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Hoskins v. Spiller

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

January 2, 2018

JOSHUA LEE HOSKINS, #R-54570, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Joshua Lee Hoskins, an inmate currently housed at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's allegations pertain to alleged constitutional violations that occurred at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard) (from February 2016 through January 2017) and at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) (from January 2017 through February 2017). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) 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).

         As a part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that the practice of severance is important, “not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits “but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. This practice is encouraged. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals 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). Consistent with George, Owens, and Wheeler, improperly joined parties and/or claims will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers, and assessed separate filing fees.

         The Complaint


         Plaintiff assaulted an officer in 2013 and has a history of filing grievances against and/or complaining about officials at Menard. (Doc. 1, pp. 26-28). In particular, Plaintiff has grieved and/or complained about Menard's medical staff on numerous occasions. Id. As a result, Plaintiff claims he has been subjected to retaliation. (Doc. 1, pp. 26-46). In particular, Plaintiff claims that officials retaliated against him by issuing an unjustified or false disciplinary ticket (Doc. 1, pp. 42-43), dated February 17, 2016 (“Disputed Ticket”). After a hearing, Plaintiff was adjudicated guilty and subjected to disciplinary action that included 1 year in segregation - from February 17, 2016 through February 17, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 44-45). Between February 17, 2016 and January 3, 2017, Plaintiff was in segregation at Menard. (Doc. 1, p. 39). On January 4, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to Stateville and completed his term of disciplinary segregation at that institution.

         Plaintiff claims that Menard officials have violated his constitutional rights in various ways, including by ensuring that Plaintiff was charged and convicted of unjustified disciplinary infractions and by denying him medical care during his time in segregation at Menard (from February 17, 2016 through January 3, 2017). He also alleges that, after being transferred to Stateville, he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement and denied the right to freely practice his religion.

         Claims Pertaining to Menard

         Disputed Ticket and Disciplinary Hearing

         According to the Disputed Ticket, Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation on February 12, 2016. (Doc. 1, pp. 26-28, 42-45). Plaintiff was charged with violation of Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) rule 205-Gang or Unauthorized Organization Activity and IDOC rule 301-Fighting. The Disputed Ticket indicates that a copy was served on Plaintiff on February 17, 2017, but Plaintiff refused to sign. (Doc. 1, p. 42).

         A hearing was held on February 23, 2016. (Doc. 1, pp. 44-45). According to the record of proceedings, no witnesses were requested and Plaintiff pled guilty. Id. The hearing committee (Lieutenant Brokman and Officer Keys) found Plaintiff guilty of both offenses. Id. Plaintiff was ordered to segregation for 1 year, demoted to “C” grade for 1 year, placed on commissary restriction for 1 year, and subjected to restricted contact visits for 6 months. Id.

         The Disputed Ticket was signed by Officer Spiller. (Doc. 1, pp. 26-28, 42-45). Prior to issuing the Disputed Ticket, Officer Spiller indicated he did not like Plaintiff because he assaulted an officer in 2013 and because he had filed numerous grievances and complaints against officials at Menard. (Doc. 1, p. 26). Officer Spiller told Plaintiff he was going to file a false disciplinary report against Plaintiff as an act of retaliation for this conduct. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that Officer Bump (not a Defendant in the instant case) helped Officer Spiller issue the Disputed Ticket at the request of Correctional Medical Technician (“CMT”) Lang.[1] (Doc. 1, pp. 26, 28, 32). Plaintiff also claims that Officers Ward and Wooley helped Spiller issue the Disputed Ticket by reviewing it to be sure it sounded believable. (Doc. 1, pp. 26, 32-34). According to the Complaint, at various points, Officers Spiller, Bump, Ward, and Wooley, as well as CMT Lang confirmed that they coordinated efforts to issue the Disputed Ticket. (Doc. 1, pp. 26-27, 32-34). These individuals allegedly admitted that they helped Spiller issue the Disputed Ticket as an act of retaliation for Plaintiff's prior assault on an officer and history of submitting grievances and/or complaining about officials at Menard. (Doc. 1, pp. 26. 32-34).

         Officer Slavens' signature on the Disputed Ticket indicates that Plaintiff was served with a copy on February 17, 2016, but refused to sign. (Doc. 1, pp. 30-31, 42). Plaintiff claims that he was not served with the Disputed Ticket on February 17, 2016 and that this record is false. (Doc. 1, pp. 30-31). According to the Complaint, Slavens confirmed that he falsified the service record at the direction of Officers Spiller, Pierce, Bump, Wooley, Ward, and Keys; Lieutenant Brokman; and Warden Butler. (Doc. 1, pp. 30-31). Allegedly, these individuals worked together to falsify the service record to ensure that Plaintiff was convicted of the false charges contained in the Disputed Ticket. (Doc. 1, pp. 30-31, 34-35). These individuals were allegedly motivated by a desire to retaliate against Plaintiff for past grievances and his prior assault on an officer. (Doc. 1, pp. 26-35).

         Plaintiff also alleges Officer Baker falsely stated that, prior to the hearing on the Disputed Ticket, Officer Baker: (1) conducted an investigation into the charges and (2) interviewed Plaintiff to allow him to prepare a defense by giving him a statement and a list of witnesses. (Doc. 1, p. 35). Plaintiff claims that this conduct resulted in the adjustment committee finding Plaintiff guilty. Id. Plaintiff does not allege that Officer Baker's allegedly false statements were motivated by retaliatory animus.

         Plaintiff claims that prior to the hearing, Officer Spiller spoke with Officer Keys and Lieutenant Brookman (the individuals who oversaw Plaintiff's hearing), as well as Warden Butler. Id. Spiller told these individuals to “make sure” Plaintiff is “found guilty of the false disciplinary report (ticket) on all false charges.” (Doc. 1, pp. 26-27; see also Doc. 1, p. 28 (claiming that Warden Butler, Lieutenant Brookman, and “other staffs” ensured that Plaintiff was found guilty of all charges)). Officer Ward told Plaintiff she asked her “buddy, ” Lieutenant Brokman, to find him guilty on the Ticket. (Doc. 1, p. 32). Lieutenant Brokman told Plaintiff that he knew the ticket was false. (Doc. 1, p. 33). Nonetheless, Lieutenant Brokman and Officer Keys found Plaintiff guilty on the “bogish” ticket because of his prior assault on an officer and because he had filed numerous grievances against officials at Menard. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that, at the hearing, he told Lieutenant Brokman and Officer Keys he had not received a copy of the Disputed Ticket and asked that his hearing be continued, so he could call witnesses in his defense. Id. Despite Plaintiff's request, the hearing proceeded. Id. Plaintiff claims that he did not plead guilty to the offenses charged and that Lieutenant Brokman and Officer Keys falsely stated that he pled guilty. Id. Finally, Plaintiff claims that the charges in the Disputed Ticket were “unsubstantiated” and that Warden Butler, Lieutenant Brokman, and Officer Keys knew the charges were unsubstantiated. Id.

         Denial of Medical Care

         According to the Complaint, while in segregation at Menard, Plaintiff submitted sick-call slips regarding daily “pains throughout [his] body, ” “facial swelling, ” “injuries from bumping [his] face to the walls, ” “muscle cramps, ” and “chest pains.” (Doc. 1, pp. 31, 33-35). Plaintiff claims that various officials deliberately ignored his requests for medical care and that the denial of care was retaliatory. (Doc. 1, pp. 31-36). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Nurse Gregson and CMTs Lang, Engelage, Marshall, and Freidrich, on various occasions: (1) confirmed that he or she was aware of Plaintiff's alleged medical needs; (2) confirmed that Plaintiff's sick-call requests were being intentionally ignored and/or destroyed; and (3) indicated that he or she had no intention of responding to Plaintiff's medical requests or providing medication for Plaintiff's alleged pain. (Doc. 1, p. 31, Nurse Gregson; Doc. 1, p. 33, CMT Lang; Doc. 1, p. 34, CMTs Engelage and Freidrich; Doc. 1, p. 35, CMT Marshall). Plaintiff claims that Officers Spiller, Wooley, Ward, and Bump directed medical staff to ignore his medical complaints while he was in segregation. (Doc. 1, pp. 31-32).

         The Complaint also suggests that these individuals acted together to deny Plaintiff medical care. The Court specifically notes the following allegations:

• Doc. 1, pp. 31-32, On June 8, 2016, Spiller told Plaintiff Spiller, Wooley, Ward, Bump, and Gree or Ghee “told their buddies who were healthcare unit medical staffs to destroy any sick call slips that [Plaintiff] sent to the healthcare unit complaining about pains and other conditions of [Plaintiff's] body while being housed in segregation and to make sure that [Plaintiff] was not provided with no medical treatment and necessities and told all the North Two Cell House security staffs to do the same.” • Doc. 1, p. 34, On July 16, 2016, CMT Engelage told Plaintiff to stop submitting sick-call requests, that he would not receive treatment, and that the medical and security staff were treating him this way because of his past grievances and an officer assault.
• On September 26, 2016, CMT Freidrich told Plaintiff that he should know by now “that us medical staffs don't give a fuck about you nor the conditions of your body so stop sending us all those sick call slips. We have told all of our co-workers in the healthcare unit not to give you no pain relief or shit. Security staffs asked us to mistreat you since you was sent to Menard (IDOC) for pushing a officer years back. I'm also not giving you medical treatment & necessities due to the fact you written grievances on my co-worker Aimee Lang and told mental health professional Ms. Difranklin a while back that you wasn't receiving your psychotropic medications from the nurses when you was in the West Cell House.” (Doc. 1, p. 34).
• On October 24, 2016, CMT Marshall told Plaintiff she had been destroying all of his sick-call slips and that Marshall, Lang, Engelage, Freidrich, and “others” had discussed the issue and intended to make sure that Plaintiff did not receive medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 35).
• Nurse Gregson stating, “We aint gonna do shit for you to limit your pain and muscle issues.” (Doc. 1, p. 31).
• CMT Lang stating, “We don't give a fuck about your pain sufferings, I'm gonna make sure you are never given medical treatment.” (Doc. 1, p. 33).
According to the Complaint, the denial of medical care was retaliation for Plaintiff's past assault on an officer and for his history of filing grievances and/or complaints. In connection with this claim, the Court specifically notes the following allegations:
• On June 8, 2016, Spiller told Plaintiff that, in addition to issuing the false ticket, Spiller, Wooley, Ward, Bump and Ghee or Gree told medical staff to ignore Plaintiff's requests for medical and psychiatric treatment while he was in segregation. (Doc. 1, p. 32).
• On June 7, 2016 and on other occasions, Nurse Gregson told Plaintiff his sick-call requests were being ignored “due to [him] grieving medical staffs.” (Doc. 1, p. 31).
• On July 10, 2016 and on other occasions, after telling Plaintiff to stop submitting sick-call requests and that he would not be receiving treatment, CMT Lang said “I bet you want to write another grievance on me.” (Doc. 1, p. 33). She also indicated Plaintiff was being denied medical care “due to [him] writing grievances on her reporting nurses conduct to mental health of not waking [him] up to serve [him] prescribed medications, grieving other staffs.” (Doc. 1, p. 34).
• On July 16, 2016 and on other occasions, CMT Engelage told Plaintiff “she was gonna make sure that [he] was never issued medications for pains nor another medical treatment since [he] had put grievances against Menard (IDOC) medical staffs.” (Doc. 1, p. 34).
• On September 26, 2016, CMT Freidrich allegedly told Plaintiff “I'm also not giving you medical treatment & necessities due to the fact you written grievances on my co-worker Aimee Lang.” (Doc. 1, p. 34).
• On October 24, 2016 and other occasions, CMT Marshall allegedly told Plaintiff that his sick-call slips and medication requests were being ignored (with the exception of Plaintiff's psychotropic medication) because of his “history putting grievances and oral complaints to mental health staffs about nurses not serving [him his] psychotropic medications.” (Doc. 1, p. 35).

         Conditions of Confinement While In Segregation

         Plaintiff brings a litany of complaints about his conditions of confinement while in segregation. (Doc. 1, pp. 36-39). The Court specifically notes the following alleged conditions: (1) the sewer pipes in Plaintiff's cell were broken, causing feces and urine to flood his cell when he flushed his toilet; (2) feces and urine covered the floor of his cell on a regular basis; (3) unsanitary conditions in Plaintiff's cell attracted insects and rodents; (4) Plaintiff's cell was covered in mold and mildew; (5) the water in Plaintiff's cell was discolored and rusty; (6) Plaintiff was not given materials to clean the unsanitary conditions in his cell; (7) Plaintiff's cell was so small he regularly injured himself while attempting to move and was unable to exercise; and (8) Plaintiff was denied sanitary clothing and bedding.

         According to the Complaint, Counselors Vasquez and Nippie (not defendants in this action) toured the cell house galleries, including Plaintiff's segregation cell. (Doc. 1, p. 38). Plaintiff claims that he told the counselors about the complained of conditions and that the complained of conditions were negatively impacting his physical and mental health. Id. Allegedly, the counselors told Plaintiff to quit complaining. Id. They indicated that they had no intention of addressing his complaints and that all of his ...

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