United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JEFFREY BLANEY, No. B80790, Plaintiff,
SALVADOR GODINEZ, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. HERNDON, DISTRICT JUDGE
Jeffrey Blaney, presently incarcerated at Menard Correctional
Center (“Menard”), brings this pro se
action for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that,
since 1997, Menard officials have denied him access to the
courts. Plaintiff also attempts to bring Eighth Amendment
claims pertaining to the soy-based diet served at Menard (and
the medical treatment he received for complications allegedly
related to that diet) and Menard's provision of clothing
and hygiene items. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff
has named 103 defendants.
was originally one of several plaintiffs in a multi-plaintiff
action filed by David Robert Bentz. See Bentz v.
Godinez, No. 17-cv-315-MJR. After several case
management orders, Plaintiff's claims were severed into a
new action. (Doc. 1). The severance order directed Plaintiff
to file a Second Amended Complaint on or before November 13,
2017. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested and
received two extensions to file his Second Amended Complaint.
(Docs. 8 and 10).
Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) is now before the Court
for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Review - Applicable Standards
§ 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).
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). In addition, the factual allegations in
the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of
relief above the “speculative level.”
E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d
773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). See also 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
order to state a claim, a complaint must also comply with
Rule 8 by providing “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The primary purpose of these pleading
requirements is to give defendants fair notice of the claims
against them and the grounds supporting the claims.
Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614,
618 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
929 (2007)). See also United States ex rel. Garst v.
Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003)
(“Rule 8(a) requires parties to make their pleadings
straightforward, so that judges and adverse parties need not
try to fish a gold coin from a bucket of mud.”). Under
Rule 8, Plaintiffs are also required to associate specific
defendants with specific claims, so that defendants are put
on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can
properly answer the complaint. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
Merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not
sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See
Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998).
Moreover, vague references to a group of “defendants,
” without specific allegations tying the individual
defendants to the alleged unconstitutional conduct, do not
raise a genuine issue of material fact with respect to those
defendants. See Alejo v. Heller, 328 F.3d 930, 936
(7th Cir. 2003) (finding dismissal of named defendant proper
where plaintiff failed to allege defendant's personal
involvement in the alleged wrongdoings); Starzenski v.
City of Elkhart, 87 F.3d 872, 879 (7th Cir. 1996).
part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever
unrelated claims against different defendants into separate
lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607
(7th Cir. 2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit
emphasized that the practice of severance is important,
“not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced
by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits “but also to
ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees”
under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. This
practice is encouraged. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
has recently warned district courts not to allow inmates
“to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants,
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the
Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by
combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.”
Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017).
See also Wheeler v. Talbot, __ Fed.Appx. __, 2017 WL
2417889 (7th Cir. 2017) (district court should have severed
unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed one of
Second Amended Complaint includes a number of allegations
that are not associated with any specific defendant. These
allegations can be roughly divided into three sets of claims:
(1) access to the courts; (2) provision of clothing, towels,
and hygiene items; and (3) soy-based diet.
to the Courts (Count 1)
claims that, since 1997, Defendants have denied him access to
the courts in a number of ways. Plaintiff generally alleges
that Menard denies prisoners (including Plaintiff) access to
the courts by (1) failing to provide an adequate law library;
(2) confiscating and withholding legal materials; and (3)
failing to provide indigent prisoners with the necessary
drafting and mailing materials (Doc. 11, pp. 11). Plaintiff
also contends that various practices at Menard have
interfered with his ability to access the courts, including
but not limited to the following practices and/or policies:
(1) limiting the amount of time prisoners may spend in the
law library; (2) use of “inmate runners” to
retrieve legal research; (3) overuse or improper use of
“lockdowns” for excessive periods of time; (4)
requiring prisoners to store excess legal materials in a
separate building (and failing to provide adequate access to
that building); (5) allowing ...