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Moore v. Keefe Supply Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 8, 2018

ANTHONY T. MOORE, Jr., #446508, Plaintiff,


          J. Phil Gilbert District Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Anthony T. Moore, who is currently detained at St. Clair County Jail (“Jail”), filed this action to challenge the cost of items in the Jail's commissary. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-12). Plaintiff complains that inmates at the Jail are charged more for many items than federal inmates. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). These items include candy bars, chips, ramen noodles, cheddar popcorn, cookies, summer sausages, cocoa, cappuccinos, oatmeal crème pies, peanut butter wafers, tortilla wraps, tuna, and stamps. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-12). In support of this claim, Plaintiff invokes 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 15 U.S.C. § 13(a) (“Clayton Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 1 (“Sherman Antitrust Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 15 (“Robinson-Putnam Act”), and 18 U.S.C. § 1964 (“RICO”). (Doc. 1, pp. 1, 5). Plaintiff also asserts claims under Illinois state law for conspiracy, breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS §§ 505/1, et seq. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         This case is before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at St. Clair County Jail (“Jail”) in Belleville, Illinois. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He has also been incarcerated in several facilities operated by the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), including Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). During his incarceration, Plaintiff has noticed that inmates at different facilities are charged different prices for items at the commissary.

         Plaintiff challenges the manner in which vendors enter into contracts with local, state, and federal prisons for commissary items. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He admittedly “knows very little about the particular bidding process.” Id. Plaintiff nevertheless describes the process in great detail in the Complaint. Id.

         According to Plaintiff, state and federal facilities solicit bids for contracts from vendors on each facility's website. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Interested vendors propose to sell items to the facility at a predetermined price, and the facility selects the vendor that submits the most attractive bid. Id. The facility then obtains commissary items from the vendor at the predetermined price and marks up the prices of these items before selling them to inmates. Id.

         Vendors obtain contracts with local detention facilities (e.g., county jails or private detention centers) in a different manner. (Doc. 1, p. 6). They allegedly agree to pay a “site commission” or “kickback, ” usually by “fork[ing] over about 50 to 60% of the profits [the vendor] makes from sales of commissary products to inmates.” Id. Once the vendor obtains a contract, the vendor sells items directly to inmates, after the vendor “inflates the prices of goods at an extraordinary rate.” Id. To obtain contracts, these vendors bribe jail administrators with cash, gifts, bonuses, and stock.[1] Id. Plaintiff states that these contracts are “indefinite.” Id. He also asserts that the state and local facilities are exempt from any sales tax. Id.

         In this manner, Keefe Supply Company has sold hundreds of different products directly and indirectly to inmates. (Doc. 1, p. 6). These products include hygiene supplies, clothing, food, drinks, snacks, and miscellaneous items. Id. However, the cost of these products vary between local ...

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