding Finney's comments. Id. Finney threatened Plaintiff, stating he would show Plaintiff how to play “the paper game” if Plaintiff filed a grievance. (Doc. 10, pp. 4-5). The following day, Finney filed a disciplinary report claiming Plaintiff threatened to sexually assault another inmate (inmate Jones M-48532). (Doc. 10, p. 5; Doc. 10-1, p. 1). Plaintiff alleges the charges were false and that Finney was retaliating against Plaintiff for threatening to file a grievance. (Doc. 10, p. 5).

         On June 19, 2015, Plaintiff was called to a disciplinary hearing regarding Finney's disciplinary report. Id. Sanders, the adjustment committee chairperson, and Jackson, a lieutenant, conducted the hearing. Id. Plaintiff pleaded not guilty. Id. Sanders and Jackson entered a finding of guilty and, in entering the finding of guilty, told Plaintiff they “protect their own.” Id. Plaintiff was disciplined with segregation (3 months), demotion to c-grade (3 months), commissary restriction (3 months), gym/yard restriction (3 months), day room restriction (3 months), and transfer to a “higher level” prison. Id. When Plaintiff received a summary report, he realized Sanders and Jackson signed the report prior to the hearing - on June 18, 2015. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance. Id. It appears that the grievance complained about the signature date on Plaintiff's summary report. ((Doc. 10-1, p. 3) (“Offender Price grieves the date of the Adjustment Committee hearing was June 19th and the Adjustment Committee chairman signed the hearing summary on June 18th.”)). The grievance was initially denied and Plaintiff appealed. (Doc. 10, p. 5; Doc. 10-1, p. 3). After 6 months, the Administrative Review Board issued a decision in favor of Plaintiff and expunged the disciplinary action. (Doc. 10-1, p. 3). Id. Plaintiff has attached a copy of the Administrative Review Board's letter, which provides, in relevant part, as follows:

This office has reviewed the disciplinary report, 201500996, written by K. Finney, citing you for the offenses of 206 - Intimidation or Threats. A review of the Adjustment Committee summary indicates you were found guilty of 206. Recommended discipline was: 3 months C-grade, 3 months Segregation, 3 months Day Room Restriction, 3 months Commissary Restriction, Transfer, 3 months gym/yard restriction. The Chief Administrative Officer concurred with the recommendation on June 20, 2015.
Based on a total review of all available information and a compliance check of the procedural due process safeguards outlined in DR504, this office recommends the disciplinary report be expunged due to non-compliance with DR504.80. The original hearing was not continued due to the facility being on lockdown. In addition, the second summary included additional discipline not indicated in the first served summary. The Big Muddy Rive Adjustment Committee is to expunge the disciplinary report (201500996).

(Doc. 10-1, p. 3).

         While Plaintiff was in segregation, because of the gym/yard restriction, he was subjected to a complete bar on all exercise outside of his cell. Id. Therefore, considering the other disciplinary restrictions imposed on Plaintiff, it appears he was restricted to his cell for 24 hours a day for 90 days. Plaintiff does not specify whether he was able to exercise within his cell or otherwise describe the conditions of his confinement while in segregation.

         Plaintiff contends that, prior to being subjected to disciplinary segregation, Plaintiff was labeled “Seriously Mentally Ill” or “SMI.” (Doc. 10, p. 5). Plaintiff alleges Defendants failed to consider his status as an SMI inmate prior to imposing disciplinary action. Id. Plaintiff further contends that he attempted suicide and self-harm while in segregation. (Doc. 10, p. 6).

         With respect to Garnett, Plaintiff merely alleges he “denied my claim.” (Doc. 10, p. 5).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in 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 regarding their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.

Count 1-Fourteenth Amendment claim for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process against Finney for writing a false disciplinary report.
Count 2-Fourteenth Amendment claim for deprivation of a liberty interest without due process against Sanders and Jackson for finding Plaintiff guilty of the false charge.
Count 3-Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment against Finney for verbally harassing Plaintiff while he was on suicide watch.
Count 4-Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment against Sanders and Jackson for imposing 90 days disciplinary segregation on Plaintiff in conjunction with a 90 day restriction on outside exercise in relation to a false disciplinary ticket.
Count 5-First Amendment Retaliation Claim against Finney for filing a false disciplinary report after Plaintiff threatened ...

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