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Wimberly v. Dennison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 31, 2017

ANTHONY WIMBERLY, # N-61282, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Illinois River Correctional Center, filed this this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations that allegedly occurred while he was incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to unsanitary cell conditions for 20 days when he was placed in disciplinary segregation in January 2017. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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 does not survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On January 11, 2017, Plaintiff was placed in segregation for 30 days because of an altercation (a 301 fight). (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was confined in a segregation cell which, he claims, was uninhabitable and should have been “condemned” due to poor conditions. Id. The sink and toilet were full of mold and mildew. Id. The sink was non-functional because a “seg pen” was stuck in the faucet and no water would come out. Id. Plaintiff did not have cleaning supplies to clean the segregation cell. Id. Additionally, the mattress in the cell had urine stains on it and “reeked” of urine. Id. Plaintiff remained in the unsanitary segregation cell for 20 days. Id. Plaintiff was moved to a new segregation cell after “constantly complaining” and filing grievance. Id.

         In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sues Jeffrey Dennison, the warden, because the staff worked “under” Warden Dennison. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Earlier Filed Civil Rights Action

         This is not Plaintiff's first action involving conditions of confinement while housed at Shawnee. On December 6, 2016, Plaintiff filed a similar pro se civil rights action in the Southern District of Illinois. See Wimberly v. C/O Sams et al., No. 3:16-cv-1309-MJR-SCW. This action (hereinafter, “Pending Shawnee Action”) is presently proceeding before Chief Judge Michael J. Reagan.

         In the Pending Shawnee Action, Plaintiff's Complaint brought claims pertaining to unsanitary cell conditions, loss of property, and failure to respond to grievances. (Pending Shawnee Action, Docs. 1, 14). Plaintiff's claims arose in connection with his 30-day stint in disciplinary segregation (from March 21, 2016 through April 21, 2016). In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sued two correctional officers and Jeffrey Dennison. In conducting a preliminary review of Plaintiff's Complaint, Judge Reagan summarized the allegations pertaining to unsanitary cell conditions (Count 2 in the Pending Shawnee Action) as follows:

Plaintiff was confined for 30 days (until April 21, 2016) in the segregation cell which, he claims, should have been “condemned” due to the poor conditions. (Doc. 1, p. 4). The cell had “no proper running water” because a seg pen was stuck in the faucet spout. Not only did the pen obstruct the flow of water, it exposed Plaintiff to germs in his drinking water from that foreign object. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). The window was “drilled shut” so that the air did not circulate properly. The window screen was torn, allowing insects and ants to invade the cell. They crawled on Plaintiff, got into his bed, and bit him day and night. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 13). The sink and toilet were contaminated with fungus and mildew, and Plaintiff was not given cleaning supplies. He had to drink from and wash up in the filthy sink for the entire 30 days, placing his health at risk. (Doc. 1, p. 6).
Plaintiff asked Sams to move him to a better cell, but Sams ignored the request. Warden Dennison was the supervisor of Sams and was responsible for the conditions throughout the facility.

(Pending Shawnee Action, Doc. 14, p. 3). Plaintiff's Complaint was divided into three counts. (Pending Shawnee Action, Doc. 14, p. 4). Counts 1 and 3 did not survive preliminary review. Count 2 proceeded against one of the correctional officer defendants. (Pending Shawnee Action, doc. 14, p. 7). However, Warden Dennison was dismissed from Count 2 and from the Complaint for lack of personal involvement. Id. In dismissing Warden ...

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