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Davis v. Lt. Cranmer

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 4, 2018

TAIWAN M. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
LT. CRANMER, SGT. COLE, OFFICER COOK, OFFICER PHILLIPS, OFFICER ROSS, OFFICER HAWKINS, and OFFICER SNYDER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Alton City Jail (“the Jail”). He originally brought his claims in a joint action filed on October 10, 2017, with several other Alton inmates, Pasley, et al., v. Crammer, et al., Case No. 17-cv-1085-JPG. After the original Complaint was dismissed, Plaintiff filed an individual Complaint on February 8, 2018. (Doc. 2). In it, he asserts that he was denied access to legal material, and was thus unable to file a motion in his criminal case. Plaintiff's claims were severed into this action on March 1, 2018. (Doc. 1). The case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claim survives threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's claim focuses only on Count 3 of the original action, which the Court described as follows:

         Defendants denied Plaintiff access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment. (Doc. 29 in Pasley, et al., v. Crammer, et al., Case No. 17-cv-1085-JPG).

         Plaintiff states that he is a federal prisoner. (Doc. 2, p. 1, Doc. 2-1). The Jail does not have a law library, so at some point Plaintiff was informed that the correctional officers would provide him with legal materials “through request.” (Doc. 2, p. 1). However, after a “short period, ” officers stopped accepting requests for legal material and case law. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Cranmer and Ross told the Jail's correctional officers not to give out case law material. Id.

         Plaintiff attaches an “Alton Police Department Federal Prisoner Grievance Procedure Form” dated October 12, 2017. (Doc. 2-1). Plaintiff talked to Phillips about obtaining legal case law. Plaintiff had requested case law in order to oppose a “stay” that was filed by the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Plaintiff's criminal case. United States v. Davis, Case No. 17-cr-30055-NJR (S.D. Ill.). (Doc. 2, p. 5; Doc. 2-1). Phillips told Plaintiff that he would have to do his own personal investigation in order to give Plaintiff a copy of a case. Phillips never provided Plaintiff with the requested case, even though Plaintiff told Phillips that his head Defense Counsel gave permission for Plaintiff to have it. Based on this denial, Plaintiff claims that Phillips denied him access to prepare a motion under Rule 3(c) for a Section 2255 proceeding. (Doc. 2-1).

         Plaintiff seeks nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. (Doc. 2, p. 6). He also requests an injunction to remove him from the Jail. Id.

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to characterize this pro se action in a single count, and for clarity, will maintain the number assigned to this count in the original action. The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of this count does not constitute an opinion as to its merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 3: Defendants denied Plaintiff access to the courts in violation of the First ...

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