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Batie v. Mount

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 20, 2017

TRYZELL BATIE, # 20150918285, Plaintiff,
v.
J. MOUNT, LT. HANES, SHERYL, and BONNIE MAY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at the Cook County Department of Corrections (“CCDC”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was detained at the Jefferson County Jail (“the Jail”). Plaintiff raises a number of claims, including being confined in disciplinary segregation without due process, deliberate indifference to a serious dental condition, and substandard conditions of confinement. 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 some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         The Complaint was filed shortly after Plaintiff was transferred from the Jail back to his original housing facility, the CCDC. (Doc. 1, p. 2).

         At around 10:30 a.m. on March 15, 2017, Plaintiff was sent to the Jail's segregation unit and remained there for 10 days without any hearing on his disciplinary ticket. (Doc. 1, p. 9). At approximately 3:30 p.m. on March 15, 2017, Lt. Hanes came to Plaintiff's segregation cell and told Plaintiff to sign papers containing the hearing board finding that Plaintiff was guilty of the disciplinary charges. (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). Plaintiff refused to sign, telling Hanes that he had not been given a hearing. Hanes threatened Plaintiff with 20 more days in segregation if he did not sign. Plaintiff insisted he would not sign until he was given a hearing. Hanes responded, “this is your hearing, ” explaining that Captain Mount had printed out some emails, and Hanes made his decision based on them. (Doc. 1, p. 10). When Plaintiff still refused to sign, Hanes became “very aggressive” and pulled out his taser gun. Id. Hanes told Plaintiff to “sign the f***ing ticket or get f***ed up.” Id. Plaintiff would not sign, so Hanes entered the cell and punched Plaintiff twice in the face. Hanes then told Plaintiff he would be doing 30 days in the hole since he wouldn't sign the papers. (Doc. 1, p. 11). This incident was still under investigation by the sheriff's office when Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint.

         Plaintiff wrote grievances requesting a hearing on the disciplinary charges that led to his placement in segregation, but Mount responded that Plaintiff had been given a hearing on March 15. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         On March 6, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a medical grievance asking for 2 painful wisdom teeth to be pulled. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Nurse Sheryl told Plaintiff that an appointment was made for him. However, the appointment never happened. Plaintiff made several other requests, and filed grievances to Mount, but Sheryl never made him a dental appointment. At some point, Plaintiff was taken to see the nurse (it is not clear whether this was Sheryl). The nurse looked in Plaintiff's mouth and told him that if he waited for the teeth to fully grow in, the pain would stop. (Doc. 1, p. 12). When Plaintiff insisted that he needed to see a dentist because it could take months for the teeth to grow in, the nurse responded that she would have to ask Mount before an appointment could be made. No appointment was ever set, and Plaintiff continued to suffer pain from the wisdom teeth. Plaintiff's grievances to Mount were never answered.

         On May 4, 2017, Lt. May refused to give Plaintiff toilet tissue, stating that each inmate was allowed only one roll per week. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff's grievance over the tissue refusal was denied, and he received no response to his attempt to file an emergency grievance with the Captain. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         On May 5, 2017, Plaintiff re-filed his medical grievances. Nurse Sheryl told Plaintiff that Mount had instructed her not to respond to any medical request. Plaintiff believes Mount told all Jail employees to ignore grievances. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         Beginning on March 1, 2017, Plaintiff submitted several grievances to Mount, May, and Hanes regarding inadequate meal portions and poor nutritional value of the food served at the Jail. (Doc. 1, pp. 13-14). Breakfast, for example, consisted of a half-pint of skim milk and a cup of cereal, which Plaintiff believes to be less than a full cup. Dinner was 2 undercooked cookies, a scoop of peanut butter with 2 slices of white bread, and a half ounce of pretzels. Some inmates became dizzy due to hunger. Plaintiff's complaints were ignored. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Plaintiff complained to Mount that his housing unit had not been allowed to have recreation for routine exercise. Mount responded that recreation was a privilege, and because of the size of the “deck, ” Plaintiff's unit did not have to go to recreation. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Finally, Plaintiff claims that Mount and May have been purposely erasing grievances and requests filed by Plaintiff on the Jail's kiosk machine. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Mount admitted the destruction to Plaintiff, saying he was not going to help Plaintiff file a lawsuit on him. Mount further refused to give Plaintiff copies of grievances and gave him a false address for the FOIA office.

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Hanes and Mount punished Plaintiff with segregation without due process;
Count 2: Hanes used excessive force against Plaintiff when he punched Plaintiff in the face;
Count 3: Sheryl and Mount were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's need for treatment of his ...

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