United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JAMES E. WRIGHT, Jr., #R17719, Plaintiff,
KIMBERLY S. BUTLER, MINH T. SCOTT, REBECCA A. COWAN, JASON N. HART, RANDY PFISTER, CHAD M. BROWN, ABERARDO A. SALINAS, SALVADOR A. GODINEZ, and LESLIE McCARTY, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is now before the Court for consideration of the First
Amended Complaint filed by Plaintiff James Wright. (Doc. 17).
Plaintiff is currently confined at Pontiac Correctional
Center (“Pontiac”) (Doc. 9). He brings this civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment
rights at Pontiac and Menard Correctional Center
(“Menard”). (Doc. 17).
claims that officials at both facilities unlawfully punished
him for participation in a gang and/or unauthorized
organizational activity. (Doc. 17, p. 7). He was initially
given three months of segregation, but his punishment was
increased to twelve months without any new charges or
evidence. (Doc. 17, pp. 7-22). Plaintiff also was transferred
from Menard to Pontiac to serve his punishment in
disciplinary segregation there, and he describes the
conditions at Pontiac as atypical and harsh. Id. The
decision to increase Plaintiff's punishment was
ultimately overturned, but only after he served all twelve
months in disciplinary segregation. Id.
connection with these events, Plaintiff names the following
individuals as defendants: Kimberly Butler (Menard's
warden), Minh Scott (adjustment committee chairman), Rebecca
Cowan (adjustment committee member), Jason Hart (adjustment
committee member), Randy Pfister (Pontiac's former
warden), Chad Brown (adjustment committee chair), Aberardo
Salinas (adjustment committee member), Leslie McCarty
(administrative review board (“ARB”) member), and
Salvador Godinez (Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) Director). (Doc. 17, pp. 1-4). He brings
claims against them for retaliation under the First
Amendment, unconstitutional conditions of confinement under
the Eighth Amendment, and due process violations under the
Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 17, pp. 7-22). Plaintiff seeks
declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and indemnification
by the State of Illinois. (Doc. 17, pp. 16, 22).
case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the
First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A,
(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
Id. 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 in the pro se complaint are to be
liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance
Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The First
Amended Complaint survives screening under this standard.
his incarceration at Menard on April 22, 2014, Plaintiff was
served with an inmate disciplinary report citing a violation
of Rule 205 for participation in a security threat group or
unauthorized organizational activity. (Doc. 17, p. 7). On
April 24, 2014, he appeared before Menard's Adjustment
Committee (including Minh Scott, Jason Hart, and Rebecca
Cowan) and was found guilty of the rule violation. (Doc. 17,
pp. 7, 18). Lieutenant Scott explained that the violation
normally resulted in punishment with twelve months in
disciplinary segregation. (Doc. 17, p. 8). The allegations
against Plaintiff were vague, however, and therefore
warranted only three months of disciplinary segregation,
demotion to C-grade, commissary restriction, and visitation
restriction. (Doc. 17, pp. 7-8).
reviewing the findings, Warden Butler remanded the matter to
the adjustment committee with instructions to increase
Plaintiff's punishment to twelve months of disciplinary
segregation, C-grade, and commissary restrictions. (Doc. 17,
p. 8). Consistent with these instructions, the adjustment
committee reissued Plaintiff a “duplicate” ticket
and reheard the matter on May 14, 2014. (Doc. 17, pp. 8, 19).
Without considering any additional charges or new evidence,
the adjustment committee increased Plaintiff's punishment
to twelve months and ordered a disciplinary transfer to
Pontiac. (Doc. 17, pp. 8, 19; Doc. 17-1, p. 15).
to April 22, 2014, Plaintiff lived in Menard's general
population and was interviewed several times by Menard's
intelligence officers. (Doc. 17, p. 9). The officers
questioned him about his involvement in a gang and threatened
to punish him if they learned of any involvement.
Id. Until he was issued the ticket on April 22,
2014, however, no charges were ever brought against
Plaintiff. Id. He claims that the ticket represented
the culmination of the intelligence officers' and Warden
Butler's concerted efforts to level false charges against
him. Id. Warden Butler allegedly “retaliated
against Wright” by remanding the ticket for an upward
adjustment of his punishment, simply because she was
dissatisfied with the adjustment committee's lenient
filed numerous grievances with Menard's grievance
officer, prison grievance counselor,  and the ARB. (Doc. 17, p.
10). On October 20, 2014, Director Godinez and ARB Member
McCarty reviewed the matter and found that the charges
against Plaintiff were unsubstantiated. (Doc. 17, p. 10; Doc.
17-1, p. 18). Instead of dismissing the charges, however,
they remanded the matter to the adjustment committee with
instructions to have the reporting officer provide additional
information to substantiate the charges. Id. At the
time, Plaintiff had been confined in disciplinary segregation
for three months beyond the sanction that was originally
imposed. Id. Godinez and McCarty knew this, but they
took no action to correct it. Id.
November 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance
with Pontiac's warden, Randy Pfister, to complain about
the delay of the hearing by Pontiac's adjustment
committee. (Doc. 17, pp. 11-12). He requested immediate
release from segregation. Id. Warden Pfister denied
the grievance as a non-emergency and ignored letters
Plaintiff wrote to him on December 3 and 14, 2017.
received the rewritten disciplinary report on December 19,
2014. (Doc. 17, p. 12). It was substantially the same as the
two prior reports that the ARB had deemed insufficient, dated
April 22, 2014 and May 8, 2014. Id. On December 29,
2014, Plaintiff appeared before Pontiac's adjustment
committee (comprised of Chad Brown and Aberardo Salinas).
Id. He submitted a written statement pointing out
that the latest disciplinary report suffered from the same
deficiencies as all prior reports. Id. He asserted
that his continued confinement in segregation was unlawful.
time of the hearing, Plaintiff had been confined for almost
six months beyond the original 3-month period of punishment
imposed for the rule violation. (Doc. 17, p. 12). The
adjustment committee nevertheless found him guilty once again
and imposed punishment of twelve months in disciplinary
segregation. Id. Warden Pfister upheld this
decision. (Doc. 17, pp. 12-13).
was ultimately released from disciplinary segregation into
administrative detention on April 24, 2015. (Doc. 17, p. 13).
Just three days later on April 27, 2015, the ARB (comprised
of Terri Anderson and Donald Stolworthy) issued a final
order, which concluded that the increase in punishment from
three- to twelve- months in disciplinary segregation violated
the Illinois Administrative Code. (Doc. 17, p. 14; Doc. 17-1,
pp. 29-30). The ARB ordered Plaintiff's punishment to be