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Oliver v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 28, 2017

MICHAEL OLIVER Suing as King Michael Oliver, # B-89925, Plaintiff,


          David R. Herndon, United States District Judge

         This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of four claims that Plaintiff King Michael Oliver brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against officials at Menard Correctional Center. (Doc. 2). These claims were severed from another suit Plaintiff filed in this District. See Oliver v. Lashbrook, No. 17-cv-00169-DRH (S.D. 111. Feb. 17, 2017) ("original case"). Plaintiff alleges that the Menard defendants violated his constitutional rights by transferring him from a cell on the "hill" to the "pit" (Counts 10 and 11), harassing him about his visitor's list (Count 12), and mishandling his grievances (Count 13).

         The Court entered an initial order in this severed case on March 24, 2017. (Doc. 5). In it, the Court pointed to numerous instances in which Plaintiff indicated that he intended to supplement or amend the Complaint to add claims. (Doc. 5, pp. 2-3). The Court also noted that the exhibits appeared to be incomplete or missing but were so poorly organized that it was impossible to tell. Id. Under the circumstances, the Court deferred preliminary review of the severed claims until Plaintiff had an opportunity to file a First Amended Complaint setting forth all of his related claims against Menard officials in a single complaint. (Doc. 5, pp. 3-4). The deadline for doing so was April 20, 2017. (Doc. 5, p. 4). Plaintiff was warned that failure to file an amended complaint or seek an extension of the deadline for doing so by April 20, 2017, would result in preliminary review of the severed claims based on the allegations set forth in the original Complaint. (Doc. 5, p. 5).

         Plaintiff did not file a First Amended Complaint or seek an extension of the deadline. Therefore, Counts 10 through 13 are subject to preliminary review 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).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court deems it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A. With one exception, the severed claims are subject to dismissal at this time.

         The Complaint

         The factual allegations offered in support of Counts 10 through 13 are scattered throughout the Complaint and exhibits. (Doc. 2, pp. 1-23; Doc. 2-1, pp. 1-19). Because the Complaint addresses claims against officials at two different prisons, it is difficult to discern which allegations pertain to the claims against Menard officials and which allegations pertain to events at Pinckneyville. Id. To the extent possible, the Court has summarized the relevant allegations below.

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff requested a transfer out of Menard in 2015. (Doc. 2, p. 2). Major Lyerla denied his request and instead decided to transfer him from the "hill" to the "pit" at Menard. Id. The "hill" is a medium security unit at Menard, where Plaintiff was housed without incident. (Doc. 2, p. 3). The "pit" is a maximum security unit that is more dangerous. (Doc. 2, pp. 2- 3). Plaintiff claims that he did nothing wrong and should not have been transferred there. (Doc. 2, p. 3).

         According to the Complaint, Defendants simply wanted to harass him. (Doc. 2, p. 3). Several prison officials, including Sergeant Scott, allegedly taunted Plaintiff for filing so many grievances and lawsuits and for referring to himself as "King Michael Oliver" on a visitor's list. (Doc. 2, pp. 3, 7, 16-17). On an undisclosed date, Sergeant Scott tore up the list in front of Plaintiff and threatened to kill him. (Doc. 2, pp. 7, 16). Plaintiff was then confined to his cell without shower access or recreational privileges for a "couple days." Id. When Plaintiff asked an officer for blank grievance forms, the officer retrieved the forms and delivered them to Plaintiffs cell with Sergeant Scott. (Doc. 2, p. 7). The sergeant said, "I double dog dare you to fill out those grievances." Id.

         Plaintiff ignored the warning and submitted a grievance to complain about Sergeant Scott anyway. (Doc. 2, pp. 3, 7). In response, Major Lyerla called Plaintiff to his office and told Plaintiff that he did not believe him. (Doc. 2, pp. 7, 17). He believed the statements made by his officers. Id. The major then asked Plaintiff to explain why he referred to himself as "King." Id. When Plaintiff ignored the question and stated that he would submit his complaint directly to Warden Butler, Major Lyerla threatened to send him to the "pit" for doing so. Id. Plaintiff ignored Major Lyerla's warning and submitted a grievance directly to the warden. (Doc. 2, pp. 6-7, 16-18).

         On or around July 22, 2015, he was transferred to the "pit." (Doc. 2, pp. 8, 18-19). His cell was so hot that Plaintiff feared he would suffer from heat stroke. Id. He submitted a written request for a fan and was provided with one a "couple" days later. Id. Plaintiff claims that his situation only got worse when one of his known enemies, David Sankey, was placed in his cell. (Doc. 2, p. 7; Doc. 2-1, p. 12). Plaintiff maintains that the two inmates were housed together in a remote area of the "pit" so that they would fight and ...

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