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Spoden v. Dennison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 17, 2018

ANTHONY SPODEN, #Y15676, also known as NINA SPODEN, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Anthony Spoden[1] filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in order to address numerous violations of her constitutional rights at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). (Doc. 1). This Court screened the Complaint and determined that several of Plaintiff's claims were improperly joined in this action. (Doc. 8). Therefore, the Court entered an Order severing the claims into four additional cases. See Spoden v. Phelps, No. 18-cv-01401-SMY (S.D. Ill.); Spoden v. Lynn, No. 18-cv-01402-NJR (S.D. Ill.); Spoden v. Smith, No. 18-cv-01403-SMY (S.D. Ill.); Spoden v. Kasey, No. 18-cv-01404-MJR (S.D. Ill.).

         The only claims that remain in this action are Count 2 against Warden Dennison for mishandling Plaintiff's grievances and Count 3 against Warden Dennison for failing to adopt policies and practices aimed at ensuring the safety and care of transgender inmates at Shawnee. (Doc. 8, p. 18). These claims are now before the Court for preliminary review 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).


         In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Warden Dennison mishandled several grievances that she filed to complain about “all issues mentioned in this complaint.” (Doc. 1, p. 38). The Complaint addresses a broad range of issues. (Doc. 1). The Court identified nineteen separate claims against various groups of defendants. (Doc. 8, pp. 11-12). With two exceptions, Plaintiff offers no insight into the grievances that Warden Dennison allegedly mishandled or the complaints he ignored. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-39). The two exceptions are described below.

         First, the Court located a set of grievances and appeals that Plaintiff filed to complain about the mistreatment of transgender inmates at Shawnee. (Doc. 1, pp. 42-51). Several grievances are illegible. Id. However, Warden Dennison responded to one that is legible. (Doc. 1, p. 46). Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding “staff conduct” on October 31, 2017. Id. In the grievance, Plaintiff complained about Counselor Lynn's practice of allowing inmate peer educators to spread negative or false information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) inmate population during orientation. Id. Plaintiff complained that the peer educators announced the names of past inmates who tested positive for HIV and suggested that all LGBT inmates at the prison have HIV. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19). The grievance was denied because “[o]ffenders have been certified as peer educators[, and] [t]he material presented in Orientation is provided by Office of Health Services.” (Doc. 1, p. 46). Warden Dennison concurred with the decision on December 15, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 46, 51).

         Second, Plaintiff describes a meeting with Warden Dennison to discuss prison policies about makeup and her own mistreatment on October 6, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 8). On that date, she met with Warden Dennison and Mental Health Supervisor Katherine Hammersley to discuss a disciplinary ticket she received after challenging an officer's orders to wipe makeup from her face. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff pointed out that her punishment with a week of segregation and a month of lost privileges was “extreme” for this expression of her gender identity because the inmate manual did not forbid the practice. Id. Plaintiff asked the warden to restore her A-grade status and commissary privileges. Id. At the time, she had already served a week in segregation. Id. Warden Dennison granted her request. Id. Although she alludes to other instances of alleged mistreatment arising from her transgender status, [2] Plaintiff does not name Warden Dennison in connection with them.


         The Court previously characterized the two claims against Warden Dennison in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules ...

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