United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert United States District Judge
case was severed on April 18, 2018 from Teen v. John Doe
#1, No. 18-cv-568-JPG-RJD (S.D. Ill.). (Doc. 1). It
contains the claim designated as Count 2 in the original
case, described as follows:
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
Antrell Teen, a pretrial detainee confined at the St. Clair
County Jail (“the Jail”), filed the original
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on
March 13, 2018. In the original action, among other things,
Plaintiff alleged that various officials were retaliating
against him for having brought complaints and lawsuits
against Jail staff. This severed action pertains to alleged
acts of retaliation by Mary Robinson-Davis, the Jail's
kitchen supervisor. Plaintiff's claims are now before the
Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
§ 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).
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). Courts “should not accept as
adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of
action or conclusory legal statements.” Id.
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).
Complaint (Doc. 2)
factual allegations relating to Count 2 are as follows.
in January 2016, Plaintiff submitted a number of captain
complaints, raising concerns about several problems in the
Jail. One of Plaintiff's complaints pertained to maggots
in the food at the Jail. In addition, Plaintiff has sued
various Jail officials during his imprisonment, including
Robinson-Davis. (Doc. 1, p. 4). As a result of these
complaints and lawsuits, Plaintiff asserts that
Robinson-Davis has retaliated against him by repeatedly
denying Plaintiff access to hot food trays. (Doc. 1, p. 5).
Specifically, Plaintiff claims that 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. Id.
officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing
grievances, lawsuits, or otherwise complaining about their
conditions of confinement. See, e.g., Gomez v.
Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir. 2012);
Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005 (7th Cir. 2002);
DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607 (7th Cir. 2000);
Babcock v. White, 102 F.3d 267 (7th Cir. 1996);
Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139 (7th Cir. 1988). A
“prisoner can state a claim for retaliatory treatment
by alleging a chronology of events from which retaliation can
be inferred.” Jellis v. Hulick, 422 Fed.Appx.
548, 550 (7th Cir. 2011). However, the Seventh Circuit has
rejected the notion that prisoners are required to
allege a chronology of events at the pleading stage. See
McElroy v. Lopac, 403 F.3d 855, 858 (7th Cir. 2005)
(“we note that the district court required far too much
of [the prisoner] in the first place. Our recent cases have
rejected any requirement that an inmate allege a chronology
of events in order to state a claim of retaliation because
such a requirement is contrary to the federal rule of notice
pleading.”); Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d
1005, 1009 (7th Cir. 2002) (prisoner need not allege a
chronology of events in order to state a claim for
retaliation). “Instead, a plaintiff must allege only
enough to put the defendants on notice and enable them to
respond.” McElroy, at 858. In this regard,
allegations describing the defendant's retaliatory
conduct and the constitutionally protected activity that
motivated the retaliatory conduct are sufficient.
claims that, after filing complaints (including complaints
about food at the Jail) and after naming Robinson-Davis as a
defendant in one or more civil rights lawsuits, he was
repeatedly denied access to hot food trays and charged for
food he never received. Plaintiff also asserts that
Robinson-Davis was responsible for the alleged retaliatory
actions. Even if these allegations would not be actionable in
and of themselves, if the acts were taken in retaliation for
the exercise of a constitutionally protected right, then they
are actionable under § 1983. See Bridges v.
Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 552 (7th Cir. 2009) (discussing
Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639, 644 (7th Cir.
1987) (“[A]n act in retaliation for the exercise of a
constitutionally protected right is actionable under Section
1983 even if the act, when taken for different reasons, would
have been proper.”).
issue here is whether Plaintiff experienced an adverse action
that would likely deter First Amendment activity in the
future, and if the First Amendment activity was “at
least a motivating factor” in Defendant's decision
to take the retaliatory action. Bridges v. Gilbert,
557 F.3d 541, 551 (7th Cir.2009). This is a question that
cannot be resolved at the pleadings ...