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Jackson v. Stolworthy

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 18, 2017

STEVIE JACKSON, B63752, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD STOLWORTHY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Stevie Jackson, currently incarcerated in Menard Correctional Center, brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional deprivations that allegedly occurred when Plaintiff was housed at Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”) in 2015. Plaintiff contends that he has been the victim of retaliation and other abuses because he is a litigious inmate and/or because he often files grievances against prison officials.[1] In connection with his claims, Plaintiff names 29 officials associated with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and/or Centralia. The named Defendants include 3 unknown parties: (1) John Doe # 1 (Psychiatrist); John Doe # 2 (Centralia's cell placement officer); and John Doe # 3 (all officers in East 4 House on August 7, 2015 working the 7:00 am to 3:00 pm shift and the 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm shift).[2]Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief (to the extent that the Court finds injunctive relief is warranted).[3]

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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.

         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

         This case was opened on April 24, 2017 without payment of the filing fee or the filing of a Motion and Affidavit to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs. (Docs. 1, 4). The preliminary screening of Plaintiff's Complaint has been delayed until now due to difficulties in locating Plaintiff's filing fee. A brief history of the issues encountered is detailed below.

         On May 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed motions seeking to extend his deadline for paying the filing fee. (Docs. 5 and 6). Plaintiff explained that he authorized Menard's Trust Fund Account Officer to submit a $400.00 filing fee to the Court in April 2017. However, the check appeared to have been lost in the mail. Plaintiff also submitted paperwork supporting his claim. Specifically, records indicated that $400.00 was withdrawn from Plaintiff's account and mailed to the Southern District of Illinois (check No. 149399). The Court granted Plaintiff's request and directed Plaintiff to work with Menard to have a new check issued. (Doc. 7). For the next 3 months, the Court addressed motions from Plaintiff regarding his lost filing fee check and difficulties he was experiencing with Menard's Trust Fund Account Officer. (Docs. 8-10, 12, 15-19). At one point, Menard's Trust Fund Officer confirmed that the check was mailed, appeared to have been lost in the mail, and agreed to assist Plaintiff in canceling the lost check and reissuing payment. (Docs. 14 and 15).

         On July 26, 2017, after Plaintiff continued to encounter difficulty with having a check reissued, the Court directed Menard's Trust Fund Account Officer to provide the Court with a status update, stating as follows:

At this point, it is unclear whether responsibility for Plaintiff's filing fee difficulties rests with Plaintiff, Menard's Trust Fund Account Office, or is simply the result of bad luck. A review of the Court's online PACER database establishes that Plaintiff is a frequent and possibly abusive litigator in the federal courts, having filed several dozen lawsuits in the Northern and Central Districts of Illinois. Thus, Plaintiff is a veteran litigator and may be attempting to game the system. On the other hand, the Seventh Circuit has observed that there is an inherent conflict of interest in the prison lawsuit system” “[T]he law requires the payor (the prison) to process a drawer's request for payment to permit the drawer to sue the payor…[and] it is entirely predictable that the prison will prefer to postpone [a plaintiff's] ability to pursue litigation against itself.” Sultan v. Fenoglio, 775 F.3d 888, 890 (7th Cir. 2015). The fact that Plaintiff is a frequent litigator suggests that the potential conflict of interest in the instant case is particularly strong.

(Doc. 17). With the above considerations in mind, the Court directed Menard's trust fund account officer to provide the Court with an update regarding the missing filing fee. Id. Further, the Court indicated that failure to comply with the Court's order would result in the Court setting a show cause hearing with the Trust Fund Account Officer required to appear personally in Court. Id. A check for Plaintiff's filing fee appeared on August 2, 2017, without any additional explanation.

         The Complaint

         Counts 1 and 2 - Harassment and Retaliation

         Plaintiff arrived at Centralia on or about April 15, 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Upon arrival, Lt. Quarrie, Lt. Delgado, Lt Johnson, and C/O Robinson began harassing Plaintiff, asking why he was transferred to Centralia. Id. For the next 30 days, the harassment continued. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13). These individuals made constant remarks about Plaintiff's sexual preferences (“are you gay or not?”), called Plaintiff “all sorts of gay homosexual names, ” laughed at Plaintiff, and made comments regarding things that happened to Plaintiff at his prior prison. Id. They also repeatedly came to Plaintiff's cell (which was in the day room) in the mornings, banged on his cell and shook the rails on his bed before beginning the verbal harassment. Id. They told Plaintiff “this is the hell [you are] going to be living for the complaints [you] filed” at previous institutions. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         Plaintiff contacted Aaron (described as a “psych” person) and Toennies (described as a clinical services employee) for help regarding the harassment. Aaron and Toennies indicated that Plaintiff would have to deal with the repercussions of his prior conduct (presumably filing complaints and/or grievances at his prior prison). Id. (claiming Aaron and Toennies both told Plaintiff: “you made your bed, now lay in it;” “when you grieve or complain about the little things this administration is going to chew you up and spit you out, then retaliate every time;” “you're the turd Dixon [Correctional Center] shit out and landed on this administration;”). Toennies also called Plaintiff names such as “dick sucker” and “black faggot.” Toennies directed these derisive terms at Plaintiff “all the time” and told Plaintiff he should have been sent to a prison that caters to homosexuals. Id.

         Count 3 - Provoking Attacks

         In April 2015, Plaintiff was moved to North 4. (Doc. 1, p. 13). While in North 4, Plaintiff was harassed by Conrad and Bailey (both correctional officers). Id. Conrad and Bailey banged and kicked Plaintiff's door every morning and turned other inmates against Plaintiff by telling them he is a homosexual and a snitch. As a result, Plaintiff was attacked by other inmates (inmates punched and kicked him and spit in his face). Id. He complained to Conrad and Bailey but they never intervened to help him. Id.

         Plaintiff connects Macoby (a major), Phillips (a major), Schwartz (a major), Quarrie (a lieutenant), Johnson (a lieutenant), and Delgado (a lieutenant) to these allegations by stating that Conrad and Bailey would do anything these individuals wanted them to do. Id.

         Count 4 - Refusal to Honor Low Bunk Permit

         Plaintiff suffers from serious arthritis and gout. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Plaintiff's back, legs, and shoulders are “bound” by arthritis. Id. At the time of the alleged constitutional violation, Plaintiff had permission to use a cane and had bottom bunk/slow walk permits. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         When Plaintiff was in North 4 House, Conrad and Bailey refused to honor the permit. Id. They told Plaintiff that, as long as he is in their house, he will “be climbing [his] black nigger ass up to the top bunk.” Id. Plaintiff contends he injured his back and sprained his right knee as a result of this conduct. He also contends he complained to every supervisory official listed in his Complaint about the alleged deprivation, to no avail. Id.

         Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to East 4 House. When Plaintiff was in East 4 House, Kauling refused to honor Plaintiff's bottom bunk permit. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Kauling told Plaintiff that Delgado issued an order to leave Plaintiff on the top bunk. Id. Plaintiff complained to and showed Delgado, Quarrie, Burton, Robinson, Campbell, and Aaron his bottom bunk permit, but they refused to help. Id. Campbell told Plaintiff to “stop whining like a little bitch” and said the permit did not mean “shit” to her. Id. Aaron told Plaintiff there was nothing that he could do and then offered a solution, he told Plaintiff “stop coming to prison…you come to prison, you get what comes with prison.” Id.

         Plaintiff also complained to John Doe 3 (all officers in East 4 House on August 7, 2015 working the 7:00 am to 3:00 pm shift and the 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm shift), but they refused to help. Id.

         Count 5 - Gym/Yard Restrictions

         When Plaintiff was in North 4 House, Bailey, Conrad, Foreman, and Delgado often refused to allow Plaintiff access to the gym and yard. (Doc. 1, p. 14). These Defendants told Plaintiff he could not have access to the gym or yard because he used a cane. Id. They provided Plaintiff various “excuses” for denying gym/yard privileges, such as “it would break our hearts if you should slip and fall” or “we believe you're taking your cane in the yard/gym to use it as a weapon.” Id. Plaintiff contends that “from the time he was brought to North 4 House, ” he was only allowed in the yard 4 times and in the gym 6 times. Id. The Complaint indicates that Plaintiff was in the North 4 House from April 2015 through August 7, 2015, when he was transferred to East 4 house. (Doc. 1, pp. 13, 17). Unlike some of Plaintiff's other claims, Plaintiff does not allege that the deprivation was in retaliation for his prior First Amendment activities. Plaintiff alerted “all the defendants listed in his complaint” about the alleged deprivation, but nothing was done. Id. Because Plaintiff was often confined to his cell, he developed anxiety, depression, and other physical symptoms. Id.

         Counts 6 and 7 - harassment, cell shake downs, and threats to frame

         When Plaintiff was in North 4 House, Bailey, Conrad, and Foreman shook down Plaintiff's cell almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day, for no reason. Id. During these shake downs, Defendants would confiscate Plaintiff's property and verbally harass Plaintiff (Plaintiff alleges they called him “every homosexual name in the book”). Id. On one occasion, Foreman told Plaintiff he “looked like [he] suck[s] good cock and [he] act[s] like [he] got a big dick jammed off in [his] ass.” Id. These Defendants threatened to plant contraband in Plaintiff's cell and threatened to file false disciplinary reports against the Plaintiff. Id. They told Plaintiff the shake downs would stop when Plaintiff stopped filing grievances. Id. Plaintiff contends he was terrified of these individuals and that they harassed him almost every day. Id.

         Count 8 - Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Condition

         Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from serious arthritis and gout. (Doc. 1, p. 16). The arthritis restricts movement in his shoulders, back, and legs. Id. Plaintiff contends that walking without a cane and certain activities, such as climbing to the top bunk, cause him excruciating pain. Id. According to Plaintiff, despite being aware of these issues and his associated pain, Defendants Santas (a prison physician) and Keebs (a healthcare supervisor) rescinded Plaintiff's permit to use a cane, as well as his low bunk/slow walk permit. (Doc. 1, pp. 4, 15-16).

         According to the Complaint, both Santas and Keebs opined that Plaintiff did not really need the permits. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-16). For instance, Santas told Plaintiff various correctional officers reported that Plaintiff was lazy and did not really need his cane. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Keebs told Plaintiff his pain was all in his mind. Id. Plaintiff insisted he was in extreme pain and absolutely needed the cane and the low bunk/slow walk permits. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-16). Plaintiff also told Santas and Keebs that the correctional officers were lying about Plaintiff in retaliation for his complaints and grievances. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-16).

         In response, Santas indicated the administration was pressuring him to revoke the cane because prisoners who ingest “psych meds” are generally not allowed to have canes. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Plaintiff repeated, in more detail, the amount of pain and difficulty he experienced without a cane. Id. Santas indicated he did not care because the administration and officers felt Santas should not continue to allow Plaintiff to use a cane. Id. Plaintiff further contends that Keebs disregarded his complaints and rescinded or supported the decision to rescind his cane and low bunk/slow walk permits. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-16).

         Counts 9, 10, 11- Failure to Protect and Retaliation (Inmate Barlow)

         On or about August 7, 2015, Bailey and Conrad told Plaintiff they would be moving his “black ass” to the place where he belongs - a new cell in the more aggressive and dangerous East 4 House. (Doc. 1, p. 16). They stated they were going to let Plaintiff's new cell mate (an inmate identified as Barlow B42396) give him what he deserved - “a good ass beating.” Id. They also told Plaintiff to “grieve that” and stated if Plaintiff had “stopped grieving them” they would not be doing this. Id. As Plaintiff was being escorted to his new cell, another inmate told him that Barlow was extremely dangerous and sexually aggressive. Id.

         John Doe # 2 (Centralia's cell placement officer) assisted Bailey and Conrad by assigning Plaintiff to Barlow's cell. (Doc. 1, p. 19).[4]

         Plaintiff asked Aaron, Dose, Delgado, Quarrie, Robinson, and Burton to move him out of Barlow's cell. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Plaintiff told these individuals that Barlow repeatedly attempted to force sexual acts on Plaintiff and when Plaintiff refused, Barlow beat him. Id. When Plaintiff told Aaron the things Barlow was doing to him, including the fact that Barlow was masturbating in the cell and throwing his sperm in Plaintiff's face, Aaron only laughed at Plaintiff Id. Kauling told Plaintiff to “give Barlow some ass and he'll calm down.” Id.

         Plaintiff also sent several letters to Defendant Mueller (Centralia's Warden) detailing Barlow's abuse. Id. In the letters, Plaintiff relayed that Barlow “always tried to rape [Plaintiff]” after Plaintiff ingested his psych medications, when Plaintiff was in a debilitated state (his psych meds left him in a “drunken state, ” making it difficult to defend himself). Id.

         On or about August 24, 2015, Barlow let Plaintiff have the bottom bunk because Defendant Macon (also described as Centralia's Warden (Doc. 1, p. 3)) “got involved.” This enraged Barlow and he became even more aggressive with Plaintiff, calling him a snitch.

         On or about August 27, 2015, Barlow became extremely angry when Plaintiff refused to engage in sexual activity. Id. Barlow physically assaulted Plaintiff, calling him a “bitch” and a “snitch.” Id. Barlow then put his penis on Plaintiff's face, shoved Plaintiff to the ground, and attempted to rape him. Id. After the attempted rape, Barlow left the cell. Id.

         When Barlow left the cell, Plaintiff reported the assault to Kauling. Id. He yelled loudly so all the officers in the area could hear what had just happened. Id. Plaintiff was taken to Delgado. Id. Initially, Delgado refused to let Plaintiff speak to mental health services. Delgado wanted Plaintiff to make the report in front of other inmates. Id. Plaintiff refused.

         Although it is not entirely clear, it appears that at some point Plaintiff insisted on reporting the sexual assault. Id. Because Plaintiff reported the sexual assault, Delgado, Quarrie, and Robinson took Plaintiff to segregation. Id. Robinson filed a false report indicating that Plaintiff had lied. Id. Warden Mueller also punished Plaintiff for reporting the sexual abuse. Id. Warden Mueller told Plaintiff he would not be getting his television, radio, and other personal items. Id. He also indicated that Plaintiff would have no yard or gym privileges and denied him access to all other out-of-cell activities, including attending church services and using the law library. Id. Johnson, Delgado, Robinson, Burton, and Quarrie told Plaintiff he should have shut his mouth and he would not have been placed in segregation. Id.

         Count 12 - Conditions of Confinement

         Plaintiff remained in segregation for 26 days, locked in his cell 24-hours a day, and was only allowed to shower on 3 occasions. Id. The cell was infested with spiders, mice, and other bugs. Id. Plaintiff complained to Krebs, she told Plaintiff an exterminator had been called. Id.

         Counts 13 and 14 - Failure to Protect and Deliberate Indifference (Unknown Officer)

         While still in segregation, on September 15, 2015, Plaintiff was taken to the shower. Id. On the way to the showers, Plaintiff encountered another inmate that was a member of Barlow's gang. Id. The inmate told Plaintiff he was going to “fuck Plaintiff up” and did so in front of an unidentified officer. Id. At some point thereafter, the inmate attacked Plaintiff. Id. He punched and kicked Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, pp. 17-18). After the assault, the unidentified officer denied Plaintiff medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 18).

         Counts 15 and 16 - Retaliation and Access to the courts

         Plaintiff contends that the correctional officer in charge of the law library, Gooden, repeatedly refused to allow Plaintiff access to and/or provide Plaintiff with legal materials. (Doc. 1, p. 18). For instance, Plaintiff contends he was often denied access to the law library and other legal research he requested. Id. He also claims he was denied access to his own personal legal materials. Id. According to the Complaint, Gooden was denying Plaintiff access in retaliation for Plaintiff's history of filing grievances against Gooden's colleagues. Id. Gooden told Plaintiff he was a “correctional officer at heart” and “when you have any of my partners in your grievance, you're shit out of luck from getting help from me.” Id.

         Count 17 - Eighth Amendment Claim (Unknown Officers)

         When Plaintiff was released from segregation, the “officers” told other inmates that Plaintiff was a snitch and a homosexual. (Doc. 1, p. 18). As a result, Plaintiff was physically and sexually assaulted on numerous occasions. Id.

         Count 18 - Constitutional Claim (Mueller)

         When Plaintiff was released from segregation, Warden Mueller kept Plaintiff in a receiving cell for more than 30 days. (Doc. 1, p. 18). During this time, Plaintiff was assigned many different cell mates. Id. Warden Mueller told Plaintiff he was allowing Plaintiff to have as many different cell mates as Plaintiff wanted. Id. Plaintiff had a new cell mate, soliciting him for sex or taking Plaintiff's commissary items, every other week. Id. According to the Complaint, Warden Mueller knew this would “break” Plaintiff and it did. Id.

         Merits Review Pursuant to § 1915(A)

         Division of Counts

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint and Plaintiff's articulation of his claims, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.

COUNT 1 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim against Quarrie, Delgado, Johnson, Robinson, Aaron, and Toennies for harassing Plaintiff and/or failing to intervene in the harassment of Plaintiff.
COUNT 2 - First Amendment retaliation claim against Quarrie, Delgado, Johnson, Robinson, Aaron, and Toennies for retaliating against Plaintiff for filing complaints and grievances at his previous prison and/or for failing to intervene in ongoing retaliation.
COUNT 3 - Eighth Amendment claim against Conrad, Bailey, Macoby, Phillips, Schwartz, Quarrie, Johnson, and Delgado for provoking other inmates to attack Plaintiff by labeling him a snitch and a homosexual.
COUNT 4 - Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Conrad, Bailey, Kauling, John Doe # 3, Delgado, Quarrie, Burton, Robinson, Campbell, and Aaron for failing to honor Plaintiff's bottom bunk permit.
COUNT 5 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim against Bailey, Conrad, Foreman, and Delgado for restricting Plaintiff's access to the gym and yard ...

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