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Jett v. Brookhart

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 20, 2017

MICHAEL JETT, #M35618, Plaintiff,
v.
DEE DEE BROOKHART, JOHN COE, CUNNINGHAM, JOHN BALDWIN, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., NICHOLAS LAMB, LORIE CUNNINGHAM, SANDRA FUNK, and ROBERT PATTERSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint filed by Plaintiff Michael Jett, by and through recruited counsel, on August 23, 2017. (Doc. 12). Plaintiff is incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”). He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 794-94e. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Plaintiff suffers from severe dyslexia and claims that he has been denied access to programs, services, and activities at Lawrence because of his disability. (Doc. 12, pp. 2-3). He seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 12, pp. 27-28).

         The First Amended Complaint is now subject to preliminary 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.

         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. The First Amended Complaint survives screening under this standard.

         First Amended Complaint

         According to the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff is unable to read or write. (Doc. 12, p. 8). He was diagnosed with severe dyslexia on or around November 15, 1999. Id. He allegedly qualifies for services through the Illinois Office of Rehabilitation Services. Id. Plaintiff claims that he is also a “qualified individual with a disability” under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”). Id.

         When he arrived at Lawrence Correctional Center on April 10, 2013, Plaintiff notified Doctor Coe and Nursing Director Cunningham of his diagnosis, and he requested a reasonable accommodation in the form of an ADA attendant to help him read and write. (Doc. 12, p. 8). He allegedly provided documentation of his disability to Doctor Coe, Nursing Director Cunningham, Assistant Warden Brookhart, and, eventually, Transfer Coordinators Funk and Patterson. (Doc. 12, p. 20). No attendant was provided, so he filed a grievance seeking one. (Doc. 12, p. 8).

         Plaintiff was not issued an ADA permit[1] authorizing an ADA attendant until April 14, 2014, more than a year after he first requested one. (Doc. 12, pp. 8-9). He was initially assigned one or more attendants, but he claims that they were not properly trained to assist an individual with dyslexia and were therefore unqualified to serve as his ADA attendant. Id.

         On February 22, 2016, Plaintiff spoke about the issue with Dee Dee Brookhart, the Assistant Warden of Programs and ADA Coordinator at Lawrence. (Doc. 12, p. 9). He complained about the denial of a properly trained ADA attendant. Id. The following day, Brookhart informed Plaintiff that “placement had been notified of [his] need for an ADA attendant.” Id.

         Before receiving a new assignment, Doctor Coe and Nurse Cunningham made the decision to cancel Plaintiff's ADA permit on June 7, 2016. (Doc. 12, p. 9). Plaintiff asked Brookhart to reinstate it. Id. Pursuant to his request, the permit was reinstated on December 21, 2016. Id. Even so, no ADA attendant was assigned to him. Id.

         Plaintiff filed numerous grievances to complain about the denial of an ADA attendant and the failure to accommodate his disability. (Doc. 12, pp. 10, 23-24). He also filed written requests with Transfer Coordinators Funk and Patterson for a transfer to Robinson Correctional Center or Taylorville Correctional Center, two facilities that allegedly could accommodate his needs. Id. His complaints were ignored or denied. Id. Copies of these grievances were not provided with the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 12).

         Plaintiff now claims that his rights have been violated under the ADA, RA, Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 12, pp. 5-8). In the First Amended Complaint, he lists approximately two dozen policies, practices, or procedures at Lawrence that violate his rights under the ADA and more than a dozen that violate his rights under the RA. (Doc. 12, pp. 15-20). All stem from the denial of an ADA attendant or auxiliary aids and services[2] to assist him with reading, writing, and communicating. Id.

         The denial of these accommodations occurred in “critical situations” such as TABE[3] testing, medical and mental health appointments, disciplinary hearings, classification reviews, religious services, educational programs, and court hearings. (Doc. 12, p. 5). Plaintiff complains that he has been unable to effectively communicate with his friends and loved ones. (Doc. 12, pp. 6-7). He has not been alerted to critical prison communications about head counts, meal times, medical and legal call-outs, recreation time, etc. Id. He has also been excluded from educational, employment, and other programs. (Doc. 12, pp. 7-8). Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 12, pp. 27-28).

         Discussion

         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court deems it appropriate to organize the claims in the First Amended Complaint into the following enumerated counts:

Count 1 - Defendants failed to accommodate Plaintiff's dyslexia in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Doc. 12, pp. 13-17) ...

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