United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert United States District Judge
is a pretrial detainee, confined at the St. Clair County Jail
(“the Jail”). He has brought this pro se
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff raises a number of claims in this action, including
retaliation against him for having brought complaints and
lawsuits against Jail staff, and deliberate indifference to
his health and safety. This case is now before the Court for
a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. Additionally, the Court must consider whether
all of Plaintiff's claims may appropriately proceed
together in the same lawsuit. This initial review reveals
that several of Plaintiff's claims are not properly
joined in this action. These improperly joined claims shall
therefore be severed into separate cases, where they shall
undergo the required § 1915A evaluation.
§ 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.
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).
these standards, one claim that shall remain in this action
survives threshold review under § 1915A.
in January 2016, Plaintiff submitted a number of captain
complaints, raising concerns about several problems in the
Jail. In addition, Plaintiff has sued various Jail officials
during his imprisonment, including the superintendent,
nurses, and kitchen supervisor Robinson-Davis (who is also
named as a Defendant herein). (Doc. 1, p. 4). As a result of
these complaints and lawsuits, Plaintiff asserts that he has
been the target of retaliatory actions by some Defendants.
submitted multiple complaints In January 2016 over blankets
not being washed for months. He also lodged complaints about
maggots in the food. (Doc. 1, p. 4). In March 2016, an
unidentified official told Plaintiff to “bunk and junk,
” indicating that he would be released from custody. In
response, Plaintiff gave away about $150.00 worth of personal
property. Instead of being released, however, he was
re-housed in a different wing of the Jail (J-Block), where he
was unable to access the law library, was denied medical and
dental treatment, and where he believed his safety was at
risk from aggressive inmates. (Doc. 1, p. 5). John Doe #1 was
the supervisor who transferred Plaintiff to J-Block.
Plaintiff asserts that normally, inmates are re-housed for
disciplinary reasons. In Plaintiff's case, however, there
was no reason to move him other than to retaliate against him
for making complaints, since he had no disciplinary or
behavior problems at that time.
later date, Plaintiff was moved again, this time to H-Block.
That wing was also unsafe as the individual cell doors did
not lock, and fights broke out almost daily. While in
H-Block, Plaintiff was repeatedly denied the privilege of
ordering hot food trays. He would place a hot tray order and
his account would be charged, but no tray would be delivered
to him, while other inmates received their hot trays without
a problem. Plaintiff had to file complaints before his money
was eventually refunded. Plaintiff claims that Robinson-Davis
(kitchen supervisor) denied him the hot trays while charging
him for trays not delivered, as retaliation for his
complaints. (Doc. 1, p. 5).
was placed on a 30-day lockdown in November-December 2016
because of a fight, in which Plaintiff was not involved.
(Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff did not receive a hearing over this
punishment, was denied access to the law library, and was not
allowed to obtain hygiene items, envelopes, or cleaning
supplies. He submitted daily complaints over these
deprivations, and was finally moved to a different block
before the lockdown ended. Supervisor John Doe #2 disregarded
Plaintiff's complaints for weeks until Plaintiff was
transferred to AB-Block.
AB-Block, Plaintiff regained some access to the law library,
and began to receive “legal mail.” Sgt. Nichols
and others improperly opened and read Plaintiff's legal
mail before giving it to him. (Doc. 1, p. 6). As Jail staff
realized Plaintiff was seeking redress in the courts,
Plaintiff was frequently told that the law library was
“down.” On one occasion, Sgt. Cook told Plaintiff
that the library was “down, ” but the next day,
Plaintiff observed another inmate in the law library using
the computer. Id. Plaintiff believes the opening of
his mail and the denial of law library access were in
retaliation for his attempts to bring his complaints in
ordered and was charged for commissary items that were not
delivered. C/O Everett (who is not named as a Defendant)
refused to reimburse Plaintiff's account, despite
Plaintiff's complaints to Everett and his supervisor.
(Doc. 1, p. 6). Other inmates' accounts have been quickly
reimbursed for mistakes, but Plaintiff is still waiting for a
refund dating back to November 2016.
November 2017, C/O Carter (who is not a Defendant) delayed
delivering Plaintiff's legal mail to him for over 2
weeks. (Doc. 1, p. 7). C/O Jerry (also not a Defendant)
delayed Plaintiff's outgoing mail in October 2017,
relating to a case that was then pending in this Court
(Teen v. Peebles, No. 17-cv-593). Plaintiff claims
the delay caused his amended complaint to reach the Court too
late to be considered, and the case was dismissed. Sgt. Masse
was responsible for handling the mail, and Plaintiff alleges
that the delays were retaliatory and aimed at preventing
Plaintiff's civil complaints from succeeding. (Doc. 1, p.
November 7, 2017, while Plaintiff was on AB-Block, he was
speaking with a nurse through a small window about his
medical concerns. (Doc. 1, p. 10; Doc. 1-1, p. 21). Sgt.
Masse slammed the window shut in Plaintiff's face,
preventing Plaintiff from receiving help or information from
the nurse. Plaintiff asserts that Masse's action was
discriminatory and retaliatory.
about January 25, 2018, C/O Smith (who Plaintiff had sued in
a 2017 civil action involving a boil order), targeted
Plaintiff with a disciplinary action. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8; Doc.
1-1, pp. 19-20). Smith falsely claimed that Plaintiff
interrupted an investigation and was disrespectful. As a
result, Plaintiff was moved to a restrictive area and then to
L-Block. This punishment was much harsher than the typical
outcome for a disciplinary ticket. Although Plaintiff
contested the matter as retaliatory and offered witnesses who
testified that Smith had not been truthful, Sgt. Shoeberg
(a/k/a Shuberg) refused to investigate the matter.
Plaintiff alleges that the disciplinary record will
negatively affect his classification in the future. Further,
Shuberg/Shoeberg punished Plaintiff excessively by
restricting his commissary beyond the date that the
restriction should have been lifted. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
February 1, 2018, hazardous fumes started pouring into
Plaintiff's cellblock (L- Block) through the ventilation
system. (Doc. 1, p. 8). C/O Taylor (not a Defendant)
discovered that the fumes were coming from a box truck
outside the building that had a bad exhaust leak. Taylor
opened a door and placed a fan to remove the fumes from the
block. Plaintiff wrote a complaint asking the supervisor
(Botnak, or possibly Boujack) to address the problem so it
would not recur. However, nothing was done, and on February
8, 2018, the same thing happened. (Doc. 1, p. 9; Doc. 1-1, p.
2). This time, C/O Germain refused to open the door to bring
in fresh air. Plaintiff yelled for a supervisor, but Germain
and C/O Zante again refused to help. Another officer (Miller)
finally opened the door. Again, on February 15, 2018, exhaust
fumes began pouring in through the ventilation system.
Plaintiff suffered headaches, dizziness, difficulty
breathing, burning eyes, and stomach pains from the fumes.
Supervisor John Doe #3 failed to remedy the situation despite
Plaintiff's complaints. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 2-4). Plaintiff
concludes that the “blatant disregard” of his
complaints “seem[s] retaliatory in nature.” (Doc.
1, p. 9).
February 3, 2018, a mentally ill inmate was incorrectly
placed on L-Block instead of on the wing where inmates with
mental illnesses are normally housed. (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10).
Plaintiff alerted C/O Kempt to the problem, but Kempt failed
to respond or summon a supervisor. This inmate threatened
other prisoners, talked of stabbing others or himself, and
eventually a fight broke out where Plaintiff's hand was
injured. Plaintiff submitted a captain complaint on February
9, 2018, when Sgt. Nichols was the supervisor on duty, but
Nichols did nothing. Much later, on February 27, 2018, the
mentally ill inmate was moved to the correct location.
Plaintiff concludes that the officers who disregarded his
concerns did so out of retaliation. (Doc. 1, p. 10).
seeks compensatory, punitive, and special damages for the
violations of his rights. (Doc. 1, p. 11).
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: First Amendment retaliation claim
against Supervisor John Doe #1, for transferring Plaintiff to
J-Block in March 2016 in retaliation for Plaintiff's
complaints about Jail conditions;
Count 2: First Amendment retaliation claim
against Robinson-Davis, for charging Plaintiff for food trays
that were never delivered, after Plaintiff made complaints
about the food service and/or filed a lawsuit against
Count 3: Fourteenth Amendment due process
and conditions claims against Supervisor John Doe #2, for
maintaining Plaintiff's placement in a locked-down
cellblock (H-Block) where he was denied access to the law
library, and denied hygiene items, cleaning supplies, and
envelopes, when Plaintiff had committed no infraction;
Count 4: First Amendment retaliation claim
against Nichols for opening and reading Plaintiff's legal
mail, after Plaintiff attempted to file case(s) in court
while Plaintiff was housed on AB-Block;
Count 5: First Amendment retaliation claim
against Cook, for denying Plaintiff access to the law
library, after Plaintiff attempted to file case(s) in court
while Plaintiff was housed on AB-Block;
Count 6: First Amendment retaliation claim
against Masse, for delaying Plaintiff's outgoing and
incoming legal mail in November 2017, in an attempt to