United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
CORBIN D. JONES, # 01-30-1989-46, Plaintiff,
NEILL MOONEY, MT. VERNON JUSTICE CENTER COUNTY JAIL, C. GREENWOOD, JENNIFER ROBERTS, A. BLANDFORD, J. CARLTON, B. HUFF, A. MEYERS, LT. HAYNES, LT. BONNIE MAY, C/O SPARTEGUES, CAPT. MOUNT, C/O JEFF CLARK, NURSE SHIRLEY, DR. PAULIUS, C/O FORTAG, C/O EDWARDS, DEPUTY TRAVIS SCOTT, C/O NANCY, C/O CONWAY, and C/O McKENNETH, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Gilbert United States District Judge.
matter is now before the Court for a merits review of
Plaintiff Jones' claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. Jones and former co-Plaintiff Lekedreion Russell
jointly filed this pro se action on April 6, 2017.
On May 31, 2017, the Court severed Russell's claims
(designated as Counts 1-4) into a separate action
(Russell v. Mooney, et al., Case No. 17-cv-570-
JPG). (Doc. 10). The only claims remaining in the present
case are those brought by Jones, designated by the Court as
Counts 5-11. Most of Jones' claims involve events and
conditions at the Jefferson County Justice Center (“the
jail”), where Jones is currently incarcerated. He also
includes an excessive force claim that arose during his
arrest. The Complaint consists of 90 pages, 70 of which
pertain only to Jones' claims. Jones names 20 individuals
as Defendants, in addition to naming the Mt. Vernon Justice
Center County Jail.
§ 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).
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).
addition to the screening requirements of § 1915A,
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 sets rules for preparing an
acceptable pleading. Rule 8(a)(2) requires “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Rule 8(d)(1) further states:
“Each allegation must be simple, concise, and
direct.” The purpose of these provisions is to giver
fair notice of the claims:
Under Rule 8, a complaint “must be presented with
intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to
understand whether a valid claim is alleged and if so what it
is.” Wade v. Hopper, 993 F.2d 1246, 1249 (7th
Cir.) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 510 U.S.
868, 114 S.Ct. 193, 126 L.Ed.2d 151 (1993); see also
Jennings v. Emry, 910 F.2d 1434, 1436 (7th Cir. 1990)
(stating that a complaint “must be presented with
clarity sufficient to avoid requiring a district court or
opposing party to forever sift through its pages in
search” of what it is the plaintiff asserts). A
complaint that is prolix and/or confusing makes it difficult
for the defendant to file a responsive pleading and makes it
difficult for the trial court to conduct orderly litigation.
Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merch. Serv., Inc., 20 F.3d
771, 775-76 (7th Cir. 1994). See also Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48 (1957); Dausch v.
Rykse, 52 F.3d 1425, 1430 (7th Cir. 1994).
disjointed, piecemeal presentation of Jones' Complaint,
as well as its length, results in a pleading that is largely
unintelligible, and forces the Court to “forever sift
through its pages” in order to parse out the claims
that Jones apparently seeks to assert. For these reasons, the
Complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice. However,
Jones shall have an opportunity to amend his pleading in
order to correct these problems.
Complaint was submitted in two parts. The first section
(filed as Doc. 1) consists of 20 pages. On separate pages,
the Complaint lists both Jones and his former co-Plaintiff
Russell as Plaintiffs; Jones and Russell each include
overlapping lists of Defendants. (Jones: Doc. 1, pp. 2-3,
5-6; Russell: Doc. 1, pp. 9). Both Jones and Russell signed
the Complaint below the prayer for relief on page 7, which
states that they seek monetary damages. Two pages in Doc. 1
contain cursory references to Jones' claims for
deliberate indifference to a medical condition, interference
with legal mail, and denial of recreation (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 7),
but the remainder of this section does not contain any
factual allegations set forth by Jones. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-20).
The entire factual narrative beginning on page 10 of Doc. 1
is identified with former co-Plaintiff Russell's name,
for example: “I as Lekedrieon Russell pressed the
intercom multiple times to get a C/O in my as Lekedrieon
Russell['s] room to help a[n] inmate that tried to commit
suicide[.]” (Doc. 1, p. 10). Russell's only mention
of Jones is on page 14, where Russell states that he asked
for himself, Jones, and another cellmate to be allowed out of
the cell for recreation, and mentions that Jones requested
cleaning supplies for the cell they shared. (Doc. 1, p. 14).
Other than those references, Jones' name does not appear
in the statement of claim contained in Doc. 1. (Doc. 1, pp.
background information to some of Jones' potential
claims, Russell's section of the Complaint (Doc. 1)
explains that another inmate (Joshua Heart) who shared the
jail cell with Russell and Jones attempted to commit suicide
by cutting his wrists on March 29, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 13, 16,
18). Heart was an admitted drug user. The cell was
contaminated with Heart's blood, which was not cleaned up
for 4 days, during which time Russell and presumably Jones
were exposed to it. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 16). For several days
after that incident, Russell asked to be allowed out of the
cell for recreation, but was refused. (Doc. 1, pp. 14, 18).
second section of the Complaint (filed as Doc. 1-1) contains
70 pages, starting with a cover page bearing Jones' name
and address. The remainder of this second document relates
only to Jones' claims. The second page of Doc. 1-1
consists of a copy of a photograph of purported drug evidence
seized from Jones' home, with handwritten commentary and
allegations surrounding the photo (such as “false
report, ” “cruel and unusual punishments, ”
and claims that officers lied about the testing of the
substance). (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). This page is identical to a
page contained in another Complaint filed by Jones in a
different action pending in this Court, Jones v.
Mooney, Case No. 17-cv-337-JPG (filed April 3, 2017)
(Doc. 1, p. 6 in that case). Jones continues on pages 3-4 with
a narrative describing the search of his room by Officers
Mooney and Greenwood on February 13, 2017, which culminated
in his arrest. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 3-4). Many of these allegations
overlap with matters raised in Case No. 17-337. However, in
the present case, Jones raises a new and distinct allegation
that after Mooney ordered another unidentified officer to put
Jones in handcuffs, that officer applied the handcuffs so
tightly that Jones' hands became badly swollen,
preventing jail officials from taking his fingerprints for 3
days after the arrest. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4). Jones also includes
another list of the Defendants. (Doc. 1-1, p. 7).
remainder of the 70 pages in Doc. 1-1 consists of many
piecemeal handwritten statements, presented in no discernible
order, interspersed with copies of documents such as police
reports from Jones' arrest, excerpts from the Illinois
Constitution, receipts from purchases at the jail, jail
menus, the state court order setting bond after Jones'
arrest, and pages from a motion for leave to proceed in
narrative portions include some description of Jones being
exposed to blood from the cellmate's suicide attempt and
his inability to get cleaning supplies from unidentified jail
staff. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 9, 12, 70). Jones also alleges that
Edwards, McKensley,  Jeff, Spartegues, and/or Roberts opened
his incoming legal mail and read his outgoing legal mail,
and/or mishandled forms relating to Jones' legal work and
his attempts to sign over mail to his mother or receive mail
from her. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 11, 14, 20-21, 44-45, 59). He claims
that jail officials (possibly Scott, Mount, Haynes, and/or
Shirley) delayed and denied medical care for acid burns Jones
had sustained before his arrest. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 23, 25,
42-43, 47, 50-51, 63). ...