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Kitterman v. Dennison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 19, 2018

SHANE A. KITTERMAN, #B-80577, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF DENNISON, JASON GARNETT, JOHANNE HOSCH, GLOBAL TEL-LINK CORP, CHRISTOPHER BRINKLEY, JOHN BALDWIN, CIARA HALL, OFFICER DUNNE, OFFICER SAMMS, OFFICER EDWARDS and YOLLANDA HARRINGTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is now before the Court for consideration of the most recent version of Plaintiff Shane Kitterman's First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 22). Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). On March 20, 2017, he originally brought this action for miscellaneous deprivations of his constitutional rights at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”) and Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”) pursuant to “42 U.S.C. §§ 1331(1) and 1343.” (Doc. 1). The original Complaint took a largely scattershot approach. Id. It focused, if at all, on claims of retaliation by officials at Big Muddy and Shawnee that resulted from Plaintiff's decision to challenge Big Muddy's video visitation program. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-5).

         The Complaint did not survive preliminary review, and the Court dismissed it without prejudice on May 22, 2017. (Doc. 8). Plaintiff was granted leave to file a First Amended Complaint on or before June 19, 2017. Id. He was specifically instructed to focus his First Amended Complaint on related claims against the same group(s) of defendants and warned that “[c]laims found to be unrelated will be further severed into new cases, new case numbers will be assigned, and additional filing fees will be assessed.” (Doc. 8, p. 14) (emphasis in original).

         During the next three months, Plaintiff filed a steady stream of amended complaints (Docs. 11, 12 and 22) and supplements (Docs. 16, 17 and 19).[1] Plaintiff interspersed these amendments and supplements with numerous motions seeking injunctive relief (Docs. 13 and 20), which the Court immediately took up and addressed. (Docs. 15 and 21). At the same time, the Court repeatedly ordered Plaintiff to select a single First Amended Complaint for use in this action. (Doc. 14, 18 and 25). The final deadline for making this decision was August 29, 2017. (Doc. 25). Just before the deadline expired, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint that is identified as Document 22 in CM/ECF. In an Order dated October 5, 2017, the Court accepted Document 22 as the operative First Amended Complaint in this matter. (Doc. 28).

         The First Amended Complaint at Document 22 supersedes and replaces all prior versions of the Complaint, rendering all other versions VOID. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2004). The First Amended Complaint (Doc. 22) is now subject to screening 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 part of this Screening Order, the Court will also consider whether any claims in the First Amended Complaint are improperly joined in this action and are subject to severance or dismissal. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

         First Amended Complaint (Doc. 22)

         In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has again taken a scattershot approach to his claims against the defendants by filing what amounts to an omnibus complaint. He names officials at two different prisons in connection with numerous unrelated claims. The Court has done its best to organize and summarize the allegations against the defendants herein. In the process, it has become clear that many claims and defendants are improperly joined in this action and are subject to severance or dismissal. Against this backdrop, the Court summarizes the allegations against officials at each institution below.

         A. Big Muddy

         Plaintiff entered Big Muddy on January 19, 2016. (Doc. 22, p. 6). At the time, the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) was allegedly under contract with Global Tel-Link Corp (“GTL”) to provide inmates with video visitation. Id. Warden Garnett and Assistant Warden Harrington distributed flyers to inmates at Big Middy explaining that the IDOC “partnered with ‘Global Tel-Link Corp' (‘GTL') to provide ‘New Media Services' to offenders.” (Doc. 22, p. 7). Inmates who were interested in utilizing these services to visit with friends and family were first required to provide a “certain sum of money” in exchange for a new electronic device that was capable of remote video visitation. (Doc. 22, p. 6). Inmates were required to wait up to four weeks from the date of purchase for delivery of the device. (Doc. 22, p. 7).

         Plaintiff placed an order for the device with an unknown employee in the prison's commissary on March 16, 2016. (Doc. 22, pp. 7-8). The employee was supervised by Warden Garnett and Assistant Warden Harrington. Id. At the time, Plaintiff was given no instructions for canceling the transaction. Id. He also received no information about warranties on the device. (Doc. 22, p. 7). Plaintiff's trust fund account reflected a deduction of $74.99 for an MP3 player and $32.00 for “credits to purchase music.” (Doc. 22, p. 8).

         Plaintiff retrieved the MP3 player from the prison's commissary thirty-two days after the transaction was processed. (Doc. 22, p. 8). He and several hundred other inmate consumers soon discovered what Plaintiff characterized as “an act of theft by deception” on the part of GTL and the IDOC. Id. The media devices were not new. Id. They were “used, defective, and unmerchantable.” (Doc. 22, pp. 8-9). When Plaintiff tried to return his MP3 player and cancel the original transaction, an IDOC employee refused to cancel the transaction or issue him a refund because the seven-day return period had expired. (Doc. 22, p. 9). Plaintiff later learned that he had only seven days from the date of purchase to recover damages to or resulting from the device. (Doc. 22, p. 8).

         Plaintiff immediately filed grievances and complaints with Warden Garnett and Assistant Warden Harrington, but they refused to take any action to assist him. (Doc. 22, p. 9). He wrote letters to IDOC Director John Baldwin, but his letters went unanswered. Id. Plaintiff then assisted other inmates in filing grievances, letters and lawsuits against IDOC Director Baldwin, Warden Garnett, Assistant Warden Harrington, GTL, “commissary” and “personal property.” (Doc. 22, p. 10).

         Plaintiff soon became the target of Ciara Hall, an IDOC employee who was also a GTL liaison. (Doc. 22, p. 10). When Plaintiff refused to surrender his device to Hall without first receiving assurance from her that he would receive a full refund, Hall allegedly told Plaintiff to address the issue with GTL and then “fabricated allegations against the plaintiff.” (Doc. 22, p. 11). Although Plaintiff alleges that the prison offered a “kiosk” for direct communications between inmates and GTL, he describes no efforts on his part to address the matter with GTL. Id. He also fails to provide any examples of Hall's “fabricated allegations” or retaliation against him. Id.

         At the time, Plaintiff was employed as a law clerk at Big Muddy's law library, and was also enrolled in vocational classes, substance abuse classes and parenting skills classes at the prison. (Doc. 22, p. 11). While working as a law clerk, Plaintiff assisted his fellow inmates in preparing and filing grievances and lawsuits to challenge Big Muddy's video visitation program. (Doc. 22, p. 12). At some point, Warden Garnett, Assistant Warden Harrington, Hall and GTL placed Plaintiff in segregation for “several days” in retaliation for filing these grievances and complaints. (Doc. 22, p. 15).

         While working at the law library in September 2016, Plaintiff observed Johanne Hosch, his work supervisor, engage in sexual misconduct with an inmate. (Doc. 22, p. 12). Plaintiff indicates that this was one of three reported incidents. Id. He reported his observations in a grievance filed pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Id. Although Christopher Brinkley was assigned to investigate Plaintiff's report of sexual misconduct, Hosch “self-processed” the grievance. (Doc. 22, p. 13). After she became aware that Plaintiff reported her for misconduct, Hosch removed Plaintiff from his job, his educational classes and his rehabilitative programs. (Doc. 22, pp. 13, 23).

         Officers Pfeimeister and Lasiter began to threaten Plaintiff. (Doc. 22, p. 13). Although he reported these unspecified threats to Warden Garnett, Assistant Warden Harrington and Brinkley, they ignored Plaintiff's reports. Id. At some point, Officer Lasiter and possibly Officer Pfeimeister “assaulted” Plaintiff while he walked to the chow hall. (Doc. 22, p. 16). Plaintiff offers no information about the assault, other than to allege that it happened. Id. He adds that the officers assaulted him “at the behest of Hosch in retaliation for revealing her sexual misconduct.” (Doc. 22, p. 14).

         Plaintiff filed grievances to complain about the “assault.” (Doc. 22, p. 14). All of Plaintiff's grievances were “confiscated” by Brinkley. Id. When Brinkley confirmed that Plaintiff's report of sexual misconduct against Hosch was true, Brinkley also retaliated against Plaintiff. Id. Hosch warned Plaintiff to stop making “all” reports of sexual misconduct by IDOC employees and threatened “severe punishment” for further reports. (Doc. 22, pp. 14-15). Plaintiff ignored these threats and continued filing grievances. (Doc. 22, p. 15). He also submitted a request for a transfer to a prison “similar in distance [to] his family and with similar programs.” (Doc. 22, p. 14). His request was denied after the IDOC determined that he was “properly placed.” Id. However, Warden Garnett and Assistant Warden Harrington decided to transfer Plaintiff after GTL informed both wardens on January 10, 2017 about a pending suit Plaintiff filed against them in Jefferson County, Illinois. (Doc. 22, p. 16). The wardens ordered a disciplinary transfer, and Plaintiff was sent to Shawnee. Id.

         B. Shawnee

         Upon Plaintiff's arrival at the new facility, Warden Dennison was “verbally alerted” by “defendants (sic) agents” that Plaintiff was as a “grievance writer.” (Doc. 22, p. 17). In response, Warden Dennison instructed an officer to strip search Plaintiff. Id. During the search, the officer used his security wand to hit Plaintiff in his stomach. Id. When Plaintiff screamed out in pain, Warden Dennison warned him that he would “be sorry” if he “continue[d] to write grievances.” Id. Plaintiff allegedly became “overwhelmed by mental anguish and sick with depression.” Id. He sought mental health treatment in the prison's mental health unit. Id.

         Between April and July 2017, after filing this lawsuit, Plaintiff allegedly became the target of assault by corrections officers at Shawnee. (Doc. 22, p. 18). He describes one of these assaults by Officer Dunne. Sometime during this time period, the officer ordered Plaintiff to remove his clothing during a routine strip search conducted pursuant to “normal practices” while preparing for a scheduled visit. Id. While searching Plaintiff, Officer Dunne allegedly fondled his genitals. Id. Plaintiff was afraid for his safety. Id. He remained quiet until he felt safe enough to report the incident to a mental health care provider, who prepared a report. (Doc. 22, p. 19). When Officer Dunne learned about Plaintiff's report, he removed a property box from another inmate's cell and threw it at Plaintiff. Id. He also reported this incident. Id.

         On July 13, 2017, Officer Dunne instructed Officer Samms and Officer Edwards to “[d]eadlock” Plaintiff in his cell and deprive him of food, water, exercise, and contact. (Doc. 22, p. 19). Plaintiff does not indicate whether they carried out these orders or describe how long he was subject to these deprivations. Id. He simply alleges that he was placed in solitary confinement for “several days, ” after his wife complained to internal affairs. (Doc. 22, pp. 19-20). Plaintiff allegedly continued to receive threats from Officer Dunne, but he offers no information about the dates, frequency, or nature of these threats. (Doc. 22, p. 20). Plaintiff “reached out” to IDOC Director Baldwin and Warden Campbell in an attempt to inform them about “what [wa]s happening.” Id. They ignored his letters. Id.

         Plaintiff complains that GTL and the IDOC are now working with Warden Dennison to confiscate old MP3 players, in an attempt to prevent inmates from recovering any money for their defective devices. (Doc. 22, p. 21). Inmates are encouraged to return defective devices to GTL for a refund and to purchase a “new” MP3 player. Id. However, inmates who return their defective devices are not actually given a refund and are encouraged to re-purchase used devices. Id. Plaintiff maintains that it has become the policy of GTL, IDOC and Warden Dennison to punish any inmate who “challenge[s] the pecuniary interests” of the IDOC and GTL. (Doc. 22, p. 22).

         In his request for relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against the defendants. (Doc. 22, p. 24). In addition, he seeks “injunctive relief to stop the unfair and deceptive business practices by IDOC and partner GTL.” Id. He does not request any form of emergency relief in the First Amended Complaint. Id.

         Discussion

         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court deems it appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff's pro se First Amended Complaint into the following counts:

Count 1 - Fourteenth Amendment claim against GTL, IDOC Director Baldwin, Warden Garnett, Assistant Warden Harrington, and Ciara Hall for denying Plaintiff access to video visitation with his family by providing him with a used and/or defective MP3 ...

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