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Morgan v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 25, 2017

FRANK MORGAN, # C-15189, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN BALDWIN and JACQUELINE A. LASHBROOK, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON, United States District Court Judge

         Petitioner Frank Morgan, an inmate who is currently incarcerated in Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this pro se action seeking a writ of mandamus pursuant to 735 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/14-101 et seq. (Docs. 1, 1-1). Morgan claims that respondents failed to timely respond to his request for production of documents made pursuant to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. (Doc. 1-1). He now seeks a writ of mandamus compelling a response. (Docs. 1, 1-1).

         The case is before the Court for 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.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. After considering the allegations in the petition and accepting them as true, the Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Petition

         Morgan seeks an order compelling John Baldwin (Illinois Department of Corrections Director) and Jacqueline Lashbrook (Menard's warden) to respond to his request to produce documents pursuant to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). (Doc. 1, pp. 1-21; Doc. 1-1). Morgan did not provide the Court with a copy of his FOIA request(s) or describe the contents of the request(s) in his petition. Id. However, it appears that he seeks a formal response to grievances he filed to challenge adverse disciplinary decisions. Morgan filed several grievances as exhibits to the petition. (Doc. 1, p. 4-12). In each, he challenged adverse disciplinary rulings on Fourteenth Amendment grounds. Id. He also included a letter from Menard's Grievance Office, which explains that Morgan filed his grievances through the wrong channels. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Instead of using the prison's internal grievance procedure, Morgan submitted them as FOIA requests. Id. As a result, the Grievance Office indicates that it did not receive or respond to the grievances. Id.

         Discussion

         This Court cannot provide plaintiff with the relief he now seeks. Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy. Burnett v. Bowen, 830 F.2d 731, 739 (7th Cir. 1987). It is only appropriate under limited circumstances. Id. In the absence of proper jurisdiction, the Court lacks power to grant any relief at all.

         The writ of mandamus has been abolished. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 81(b). However, two federal statutes are typically invoked to obtain mandamus relief, i.e., 28 U.S.C. § 1361 and 28 U.S.C. § 1651. Morgan referred to neither in his petition.

         The case was opened under § 1361, which grants district courts “original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff.” 28 U.S.C. § 1361. In the petition, Morgan does not pursue relief against an “officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof.” Id. He pursues mandamus relief against two state officials under Illinois law. (Docs. 1, 1-1). Federal courts have no authority to grant mandamus relief against state officials. Harrell v. Unknown Party, No. 14-cv-00752-MJR (S.D. Ill. July 22, 2014); Robinson v. Illinois, 752 F.Supp. 248, 248-49 (N.D. Ill. 1990) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1361) (“Federal courts have no general ...


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