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Hanks v. Doe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 2, 2017

SEAN HANKS, # M-48627, Plaintiff,


          Staci M. Yandle, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his Fourteenth and Eighth Amendment rights in connection with a disciplinary action that was ultimately expunged. 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 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).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that the Complaint is subject to dismissal pursuant to § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On June 28, 2015, Heck and Myer conducted a hearing on a disciplinary report filed against Plaintiff for “Damage or Misuse of Property.” (Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 1-1, p. 2). They found Plaintiff guilty of the infraction, and as a result, Plaintiff lost 2 months of good conduct credits. He was also punished with 4 months in segregation, 4 months' demotion to C-grade and ordered to pay restitution. (Doc. 1, pp. 2-3).

         Plaintiff alleges that Heck and Myer failed to afford him procedural due process in the disciplinary hearing. (Doc. 1, p. 2). During all times relevant to these events, Plaintiff was “on crisis and designated Seriously Mentally Ill” by the IDOC and prison mental health officials. (Doc. 1, p. 3). However, mental health staff were not informed of the charges against Plaintiff or summoned to participate in Plaintiff's disciplinary proceeding, as Plaintiff claims is required by IDOC departmental rule 504.80. (Doc. 1, p. 4).

         After the disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff was transferred from Pinckneyville to an inpatient psychiatric acute care unit at Dixon, and was on “mandatory suicidal observation.” (Doc. 1, p. 3). He never received the summary report of the disciplinary committee during his stay at Dixon.

         On July 31, 2015, he filed a grievance over the disciplinary action. On approximately March 16, 2016, the IDOC's Administrative Review Board recommended that Plaintiff's ticket be expunged and his good conduct credits restored. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff attaches a copy of the final summary report showing that the disciplinary matter was expunged, and states that his sentence credit was restored to him. (Doc. 1, p. 5; Doc. 1-1, p. 2). However, Plaintiff complains that his “suffering for months in segregation could not be restored[, ] neither the pain and suffering he experienced at that time.” (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         Plaintiff asserts that Heck and Myers' actions subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment, in that he was placed in segregation while he was mentally ill. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). He states that he “endured days of mental distress, pain and suffering” while in segregation. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He further asserts that the Jane Doe Warden and the John/Jane Doe “Designee”[1]violated his rights by finalizing the disciplinary report before ensuring that “safeguards and departmental rules were respected.” Id.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).

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

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the prose 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 ...

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