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Oliver v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 13, 2017

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



         On February 15, 2017, Plaintiff King Michael Oliver filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois based on several alleged violations of his constitutional rights at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) and Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). See Oliver v. Lashbrook, No. 17-cv-01076 (C.D. Ill. 2017). Both prisons are located in this federal judicial district. Therefore, the case was transferred to the Southern District of Illinois the same month. (Doc. 5).

         This Court screened the Complaint on February 24, 2017. (Doc. 8). The screening order identified at least 14 claims against 3 groups of defendants, including a group of Menard defendants, Pinckneyville defendants, and State defendants. (Doc. 8, pp. 6-7). The claims were largely undeveloped and improperly joined. Counts 1-9 arose from events that occurred during Plaintiff's incarceration at Pinckneyville. Counts 10-13 arose from events that occurred at Menard. Count 14 was a vicarious liability claim against two high-ranking state officials for the conduct that occurred at both prisons.

         The Court dismissed Count 14 with prejudice and severed the Menard claims (i.e., Counts 10-13) into a separate suit. See Oliver v. Butler, No. 17-cv-00206-DRH (S.D. Ill. 2017). The Pinckneyville claims (i.e., Counts 1-9) remained in this action. (Doc. 8, p. 10). Before further review of these claims was completed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court offered Plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint that focused only on his Pinckneyville claims. Id.

         The Court had numerous reasons for deferring § 1915A review of the Pinckneyville claims. (Doc. 8, pp. 10-11). Plaintiff identified claims in his exhibits that were not in the Complaint. Id. The exhibits appeared to be incomplete but were so poorly organized that the Court could not tell with certainty. Id. Several claims lacked any factual basis. Id. Numerous others lacked reference to any defendants. Id. Finally, further severance of the claims appeared necessary, but this determination could not be made until Plaintiff named defendants in connection with each claim. Id. For these reasons, Plaintiff was given an opportunity to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 8, p. 15).

         The initial deadline for amending was March 28, 2017. (Doc. 8, p. 15). The Court warned Plaintiff that failure to file an amended complaint by the deadline would result in preliminary review of his Complaint. Id. On March 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed a “Motion for Reconsideration.” (Doc. 12). In his Motion, Plaintiff indicated that he intended to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 12, pp. 2-3). He confirmed that one or more claims were omitted from his original Complaint. Id. He also pointed out that five (5) exhibits were, in fact, missing from the initial Complaint: Exhibit Y2, Exhibit 14, Exhibit O, Exhibit 6b2, and Exhibit 6b3. (Doc. 12, p. 2). However, he asked to be excused from filing these exhibits or re-filing any others because doing so placed him “at risk of injury” and “at a huge disadvantage.” (Doc. 12, p. 3). He did not explain how or why. Id. Plaintiff requested discharge of his filing fee obligation. (Doc. 12). He also requested the appointment of counsel. (Doc. 13).

         The Court construed Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration as a Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint and denied it as moot on March 14, 2017. (Doc. 15). Plaintiff did not question any aspect of the Court's initial Order in his Motion. (Doc. 8). His concerns instead focused on the preparation and filing of an amended complaint, which Plaintiff was previously granted leave to file. (Docs. 8, 15). Nonetheless, the Court granted Plaintiff additional time to prepare and file his amended complaint, while denying his request for counsel and discharge of his filing fee obligation. (Doc. 15).

         The deadline for filing the amended complaint was extended to April 27, 2017. (Doc. 15, pp. 1, 5). This time, the Court warned Plaintiff that failure to comply with the extended deadline or instructions for amending the complaint would result in dismissal of the action for noncompliance with a court order or for failure to prosecute his claims. (Doc. 15, pp. 5-6) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b)).

         Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint before the extended deadline expired on April 27, 2017. The Court has received no communication from Plaintiff since March 16, 2017, when he renewed his request for discharge of his filing fee obligation.[1] (Doc. 16). Although he expressed concern over his ability to properly organize and file the exhibits to his amended complaint in the same motion, Plaintiff mentioned nothing about the status of the amended complaint. Id. He also did not request another extension of the deadline for filing it. Id. In light of these developments, the Court will now screen Counts 1 through 9 in the original Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and consider whether it is appropriate to dismiss the Complaint and this action based on Plaintiff's failure to comply with an Order (Doc. 15) of this Court and/or for failure to prosecute his claims.

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

         Section 1915A 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 to dismiss Counts 1 through 9 and this action for ...

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