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Augusta v. Mahaffey

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 18, 2018

QUENNEL AUGUSTA, K81797 Plaintiff,
v.
C/O MAHAFFEY, and C/O BERG, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Quennel Augusta is currently incarcerated at Jacksonville Correctional Center (“Jacksonville”). The original civil rights Complaint was filed by Augusta and a co-plaintiff, Shawn J. Flores, in Augusta, et al. v. Employees of Vandalia Correctional Center, et al., No. 17-cv-798-SMY. At Augusta's request, the claims of co-plaintiff Flores were severed into a new action and Augusta was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint. However, the Amended Complaint did not survive preliminary review, and on April 10, 2018, Augusta filed a Second Amended Complaint.

         After reviewing the Second Amended Complaint, the Court severed a number of Augusta's claims from the original case into separate actions. (Doc. 1). The instant case concerns Count 6, which arose at Vandalia Correctional Center (“Vandalia”) and is described as follows:

         Count 6 - Eighth Amendment claim against Mahaffey and Berg for denying Augusta meals on unspecified occasions.

         Plaintiff's claim is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.[1]

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner Complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief, must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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 “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). 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).

         Preliminary Matter

         On June 15, 2018, Augusta filed a Response to Proceed with This Case (Doc. 8) and a Motion to Produce (Doc. 9). In addition to indicating that he wants to proceed with the instant action, he asks the Court to (1) order Defendants to produce certain grievances; (2) consider additional facts not included in the Second Amended Complaint; and (3) provide Plaintiff with the case number assigned to this action.

         For the reasons discussed below, Count 6 does not survive preliminary review. As such, the request for discovery is premature and shall be denied without prejudice. Plaintiff also asks to supplement the record with additional facts but as the Court has previously explained, piecemeal amendments are not permitted. Therefore, in reviewing Count 6, the Court will not consider any supplemental material. Plaintiff, however, will be granted leave to file an amended complaint. As to his the final request, Plaintiff will receive the case number for the instant action when the Clerk of the Court supplies him with a copy of this Order.

         Discussion

         The portion of the Second Amended Complaint which relates to Count 6 provides, in its entirety, as follows: “Officer Mahaffey and C.O. Berg and many other employees of [Vandalia] had denied me and other inmates from a state meals which this means we are to starve.” (Doc. 2, p. 7). The Seventh Circuit has held that the denial of food is not a per se violation of the Constitution. Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999). However, other Circuit Courts have found that the excessive denial of food can qualify as an Eighth Amendment violation. Cooper v. Sheriff of Lubbock County, 929 F.2d 1078, 1083 (5th Cir. 1991) (failure to feed a prisoner ...


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