United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville
Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), brings
this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that some of the defendants
improperly confiscated and read his legal mail, and others
violated his due process rights in two disciplinary
Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court also must
consider whether all of Plaintiff's claims may
appropriately proceed together in the same lawsuit. This
initial review reveals that not all of Plaintiff's claims
are properly joined in this action. The improperly joined
claims shall be severed into a separate case, where they
shall undergo the required Section 1915A evaluation.
Section 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, the Court finds that the claim that shall
remain in this action is subject to dismissal under Section
1915A, but Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to submit
an amended complaint in order to correct the deficiencies in
filed the original Complaint in this action on April 24, 2018
(Doc. 1), along with a Motion for Preliminary Injunction
(Doc. 2). On April 30, 2018, Plaintiff filed another
Complaint (Doc. 5), which was docketed as an Amended
Complaint. An amended complaint supersedes and replaces all
prior complaints, rendering them void. See Flannery v.
Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n.1
(7th Cir. 2004). Thus, the original Complaint (Doc. 1) is a
nullity, and Doc. 5 is now the operative Complaint. For
clarity, Doc. 5 shall be referred to as the First Amended
Complaint; its allegations are summarized below.
is “a disabled wheelchair assisted resident, ”
who is currently confined in segregation at Pinckneyville.
(Doc. 5, p. 3). Plaintiff requests the Court to delineate the
counts representing the “several constitutional
violations” he raises in this lawsuit. Id.
March 23, 2018, Plaintiff received two flash drives given to
him as discovery during a deposition for another pro
se civil action, Williams v. DuPage Metropolitan
Enforcement Grp., et al., No. 16-cv-384 (N.D. Ill.,
filed Jan. 11, 2016). (Doc. 5, pp. 4, 14). Immediately after the
deposition, an officer searched Plaintiff and noticed the
flash drives in his legal envelope. (Doc. 5, p. 7). On March
26, 2018, Plaintiff tried to give the flash drives to
corrections officer Mitchel (not a defendant) to give to
another officer (McBride) after he found out that he should
not have them in his possession. Id. That same day,
he gave the flash drives to a secretary (Diane Skorch, who
also is not a defendant), to find out how he could review the
discovery. (Doc. 5, pp. 4, 7). Shortly thereafter, Thompson
and Rodman took Plaintiff to segregation. (Doc. 5, p. 4).
ordered Rodman to “confiscate all Plaintiff's legal
mail to read it, search it and make copies, ” to copy
and review the flash drives, and specified that nothing
should be given to Plaintiff. (Doc. 5, p. 4). As a result,
all of Plaintiff's legal mail was confiscated and
reviewed without Plaintiff being present. On April 5, 2018,
most of the legal mail was returned to Plaintiff, but some
items, including the flash drives, were not given back. (Doc.
5, p. 5). Plaintiff indicates that he cannot submit
interrogatories in the Northern District of Illinois case
(No. 16-cv-384) because he needs paperwork that was not
March 28, 2018, Plaintiff received a disciplinary report
charging him with possession of pills found hidden in his
cell. (Doc. 5, pp. 5, 15). When the ticket was heard, hearing
panel members Heck and Myers refused to call Plaintiff's
witnesses. (Doc. 5, pp. 5, 10, 20). The final summary report
erroneously states that Plaintiff did not request a witness.
(Doc. 5, pp. 5, 18). He was punished with two months in
segregation, as well as restrictions on some privileges.
(Doc. 5, pp. 18-19). In an attached affidavit, Plaintiff
claims that Heck was improperly allowed to read
Plaintiff's medical file, in violation of HIPAA (the
Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act) to compare
the pills that were found. (Doc. 5, p. 12). He further states
that the adjustment committees are prejudiced and routinely
find Black inmates guilty of disciplinary charges without
calling their witnesses, while white inmates are treated
differently from Blacks for the same offense. (Doc. 5, p.
April 10, 2018, Plaintiff received another disciplinary
ticket (issued on April 4, 2018, by Rodman), for possession
of the flash drives. (Doc. 5, pp. 5, 16). Hicks signed the
document stating that he served Plaintiff with the ticket on
April 6, noting that Plaintiff refused to sign the ticket.
Id. Plaintiff asserts, however, that he was not
actually served with the ticket until April 10, 2018, and
that Wrangler, not Hicks, served it. (Doc. 5, pp. 5, 11).
According to Plaintiff, IDOC rules provide that a ticket
shall be served within three days of the offense, or the
ticket shall be expunged. (Doc. 5, p. 11).
ticket was heard by Heck and Diane Skorch on April 11, 2018,
the day after Plaintiff received it, and he was not able to
prepare a defense. Id. Plaintiff claims that Heck
knew that the ticket was not served within the three days
required by IDOC rules, and that it therefore should have
been expunged. (Doc. 5, p. 5). He also complains that it was
improper for Skorch to serve on the adjustment committee,
because she had been involved in the incident where
Plaintiff's possession of the flash drives was
discovered. (Doc. 5, p. 11). Plaintiff's requests for
grievance forms were denied, so he informed Jaimet of his
complaints in a letter, which raised the issues of the late
service of the ticket, false information on which officer
served it, and Skorch (who was a witness) serving on the
committee. (Doc. 5, pp. 5, 21).
hearing was held (apparently on the same ticket) on April 25
or 26, 2018, but Plaintiff again did not have time to prepare
a defense. (Doc. 5, pp. 6, 11). Plaintiff told Heck and Myers
that it would be a conflict of interest for them to hear the
ticket, and he gave them a copy of his lawsuit and “the
injunction that was filed.” (Doc. 5, pp. 5-6, 11). The
Complaint does not disclose what punishment Plaintiff
received for this disciplinary infraction, but indicates that
he was given additional segregation time. (Doc. 5,
p. 6). Plaintiff's Motion for Injunction (Doc. 2) states
that he was given a total of six months in segregation, with
four months resulting from the flash drive ticket. (Doc. 2,
p. 4). In the attached letter to Jaimet, Plaintiff states
that he would not get out of segregation until December 26,
2018. (Doc. 5, p. 21).
Plaintiff alleges that Warden Jaimet failed to investigate
and review or sign the disciplinary committee's
recommendations. (Doc. 5, p. 6).
seeks an order from this Court requiring the defendants to
release him from segregation and expunge his disciplinary
record. He also requests compensatory damages. (Doc. 5, p.
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
on the allegations of the First Amended 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: Claim against Thompson and Rodman,
for interfering with Plaintiff's access to the courts, by
confiscating and reading Plaintiff's legal mail outside
Plaintiff's presence, and withholding the confiscated
legal material from Plaintiff for at least ten days;
Count 2: Due process claim against Heck and
Myers, for finding Plaintiff guilty of the March 28, 2018,
disciplinary report (for possession of pills) without calling
Plaintiff's requested witnesses;
Count 3: Due process claim against Wrangler,
Heck, and Hicks, for failing to give Plaintiff sufficient
notice of the April 4, 2018, disciplinary report (for
possession of flash drives) to allow him to prepare his
defense, and against Heck for improperly allowing Skorch to
sit on the disciplinary committee;
Count 4: Due process claim against Jaimet,
for failing to investigate or review the disciplinary actions