United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE, United States District Judge
Jeryme Morgan, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional
Center (“Menard”), has brought this pro
se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Plaintiff claims that the John Doe/Jane Doe mailroom
supervisors have intentionally opened his incoming legal mail
on numerous occasions. The Complaint is now before the Court
for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
§ 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).
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.
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).
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).
these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's
claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.
to the Complaint, Plaintiff was transferred to Menard in
November 2014 from Stateville Correctional Center. (Doc. 1,
p. 6). At the time, Plaintiff had several pending lawsuits in
this Court against Menard officials. Id. In
connection with those lawsuits, Plaintiff alleges that he
received legal mail from the Illinois Attorney General and
from his own attorney. He also received mail from the
Illinois Court of Claims with reference to a pending case.
alleges that on approximately 22 occasions between November
2014 and March 20, 2017, his “legal mail” was
knowingly opened outside his presence by “all
Defendants listed.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). He further alleges
that during that time frame, all Defendants “knowingly
interfered” with correspondence between Plaintiff and
his attorney, by opening or ripping his legal mail, some of
which was lost. Id.
filing his Complaint, Plaintiff submitted 47 pages of
Exhibits. (Doc. 3). They include approximately 14 grievances
filed between January 2015 and March 2017 in which Plaintiff
complains about his incoming mail having been opened before
he received it. He also submitted copies of approximately 20
of the opened envelopes. These include mail addressed to
Plaintiff from attorney Barry Lewis (Doc. 3, p. 7), the law
firm of Loevy & Loevy (Doc. 3, pp. 9-10, 28), the Cook
County Public Defender (Doc. 3, p. 22), and the John Marshall
Law School (Doc. 3, p. 47). Other incoming mail that was
opened before being delivered to Plaintiff came from the
Illinois Attorney General (Doc. 3, pp. 14-15, 18-19, 37-39,
43), the New York Attorney General (Doc. 3, pp. 13, 17, 35,
44), and the Illinois Court of Claims (Doc. 3, pp. 41, 45).
Plaintiff's grievances states that in October 2015, he
sent an envelope to Attorney General Lisa Madigan on which he
clearly printed “Legal Mail.” (Doc. 3,
pp. 25-27). The envelope was returned to Plaintiff due to
some error on the address, and had been opened before he
received it back.
seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, p. 7).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it
convenient to divide the pro se action into
the following counts. The parties and the Court will use
these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless
otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The
designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as
to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the
Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be
considered dismissed without prejudice.
Count 1: Defendants violated Plaintiff's
First Amendment right to access the courts by opening
correspondence between Plaintiff and his attorneys outside
Count 2: Defendants violated Plaintiff's
First Amendment rights by opening Plaintiff's incoming
mail from attorneys, state officials, and the courts, and