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Wimberly v. Dennison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 6, 2017

ANTHONY WIMBERLY, N-61282, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN JEFFREY DENNISON, IDOC, SGT. PITCHFORD, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Illinois River Correctional Center, filed this this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations that allegedly occurred while he was incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). On July 31, 2017, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Original Complaint without prejudice and with leave to amend. (Doc. 6). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 7 and Doc. 9 (identified as a “continuation” of the First Amended Complaint).[1] In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to unsanitary cell conditions for approximately 30 days when he was placed in disciplinary segregation in January 2017.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint (Docs. 7 and 9) 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 the First Amended Complaint survives threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Amended Complaint (Docs. 7 and 9)

         On January 11, 2017, Plaintiff was placed in segregation. (Doc. 9, p. 3). Plaintiff claims the cell he was confined in was uninhabitable and should have been condemned. (Doc. 7, p. 5; Doc. 9, pp. 3-4). The sink and toilet were full of mold and mildew. Id. The sink was non-functional because a “seg pen” was stuck in the faucet and no water would come out. Id. The mattress in the cell had urine stains on it and smelled of urine. Id. The windows were drilled shut and there was inadequate air circulation. Id. Plaintiff was not provided with cleaning supplies, but tried to clean the cell with his personal hygiene items (body soap and towels). Id. Plaintiff remained in the original unsanitary segregation cell for 20 days. Id. Thereafter, for the next 10 days, Plaintiff was repeatedly transferred to new segregation cells. However, the conditions in each cell were equally deplorable.

         Plaintiff contends that Pitchford and Dennison had knowledge of the complained of conditions in Plaintiff's original segregation cell. (Doc. 7, p. 5; Doc. 9, pp. 3-5). Additionally, Plaintiff claims Defendants new that all of the segregation cells were equally uninhabitable. Id. According to Plaintiff, these Defendants were aware of these conditions because they personally observed the conditions, and/or because of Plaintiff's repeated complaints and/or grievances regarding the same. Id. Instead of addressing the conditions, Defendants allegedly “turned a blind eye.” Id. Plaintiff contends that Defendants' decision to transfer him from cell to cell was a meaningless act because all of the segregation cells were uninhabitable and Defendants knew that all of the segregation cells were uninhabitable. Id.

         Dismissal of Certain Defendants

         Illinois Department of Corrections IDOC is a state governmental agency. The Supreme Court has held that “neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). See also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages); Billman v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995) (state Department of Corrections is immune from suit by virtue of Eleventh Amendment); Hughes v. Joliet Corr. Ctr., 931 F.2d 425, 427 (7th Cir. 1991) (same); Santiago v. Lane, 894 F.2d 219, 220 n. 3 (7th Cir. 1990) (same).

         Accordingly, Plaintiff cannot direct any § 1983 claims against IDOC and IDOC will be dismissed from this action without prejudice.

         John Doe

         Plaintiff has included a John Doe Defendant described as “Sgt. Pickford or Lt. Pickford.” It is evident that John Doe Defendant, Sgt. Pickford or Lt. Pickford, is the same individual as Defendant Sgt. Pitchford, or Lt. Pitchford. Plaintiff has only included a John Doe Defendant because he is unsure of the correct spelling for ...


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