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McCaskill v. Moore

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 14, 2017

STEPHEN DOUGLAS McCASKILL, # K-77293, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while he was incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). Since he filed the case, he has been released from custody. (Doc. 6). Plaintiff claims that Officer Moore repeatedly harassed him by subjecting him to searches and forcing him to leave his coat unzipped in cold weather and that the other Defendants failed to respond to his complaints over this behavior.

         The Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review 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 plausibleonits 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 allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court concludes that one claim survives review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff relates four encounters with C/O Moore; the first was on September 14, 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff was on his way to chow at 10:00 am, when Moore told him to unzip and open his coat. Plaintiff complied, but when he began to zip the coat again, Moore told him to leave it unzipped. Plaintiff protested that he is anemic and he felt cold, but Moore insisted it “has to be that way today” and it was not that cold. Plaintiff left the coat unzipped.

         When Plaintiff was returning from chow, Moore approached him again, remarking that Plaintiff was “all salty at him” about the incident, but Moore had a job to do. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff informed Moore that he has the sickle cell anemia trait which makes him cold. Moore responded that his orders were for security reasons and said that the issue would not be a problem. Moore failed to give Plaintiff a shakedown slip, which is required any time a search of an inmate is conducted. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         The next day (September 15, 2015), Moore stopped Plaintiff again on the way to lunch, and again told Plaintiff to unzip his jacket. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Moore told Plaintiff he needed to see if Plaintiff was carrying anything on him. Moore again ordered Plaintiff to keep the jacket unzipped, dismissing Plaintiff's reminder that he was cold and anemic. Plaintiff points out that he had a stroke in 2011, which left him very weak and without feeling on his left side, so he poses no threat to anybody. Plaintiff complained to Lt. Christopher about Moore's unreasonable orders. Christopher informed Plaintiff that Moore is his brother-in-law. He suggested that Plaintiff re-zip his jacket when he is out of Moore's sight, because it wouldn't kill him to leave the coat open for a few minutes. When Plaintiff passed Moore again, Moore threatened Plaintiff with segregation if he did not leave his coat unzipped.

         About a month later, on October 16, 2015, Plaintiff was going to the law library on a call pass. He was not wearing his jacket because it was in the laundry. Moore asked him where the jacket was, but Plaintiff declined to answer. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff had written two grievances on Moore for the first two incidents, and he wrote to Warden Hunter with an urgent request to speak with him. As a result, Plaintiff had been called to speak with Logston (Internal Affairs) to discuss his complaints, and he was under the impression that Moore would be warned or investigated, however, nothing further was done. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11).

         Finally, on October 18, 2015, while Plaintiff was on his way to Health Care, Moore “harassed” him and shook him down again, while Sgt. Grier watched. Two other inmates had just passed by without being searched. Plaintiff believed Moore targeted him because he had written three grievances on Moore by that time. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Moore had Plaintiff unzip his jacket, and Moore opened up Plaintiff's pants pocket. Moore asked where Plaintiff's jacket had been the other day, since he thought Plaintiff had to have it at all times. Plaintiff said it was in the laundry, and he had not expected to be called out for library that day. As with the other incidents, Moore failed to issue a shakedown slip.

         Plaintiff claims that Moore was unconcerned about Plaintiff's health issues and only continued to “harass” him in order to look good in front of his superiors. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He contends that Moore's treatment of him was an “abuse of his authority, ” which was allowed to continue when Grier and Christopher failed to intervene. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Warden Etchin and Counselor Nance never responded to Plaintiff's grievances against Moore. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11). Plaintiff explained his problems with Moore to Ms. Stone (mental health therapist) on October 22, 2015, and asked her to notify Lt. Pearl about the ongoing harassment, but Plaintiff heard nothing further. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff had previously written to Pearl to complain about Moore but had received no response.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for the “deliberate indifference, harassment, pain & suffering, mental anguish & distress, abuse of authority, & unprofessionalism” he suffered. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         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 claim against Moore for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical condition of anemia, and/or for subjecting him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, by requiring him to leave his jacket unzipped while walking in cold weather on three occasions;
Count 2:Eighth Amendment cl aim against Moore for harassment, for targeting Plaintiff to be questioned and searched on three occasions;
Count 3:First Amendment retaliation claim against Moore, for subjecting Plaintiff to searches and requiring him to leave his jacket unzipped, after Plaintiff filed grievances against Moore for the same conduct;
Count 4:Claims against Christopher and Grier for witnessing two of the incidents with Moore, yet failing ...

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