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Cavaness v. Delancy

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 31, 2017

DEANDRE CAVANESS, Plaintiff,
v.
DELANCY, CONSTABLE, REBEA, BLIVINGSTON, ELLENBERG, and LEDBETTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff DeAndre Cavaness, an inmate previously incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights. In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in various ways, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 14). Because Plaintiff brought this action while he was still incarcerated, this case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Second Amended 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).

         During screening, the Court is also permitted to sever any unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Relatedly, the Seventh Circuit has recently warned district courts not to allow inmates “to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.” Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017). See also Wheeler v. Talbot, __ F. App'x __, 2017 WL 2417889 (7th Cir. 2017) (district court should have severed unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed one of them). Therefore, consistent with George, Owens and Wheeler, unrelated claims will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers and assessed separate filing fees.

         The Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in his Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 14): On April 6, after Defendant Delancy refused to provide Plaintiff with his name, did not give Plaintiff a grievance at his request, failed to bring Plaintiff a lieutenant when asked and did not retrieve a crisis team at Plaintiff's request, Plaintiff “blasted the gallery floor with urine.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Delancy was not on the gallery floor when it happened. Id. Delancy sent Defendant Constable, J. Shelton, and a third unknown officer to Plaintiff's cell to cuff him and take him for an evaluation due to his mental illness. Id. Plaintiff is mentally ill and is dyslexic. Id. Though Constable told Plaintiff that he was being taken to health care, the officers were joined by Delancy and took Plaintiff to a search cell in the visiting area. Id.

         Plaintiff was denied a sergeant and lieutenant despite the fact that when he realized he was going to be stripped, he asked for one and noted that he “would have to be nude” and had previously been “a victim of officer battery and sexual misconduct.” (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). “Delancy, Shelton, and Constable told [Plaintiff] several times when [he] was questioning [his] safety to shut . . . up and go with what is the program.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff removed all of his clothes. Id. He was given his underwear bottoms and shoes and was ordered to “cuff up.” Id. Constable told Plaintiff to face the back wall of the search cell while cuffed. Id. Constable then slammed Plaintiff's face into the concrete wall and yelled at Plaintiff. Id. Delancy entered and he and Constable proceeded to hit and kick Plaintiff, with his face striking the concrete and his brow split, for three to five minutes while Shelton watched. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).

         Plaintiff was lead cuffed by another officer and placed back in his cell. (Doc. 1, p. 7). The officer left him without providing him with medical attention or a grievance. Id. Defendant Nurse Rebea came to his cell and administered his sleep aid, but failed to notify medical staff or a crisis team of his injuries from the attack per Plaintiff's request. Id. Later, Officer Harris arrived and notified lieutenants and majors of Plaintiff's situation. Id. Plaintiff then got medical attention and had photos taken. Id. He also met with internal affairs the next morning. Id.

         Since Plaintiff's arrival, Defendant Ellenberg “has been racist and belittlingly belligerent.” Id. After Plaintiff asked him to stop, Ellenberg still continuously shut off Plaintiff's drinking water. Id. Plaintiff needs the water, as he explained to Ellenberg, to take his medication. Id.

         Defendant Ledbetter “will select trays to be given for groveling in the form of military drilling or calisthenics.” Id. If these drills are not done, Ledbetter “gives shorted meal[s].” Id.

         Plaintiff told Defendant Blivingston that he was electrocuted by exposed live wires in a two gallery cell. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Blivingston gave, or threatened to give Plaintiff, a “falsified information ticket if [he] did not re-touch those electric socket bare copper and silver wires where the socket female attachment was removed.” Id. Plaintiff did not receive medical attention and later brought a grievance. Id.

         Plaintiff never responded to officer misconduct with assault or battery. Id. He did not spit on or punch the officers. Id. Plaintiff requests monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 6 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 regarding their merit.

Count 1 - On April 6, Defendants Delancy and Constable subjected Plaintiff to excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Count 2 - Defendants Delancy, Constable, and Rebea showed deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment by failing to provide him with medical care, or seek medical ...

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