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Gordon v. Hewitt

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 2, 2018

LEONARD GORDON, Plaintiff,
v.
HEWITT, HEWITT, SARAH JOHNSON, and JOHN/JANE DOE Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, U.S. Chief District Judge

         Plaintiff Leonard Gordon, an inmate in Centralia Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for events that occurred at Vandalia Correctional Center. Plaintiff requests damages and declarative relief. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that the Hewitts are a married couple that both work as guards at Vandalia Correctional Center. (Doc. 1, p. 2). On December 28, 2016, Mrs. Hewitt began taunting Plaintiff because of his facial tattoos and ultimately hit him in the mouth and choked him while John Doe #1 watched. (Doc. 1, pp. 2-3). Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the alleged assault. (Doc. 1, p. 3). He also told family members, who reported the incident to prison administration, and complained to various prison officials regarding the assault and the grievance, which was subsequently misplaced. Id. Plaintiff alleges that as a result of his complaints, he was issued a retaliatory disciplinary report and submitted for a transfer. Id.

         On February 24, 2017, Mr. Hewitt encountered Plaintiff and verbally berated him about filling grievances on Mrs. Hewitt. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Mr. Hewitt left and then returned with John Does #2-7. Id. Mr. Hewitt opened Plaintiff's cell, choked Plaintiff, and slammed his head into the wall. Id. John Does #2-7 then jumped in and began punching and kicking Plaintiff until he was unconscious. Id. When Plaintiff regained consciousness, Mr. Hewitt escorted him to the laundry room where he slammed Plaintiff to the ground, put his knee on Plaintiff's neck, and punched him in the face. (Doc. 1, p. 5). One of the John Does rubbed a burning substance in Plaintiff's eyes. Id. Plaintiff was escorted to health care where John Doe #8, a nurse, told him that there was nothing wrong with him. Id. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital for treatment the next day. Id.

         Plaintiff grieved this incident to Johnson, who never interviewed Plaintiff's witnesses and denied his grievances. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the grievance provided sufficient knowledge of the constitutional deprivation, and that Johnson failed to exercise her authority to act on it. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 4 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 following claims survive threshold review:

Count 1 - Mrs. Hewitt and John Doe #1 violated Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment on December 28, 2016 when Mrs. Hewitt punched and choked Plaintiff for no reason and Doe #1 approved, condoned, ...

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