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Lofquist v. Gimber

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 19, 2018

NEIL J. LOFQUIST, #M04121, Plaintiff,
v.
CINDY GIMBER, FRANK LAWRENCE, LARISSA WANDRO, ANN LAHR, and SHERRY BENTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Neil Lofquist, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections currently incarcerated in Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights. In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by interfering with his mail. (Doc. 1).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to allow this case to proceed past the threshold stage.

         The Complaint

         In his Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: Plaintiff began researching his family's genealogy in 2014 with “few, if any, restrictions . . . imposed by the Menard Correctional Center's inmate mailroom.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). On July 17, 2017, Plaintiff received a monetary settlement from Wexford Health Sources, Inc., allowing him to compensate “archivists, volunteers, and librarians for providing century old census records, obituaries, and unknown images of unknown relatives.” Id. On September 20, 2017, an archivist, David D'Ondfrio of the United States Naval Academy, requested correspondence regarding Battleship Captain E.A. Lofquist. Id. Plaintiff instead received a mail return slip from Menard's mailroom supervisor stating: “Per administrative decision - info on others not allowed.” Id. On October 20, 2017, Plaintiff received a mail return slip regarding correspondence from Uppsala Riksarkivet, another archivist, about certain relevant dates for “fourth, fifth, and sixth great grandparents in Glottsta” for the same reason. (Doc. 1, p. 6). The same thing happened on October 30, 2017, with correspondence from Heidi Butler, from Lansing Public Library, about Plaintiff's mother, grandmother, and a relative's local obituary. Id.

         On November 22, 2017, Plaintiff received another mail return slip for correspondence from someone at Perry County Genealogical Society regarding Theodore Lofquist of the 36th Aero Squadron. Id. The return slip indicates that maps were not permitted, and the items being returned were forbidden by institutional regulations. Id. On December 4, 2017, Plaintiff received correspondence from Adam J. Barrone of the Allen County Public Library Foundation notifying Plaintiff that he mailed Plaintiff information about Plaintiff's grandfather on November 2, but the envelope was refused and returned marked “items not permitted.” Id. Plaintiff did not receive a mail return slip or an explanation as to why the mail was not permitted. Id.

         On January 17, 2018, correspondence regarding Plaintiff's fourth great grandmother was returned. (Doc. 1, p. 7). The slip noted: “Per administrative decision: records on other people not allowed.” Id. That same day, correspondence regarding Plaintiff's family history file from someone at the Harrison County Genealogical society was returned. Id. The slip noted: “no road maps” and “info on others not allowed per administrative decision.” Id. On February 9, 2018, the same thing happened with correspondence from Stark County Library and St. Louis Public Library regarding various deceased family members of Plaintiff. Id. On April 9, 2018, of the three pages about Plaintiff's fourth great grandmother sent to Plaintiff by his aunt, Cynthia Cooper, only one page remained stapled to Cynthia's letter. Id. Plaintiff received no notice from the mailroom about the missing pages. Id.

         “The rubber-stamping of intentional misconduct began against Plaintiff with Administrative Review Board Member Ann Lahr, expanding prohibitive measures to cover the entire country of Sweden on Oct. 31, 2017.” (Doc. 1, p. 11). Benton denied Plaintiff's grievance, in which he questions why his mail was not permitted. Id. Though Plaintiff presented legal arguments to Wandro and Benton in grievances, Wandro “found her nirvana by ignoring Plaintiff's authenticity, then fabricated policy even more irrational, ” and Benton noted “duplicate filings aren't necessary.” Id. Plaintiff believes an inquiry into Mailroom Supervisor Gimber would be appropriate given the correspondence that was “lost before falling under the auspices of info-on-others” as “a convenient avoidance of paperwork, ” among other things. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Gimber “improvised” the “info-on-others” policy, and it was ratified by Assistant Warden Frank Lawrence. Id. Gimber and Lawrence had “arbitrary interests in conjuring [the] info-on-other policies” and “never cit[ed] actual security concerns for their illicit tactics. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         Wandro, a grievance officer, reviewed Plaintiff's grievances regarding the return of his mail and cited to departmental regulations and administrative decisions to deny the grievances. (Doc. 1, p. 13); (Doc. 1-2, p. 5). Subsequently, Benton, of the Administrative Review Board, determined that the mail issue was appropriately addressed by the administration at Menard after reviewing Plaintiff's grievances. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         Later, Plaintiff did not receive a mail return slip for a piece of mail that was returned. (Doc. 1, p. 14). “One hundred one correspondence requests from Plaintiff since October first have not been received from reputable organizations who have (mostly) corresponded with Plaintiff previously.” (Doc. 1, p. 15). “Except for the seven mail return slips received by Plaintiff, Gimber (under Lawrence's supervision) withheld delivery of countless letters correctly addressed to Plaintiff, disregarding minimal procedural safeguards, subjecting Plaintiff to humiliatingly arbitrary administrative invasion, denying inmate and sender notification of the rejection, and depriving the constitutional rights of the author of said correspondence the reasonable opportunity to protest blatantly illicit habits.” (Doc. 1, p. 16).

         Citing to a decision made by Lawrence, Gimber designated the class of individuals affected by the “info-on-others” policy to essentially include relatives of Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 17). The information on others policy “was created for [Plaintiff].” Id. Gimber has also imposed “a blanket rejection of road maps to Plaintiff, versus the remaining population of Menard.” (Doc. 1, p. 18). Plaintiff also notes that “it is common for inmates who have sizeable balances to be the focus of envy by Menard staff.” (Doc. 1, p. 20). Plaintiff received a sizeable amount of money in his trust fund account just before the information on others policy was enforced against him. Id. Mailroom staff has access to inmate trust account balances. Id.

         Plaintiff requests declaratory, monetary, and injunctive relief. ...


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