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Reid v. Willson

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

April 4, 2018

ELIJAH REID, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O WILLSON, et al., Defendants.

          MERIT REVIEW OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff proceeds pro se from his incarceration in Pontiac Correctional Center. His Complaint is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This section requires the Court to identify cognizable claims stated by the Complaint or dismiss claims that are not cognizable.[1] In reviewing the complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor and taking Plaintiff's pro se status into account. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S., 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7thCir. 2013)(quoted cite omitted).

         Plaintiff alleges that he has been placed on a “black ball list” in retaliation for a prior lawsuit and grievances he has filed. This means that he has been subjected to various retaliatory acts including the withholding of medical attention and medicine, excessive force, inhumane conditions of confinement in the prison yard, and reduced visiting hours. He may also be alleging that these adverse actions are racially motivated because Defendants repeatedly call Plaintiff a racial epithet.

         Plaintiff states a plausible First Amendment retaliation claim and a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim. Several of the alleged adverse actions that form the basis of the retaliation claim also state independent constitutional claims: excessive force, failure to intervene to stop excessive force, [2] deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, and inhumane conditions in the prison yard. The Court cannot rule out Plaintiff's supplemental state law claims for the intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault/battery.

         However, Plaintiff's allegations that Defendants Simpson and Cox failed to return or improperly handled Plaintiff's grievances do not state a claim. Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1996)(no constitutional right to prison grievance procedure); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2007) (“Only persons who cause or participate in the violations are responsible. Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation.”). An inmate does not need to access the grievance procedure in order to access the courts. Similarly, the failure to properly investigate Plaintiff's allegations does not state a claim, nor does the failure to accept Plaintiff's version of events. See Whitlock v. Brueggemann, 682 F.3d 567, 589 (7th Cir. 2012)("There is no affirmative duty on police to investigate."); Soderbeck v. Burnett County, 752 F.2d 285, 293 (7th Cir. 1985)(“Failure to take corrective action cannot in and of itself violate section 1983. Otherwise the action of an inferior officer would automatically be attributed up the line to his highest superior . . . .”). Defendant Warden Melvin cannot be held liable solely because he is in charge. Chavez v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001)(no respondeat superior liability under § 1983).

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:

         1) Plaintiff's motion to filed an amended complaint is granted. (d/e 5.) The clerk is directed to separately docket the amended complaint.

         2) Pursuant to its merit review of the amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court finds that Plaintiff states the following federal constitutional claims: First Amendment retaliation; Fourteenth Amendment equal protection; Eighth Amendment excessive force and failure to intervene to stop excessive force; Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs; and Eighth Amendment inhumane conditions in the prison yard. Also proceeding are Plaintiff's supplemental state law claims for the intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault/battery.

         3) This case proceeds solely on the claims identified paragraph 2 above. Any additional claims shall not be included in the case, except at the Court's discretion on motion by a party for good cause shown or pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.

         4) Defendants “internal affairs officer, ” Warden Melvin, Heather Cox, and Simpson are dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim.

         5) This case is now in the process of service. Plaintiff is advised to wait until counsel has appeared for Defendants before filing any motions, in order to give Defendants notice and an opportunity to respond to those motions. Motions filed before Defendants' counsel has filed an appearance will generally be denied as premature. Plaintiff need not submit any evidence to the Court at this time, unless otherwise directed by the Court.

         6) The Court will attempt service on Defendants by mailing each Defendant a waiver of service. Defendants have 60 days from the date the waiver is sent to file an Answer. If Defendants have not filed Answers or appeared through counsel within 90 days of the entry of this order, Plaintiff may file a motion requesting the status of service. After Defendants have been served, the Court will enter an order setting discovery and dispositive motion deadlines.

         7) With respect to a Defendant who no longer works at the address provided by Plaintiff, the entity for whom that Defendant worked while at that address shall provide to the Clerk said Defendant's current work address, or, if not known, said Defendant's forwarding address. This information shall be used only for effectuating service. Documentation of forwarding addresses shall be retained only by the Clerk and shall not be maintained in the public docket nor disclosed by the Clerk.

         8) Defendants shall file an answer within 60 days of the date the waiver is sent by the Clerk. A motion to dismiss is not an answer. The answer should include all defenses appropriate under the Federal Rules. The answer and subsequent pleadings shall be to the issues and claims stated in this Opinion. In general, an answer sets forth Defendants' positions. The Court does not rule on the merits of those positions ...


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