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Taplin v. Warden of Menard Correctional Center 2013-2015

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 19, 2017

ENOS F. TAPLIN, JR., R60561, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN OF MENARD CORRECTIONAL CENTER 2013-2015, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court for case management. On April 17, 2017, following the Memorandum and Order entered in Taplin v. Warden Pinckneyville Correctional Center, et al., Case No. 16-cv-01146-SMY (Doc. 1 in this case), this matter was severed from the original case pursuant to George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007).

         Plaintiff, an Illinois Department of Corrections inmate currently housed at Pontiac Correctional Center, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in order to address numerous alleged violations of his constitutional rights that occurred at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”) and Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). His First Amended Complaint (Doc. 4 in this case) named Pinckneyville's warden and Menard's warden as the only two defendants. (Doc. 2, pp. 1-2). The Court divided Plaintiff's Complaint into two sets of claims (one set of claims-Count 1-directed against Pinckneyville's warden, and one set of claims-Count 2-directed against Menard's warden) and severed the First Amended Complaint into two different cases. (Doc. 1). This case includes the second set of claims directed against Menard's warden, designated by the Court as follows:

Count 2: First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Menard's warden for the events that occurred at that prison between September 6, 2013 and May 5, 2015.

         As Plaintiff was advised in the order severing his claims, the threshold merits review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A is now due to be conducted. 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 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).

         Background

         On August 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in order to address alleged violations of his constitutional rights that occurred during his incarceration at Pinckneyville Correctional Center in 2013 and Menard Correctional Center from 2013-15. (Doc. 2 in this case). The Northern District transferred the case to this District on October 17, 2016. (Case No. 16-cv-01146-SMY, Doc. 8).

         Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint on November 4, 2016, before the Complaint had been screened. (Case No. 16-cv-01146-SMY, Doc. 13). The Court denied the motion because Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint was obviously incomplete as he omitted several pages and a request for relief from the proposed amended pleading (Doc. 3 in this case). The Court also found that the original Complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and thus, it did not survive preliminary review under § 1915A. Id. The Court therefore entered an Order dismissing the original Complaint without prejudice on November 15, 2016. Id.

         Plaintiff was granted leave to file a First Amended Complaint by December 13, 2016. (Doc. 3, p. 5). He was instructed to “present each claim in a separate count, and . . . specify, by name, each defendant alleged to be liable under the count, as well as the actions alleged to have been taken by that defendant.” Id. (emphasis in original). Further, Plaintiff was warned that he “should include only related claims in his new Complaint [because] [c]laims found to be unrelated to one another w[ould] be severed into new cases, new case numbers w[ould] be assigned, and additional filing fees w[ould] be assessed.” (Doc. 3, pp. 5-6) (emphasis in original).

         The First Amended Complaint (Doc. 4)

         As set forth above, this case involves only those claims directed against Menard's warden. Plaintiff blames Menard's warden for alleged constitutional violations that occurred following his disciplinary transfer to that prison on September 6, 2013. (Doc. 4, pp. 6-8). Specifically, Plaintiff was allegedly harassed by 15-20 correctional officers who were part of a “welcoming committee.” (Doc. 4, p. 6). The officers spit on Plaintiff and forced him to crawl to the wall while he was shackled and cuffed behind his back. Id. He could not move quickly enough to satisfy the officers, and they began kicking him. Id. They held him against the wall and “smashed” his head with their elbows and knees, while saying that they were going to beat Plaintiff “to death.” Id. Plaintiff was then placed in a jumpsuit. (Doc. 4, p. 7). He remained cuffed behind his back for a total of five to seven hours. Id.

         The cuffs were finally removed when Plaintiff was placed in segregation. (Doc. 4, p. 7). He remained there for almost two months. Id. The cell was small (i.e., approximately 4' x 10' x 12'). Id. Plaintiff could not move freely in it. Id. The ventilation was poor. Id. There was mold on the walls, spider webs on the doors, and maggots in the toilets. Id. Plaintiff also had no human contact during this time period. (Doc. 4, p. 7). A social worker made rounds every three months. Id. Prison officials generally avoided inmates who were confined in this area of the prison, however, because they often spit on and hit correctional officers, counselors, and nurses. Id.

         Plaintiff did meet with a nurse on one occasion. (Doc. 4, p. 8). She ordered him to submit to a shot. Id. But the nurse did not tell Plaintiff why it was being administered or what medicine he would be given. Id. Nevertheless, she threatened Plaintiff with additional time in segregation if he refused the shot. Id. To avoid additional punishment, Plaintiff agreed to take the shot. Id. The nurse returned to his cell twice to administer two additional rounds. Id. After reluctantly taking all three shots, ...


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