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Robinson v. Morris

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 10, 2018




         Plaintiff Tony Terrell Robinson, an inmate in Federal Correctional Institution Greenville, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) and the Federal Torts Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346. Plaintiff seeks declarative relief, damages, and equitable relief. This case is now before the Court for a 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).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff originally brought suit in case No. 17-cv-1381-JPG, but certain claims were deemed misjoined and severed into the present action on February 2, 2018. (Doc. 1). As relevant to the claims present in this suit, Plaintiff has alleged that he had a job in the prison law library starting on or around March 1, 2017. (Doc. 2, p. 7). Plaintiff worked without incident during the month of March 2017, and received positive work performance ratings for that month. (Doc. 2, p. 9).

         On April 14, 2017, Defendant Morris posted a notice of a change of policy. Id. The new policy allowed inmates to use the law library after 4 pm, with the understanding that choosing to do so would require them to remain in the library during the evening meal. Id. Plaintiff complained to non-defendant Patterson that the new policy was unfair because it forced inmates to choose between law library access and eating. Plaintiff put his concerns in writing on April 25, 2017, and requested that inmates who went to the library at 4 pm be allowed to leave to go to chow. Id.

         On May 4, 2017, having not received a response to his concerns, Plaintiff wrote an e-mail to Warden Werlich, which re-iterated Plaintiff's argument that inmates should not have to choose between library access and food. (Doc. 2, p. 10). As a result of his email, Plaintiff was called to the Lieutenant and/or Captain's office to discuss his concerns. Id. When Plaintiff returned to the library, his supervisor asked him why he was called away, and Plaintiff explained his position on the new policy. (Doc. 2, p. 11). Plaintiff was later called to Morris' office in response to his email to the Warden. Id. They discussed the law library schedule, and then Morris asked Plaintiff if he knew why the library was closed Tuesday. (Doc. 2, p. 12). Plaintiff replied that it was closed for storylink, annual training, and security. Id. Morris said he would have to let Plaintiff go because he was paying too much attention to staff comings and goings, which was a security issue. Id. Morris told Plaintiff he would be reassigned. Id.

         Plaintiff started the administrative remedies process about his termination. (Doc. 2, pp. 13-16). During this process, he repeatedly sent requests to Morris asking questions regarding his termination. (Doc. 2, pp. 13-17). On July 27, 2017, Plaintiff sent an email to Morris referring to his previous inquiries, and asking Morris 1) whether he would still have a job if he hadn't emailed the warden; 2) whether there would have been a security issue if he hadn't written the email; 3) what security concern the email specifically raised; 4) why, if there was a security concern, Morris did not discipline Plaintiff. (Doc. 2, pp. 17-18). Plaintiff demanded a detailed response, and when he heard nothing for a week, sent a follow-up email asking why there was a delay. (Doc. 2, p. 18).

         On August 4, 2017, the same day Plaintiff sent his follow-up email, Plaintiff was called into the lieutenant's office, where Morris, Varney, Smith, and Van Grundy were present. (Doc. 2, p. 18). Smith asked Plaintiff why he was questioning staff schedules. Id. Plaintiff stated he was not questioning staff schedules, he just thought that staff could do more to have the library open. Id. Plaintiff stated that he had never inquired into staff schedules. Id. Smith dismissed Plaintiff. Id. Immediately after the meeting, Plaintiff received a ...

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