United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Dorsey is an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center. He
claims to have written letters to two prison counselors,
Timothy Washington and Ada Johnson, in which he described
problems with his cellmate and requested a new cell
assignment. Dorsey claims that Washington shared the letters
with other inmates and that the letters have earned him the
reputation of being a "snitch, " a dangerous
reputation to hold in prison. Dorsey argues Washington's
decision to share the letters violated the Eighth Amendment
by showing deliberate indifference to his safety.
denies all of this: he says he never received the letters,
did not distribute them to other inmates, and did not know
that snitches fare poorly in prison. He has moved for summary
judgment. Because a genuine dispute of material fact exists
for Dorsey's claim, the Court denies Washington's
motion for summary judgment.
is serving a life sentence at Stateville Correctional Center
for kidnapping and murder. In 2012, Cornelius Brown was
assigned to Dorsey's cell. Dorsey and his cellmate began
to argue, but Dorsey claims he did not want their arguments
to become physical. Instead, Dorsey wrote two letters: one to
Ada Johnson and another to Timothy Washington, both
counselors at the prison. To ensure that the letters were
only seen by their intended recipients, Dorsey claims he
folded and taped the letters, addressed them properly, and
watched to ensure that each was collected by prison staff.
Inmates play no role in collecting or distributing mail.
Dorsey claims that, after he sent the letters, Washington
spoke to him about his cellmate assignment.
weeks after preparing the letters, Dorsey was surprised to
learn that his letters were in the possession of other
inmates, who read them aloud. For attempting to resolve his
problems through prison administrators, Dorsey gained the
reputation of being a "snitch." Dorsey alleges that
Washington shared the letters because he was affiliated with
the Vice Lords gang, as was Dorsey's cellmate. Washington
denies any affiliation with the gang. Now that the letters
have been released, Dorsey claims that he spends his days in
fear of being assaulted or killed in retaliation.
denies he ever received Dorsey's letters. Accordingly, he
denies ever giving the letters to the other inmates. He also
denies knowing whether there is animosity towards snitches or
whether a snitch may be subject to retaliation by other
claims that Washington's decision to share his letters
with other inmates violated the Eighth Amendment by showing
"deliberate indifference" to the "substantial
risk of serious harm" to which he exposed Dorsey.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994).
Washington has moved for summary judgment on Dorsey's
claim. A party is entitled to summary judgment if it
"shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of
material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary
judgment, "the evidence of the nonmovant is to believed,
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his
favor." Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1863
has moved for summary judgment on three grounds. First,
Washington argues Dorsey has not offered evidence from which
a reasonable jury could find that he received the letters,
chose to share the letters, or knew that sharing the letters
would expose Dorsey to a risk of harm. Second, he argues
Dorsey's claim for monetary remedies is barred by Eighth
Amendment doctrine and the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(PLRA). 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). Third, Washington contends
Dorsey has named the wrong party for injunctive relief, as he
lacks the authority to transfer Dorsey to another prison.
reasons that follow below, the Court denied Washington's
motion for summary judgment.
argues that summary judgment is warranted because Dorsey
failed to present enough evidence to permit a reasonable jury
to find that he received Dorsey's letters or that he
distributed the letters to other inmates with deliberate
indifference to the risks this posed to Dorsey. A prison
official acts with deliberate indifference if he or she acts
despite knowing of a substantial risk of serious harm to the
prisoner. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 843. Prisoners may
face a "substantial risk" if the risk is
"attributable to detainees with known
'propensities' of violence toward a particular
individual or class of individuals" or to
"'highly probable' attacks." Brown v.
Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 911 (7th Cir. 2005). "Serious
harm" must be objectively serious enough as to amount to
a "denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.
Washington argues that Dorsey has not offered evidence from
which a reasonable jury could find that he ever received
Dorsey's letters. The Court disagrees. A reasonable jury
could infer that Dorsey sent his letters to Washington and
Johnson; Washington received his letter; and ...