United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
WILLIE J. BOOKER, #B-61837, Plaintiff,
JEANETTE COWAN, JOHN DOE #1, JOHN DOE #2, SHERRY BENTON, JOHN BALDWIN, and JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Willie Booker is currently incarcerated at Menard
Correctional Center (“Menard”). He is a convicted
sex offender, who is serving a sentence for murder and
aggravated battery. He brings this civil rights action
pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
officials at Menard and the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”) who allegedly denied him
protective custody in November 2016. (Doc. 1). Along with the
Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed
in forma pauperis (“IFP Motion”). (Doc.
2). Before the Court screens the Complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A, it must first address Plaintiff's
eligibility to proceed IFP. See 28 U.S.C. §
1914(a). For the reasons discussed herein, the Court finds
that Plaintiff is ineligible, and his IFP Motion shall be
seeks leave to proceed as a poor person without prepaying the
full $400.00filing fee for this action. (Doc. 2).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, a federal court may permit
a prisoner who is indigent to bring a “suit, action or
proceeding, civil or criminal, ” without prepayment of
fees upon presentation of an affidavit stating the
prisoner's assets together with “the nature of the
action . . . and affiant's belief that the person is
entitled to redress.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In
the case of civil actions, a prisoner's affidavit of
indigence must be accompanied by “a certified copy of
the trust fund account statement (or institutional
equivalent) for the prisoner for the 6-month period
immediately preceding the filing of the complaint . . .,
obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at
which the prisoner is or was confined.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(2). Plaintiff's IFP application satisfies
these formal requirements. (Doc. 2, pp. 1-8).
is nonetheless barred from proceeding IFP under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(g) which prohibits an inmate from bringing a
civil action or appealing a civil judgment IFP, “if the
prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while
incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action
or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed
on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the
prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical
injury.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
Plaintiff is subject to the bar imposed by § 1915(g).
disclosed no strikes in his Complaint or IFP Motion, and he
was required to disclose them all. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-27). However,
court documents are public records, and the Court can take
judicial notice of them. See Henson v. CSC Credit
Servs., 29 F.3d 280, 284 (7th Cir. 1994). Review of
documents filed on the Public Access to Court Electronic
Records (“PACER”) website
(www.pacer.gov) reveals that Plaintiff filed three
or more prior actions that were dismissed as frivolous,
malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. See Booker v. City of Rdfd., IL, No.
03-cv-50066 (N.D. Ill., dismissed March 27, 2003); Booker
v. Mitchell, No. 10-cv-00312 (S.D. Ill., dismissed
November 5, 2010); Booker v. O'Conner, No.
15-cv-50052 (N.D. Ill., dismissed March 26, 2015). Each of
these dismissals resulted in the assessment of a
“strike” under § 1915(g). Id.
also filed two other lawsuits in which he requested and was
initially granted IFP status, after claiming that he was
denied protective custody at Menard and faced imminent danger
of serious physical injury. See Booker v. Gleckler, et
al., No. 15-cv-00657-SMY (S.D. Ill. 2015); Booker v.
McCarthy, et al., No. 16-cv-00194-MJR (S.D. Ill. 2015).
In one of these cases, the Court subsequently revoked
Plaintiff's IFP status after finding that his claim of
imminent danger was too speculative. Booker v. Gleckler,
et al., No. 15-cv-00657-SMY (S.D. Ill. 2015) (Doc. 114)
(revoking IFP following evidentiary hearing in which the
Court found that Plaintiff's allegation of imminent
danger was based on a general concern about his status as a
sex offender and a former gang member as opposed to a
specific credible threat). Plaintiff also failed to disclose
these cases in his Complaint. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-27).
Plaintiff has accumulated three “strikes” for
purposes of § 1915(g), he may not proceed IFP unless he
is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(g). The allegations in the Complaint do
not support this finding. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-27). Plaintiff
complains that the defendants denied his request for
protective placement in November 2016 based on a letter he
received in 2014. Id. The anonymous letter included
a copy of Plaintiff's criminal history, revealing that he
is a convicted sex offender who is serving time for murder,
and a threat to kill him if his “sex offender
ass” returned to the general population. (Doc. 1, p.
4). Plaintiff was allegedly attacked by his cellmate in
February 2017, soon after returning to the general prison
population. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). Plaintiff is no longer housed
with his attacker. However, he now shares a cell with an
inmate who “do[es] not like sex offenders” and
was involved in six fights last year. (Doc. 1, p. 27).
Plaintiff claims that his current housing arrangement, his
own propensity for self-inflicted harm, and his suicidal
thoughts place him in imminent danger of serious physical
injury. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-22, 27). He seeks protective placement
and other changes to the prison's policies regarding sex
offenders, mentally ill inmates, and other vulnerable
prisoners. (Doc. 1, pp. 22-23).
dangers that Plaintiff describes in the Complaint are too
remote or speculative to support his request for IFP status
at this time. As the Seventh Circuit has explained,
“imminent danger” within the meaning of §
1915(g) requires a “real and proximate” threat of
serious physical injury to a prisoner. Ciarpaglini v.
Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 330 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing
Lewis v. Sullivan, 279 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir.
2002)). In general, courts “deny leave to proceed IFP
when a prisoner's claims of imminent danger are
conclusory or ridiculous.” Ciarpaglini, 352
F.3d at 331 (citing Heimermann v. Litscher, 337 F.3d
781, 782 (7th Cir. 2003)). Additionally, “[a]llegations
of past harm do not suffice” to show imminent danger;
rather, “the harm must be imminent or occurring at the
time the complaint is filed, ” and when prisoners
“allege only a past injury that has not recurred,
courts deny them leave to proceed IFP.” Id. at
330 (citing Abdul-Wadood v. Nathan, 91 F.3d 1023
(7th Cir. 1996)).
2014 letter from an anonymous source is too remote in time to
support Plaintiff's request for IFP status. Plaintiff
does not complain of a more recent written or verbal threat
that is tied to this letter. Absent more recent and related
events, Plaintiff's receipt of a letter four years ago
does not support his claim of imminent danger now.
attack by his cellmate in February 2017 also supports no
finding that he now faces imminent danger of serious physical
injury as he is no longer housed with the same cellmate. He
does not describe any other interactions with him or threats
arising from the February attack.
current housing arrangement also appears to present no
imminent danger of serious physical harm to him. After
Plaintiff told his current cellmate that he is a convicted
sex offender, his cellmate submitted an affidavit with the
Complaint stating that he does not like sex offenders. His
cellmate also indicated that he was in several fights last
year. However, the affidavit contains no explicit or implicit
threats of harm to Plaintiff, and the Complaint refers to
none. Further, Plaintiff describes no efforts on his part to
notify prison officials, including the defendants, about his
current safety concerns.
Plaintiff's threat to inflict self-harm if his housing
request is denied, also fails to support a claim of imminent
danger. Plaintiff explains that he has repeatedly gone on
hunger strikes to protest his housing arrangements. He also
has suicidal thoughts at times. However, he does not allege
that he complained about either issue to the defendants in
may not escape the three-strikes provision of the Prison
Litigation Reform Act by inflicting “imminent
danger” on himself. See, e.g., Freeman v.
Berge, 441 F.3d 543, 546-47 (7th Cir. 2006) (prison
officials may force-feed an inmate to prevent his suicide).
This Court has previously observed that a prisoner cannot
“create the ‘imminent danger' required by
§ 1915(g) by commencing a hunger strike.”
Taylor v. Walker, No. 07-cv-706-MJR, 2007 WL 4365718
(S.D. Ill.Dec. 11, 2007) (citing Ball v. Allen, No.
06-cv-0496, 2007 WL 484547 (S.D. Ala. Feb. 8, 2007);