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Manuel v. Nalley

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 26, 2017



          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Elijah Manuel, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Big Muddy Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”). On June 28, 2016, Plaintiff, with the assistance of counsel, amended his Complaint and now proceeds on the following claims:

Count One: Defendants Char and Howell failed to protect Plaintiff from an assault by his cellmate in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; and
Count Two: Defendants Miller and Nalley retaliated against Plaintiff for filing grievances, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

         On October 18, 2017, Plaintiff and Defendants Char and Howell filed a Stipulation of Dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41, indicating that Plaintiff's cause of action against said defendants is dismissed with prejudice (Doc. 84). A plain reading of Rule 41(a) suggests that it should only be used to dismiss an entire action (rather than a particular claim against a particular defendant). See Taylor v. Brown, 787 F.3d 851, 857 (7th Cir. 2015) (Rule 41(a) is “limited to dismissal of an entire action” and Rule 15(a) is the proper vehicle for adding or dropping parties or claims). While the Court acknowledges the plain reading of the Rule, it finds that dismissing defendants Char and Howell, rather than ordering amendment of the Complaint, is in the interest of judicial economy considering the posture of this case. Accordingly, Defendants Rosa Char and Dona Howell are hereby DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         The only remaining claim is Count Two, a claim for retaliation against Defendants Miller and Nalley. Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment as to this claim is now before the Court (Doc. 82). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants Miller and Nalley's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         On April 24, 2015, while incarcerated at Big Muddy, Plaintiff Elijah Manuel was attacked by his cellmate (Plaintiff's Deposition, Doc. 83-1, p. 16). Soon thereafter, in May and June 2015, Manuel submitted three grievances to his counselor, Defendant Cindy Miller, concerning issues related to the attack (Id. at 4-5). Because Manuel never received any response to these grievances, he submitted numerous follow-up letters to Defendant Miller to confirm receipt of the same (Id. at 6-7; Defendant Miller's Supplemental Interrogatory Answers, Doc. 83-9, p. 8). Manuel also submitted a letter directly to the Grievance Officer[1] on or about June 16, 2015, complaining about Miller's failure to take action on his grievances (Plaintiff's Answers to Defendants' Interrogatories, Doc. 83-2, p. 4; Doc. 83-1 at 17).

         Miller met with Manuel in his housing unit on June 22, 2015 to discuss the letters he sent regarding his grievances and her lack of response (Id. at 9, 17; see Plaintiff's Cumulative Counseling Summary, Doc. 83-7, p. 5). Miller informed Manuel that she had more than fourteen days to respond to a grievance and advised him to stop sending confirmation letters (Doc. 83-1 at 9). According to Manuel, Miller ended the conversation by asking if he was going “to write a grievance on her too, ” to which he responded, “maybe” (Id. at 9). This interaction is recorded in Plaintiff's Cumulative Counseling Summary at 11:51:34 on June 22, 2015 (see Doc. 83-7 at 5).

         At approximately noon on the same day, Manuel's cell was shaken down by Defendant Nalley, a correctional officer at Big Muddy (Doc. 83-1 at 9; see Offender Disciplinary Report, Doc. 83-5, p. 5; see also IDOC Shakedown Record, Doc. 83-3, p. 3)[2]. Nalley seized various items, the content of which is disputed. Manuel asserts that Nalley seized paperwork related to a lawsuit he was preparing to file against certain prison officials at Big Muddy, along with supportive documents (Doc. 83-2 at 4). Defendants, however, contend that the confiscated items were contraband and included forged affidavits that Manuel was preparing for submission with his lawsuit (see Doc. 83-5 at 3; see also Doc. 83-6).

         On July 6, 2015, Nalley issued Manuel a disciplinary ticket in relation to the shakedown and confiscation of contraband (see Doc. 83-5, p. 3). Following a disciplinary hearing on July 13, 2015, Manuel was found guilty of the following charges: (1) 204 - Forgery; (2) 308 - Contraband/Unauthorized Property; and (3) 309 - Petitions, Postings & Business Ventures (Id. at 1). Manuel was disciplined with three months in segregation, three months C Grade, commissary and yard restrictions, and a disciplinary transfer to a higher security facility (Id.).

         Manuel disputes the validity of the ticket and the decision of the Adjustment Committee, and attests that the items allegedly taken from his cell were not his and were “never shown” to be in his possession ...

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