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Laur v. Jefferson County Justice Center

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 12, 2019

JOSEPH JAMES LAUR, #M26722, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY JUSTICE CENTER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Joseph Laur, a detainee at Jefferson County Justice Center (“Jail”) located in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff complains of unsanitary living conditions at the Jail. (Doc. 1). For forty-five days in 2017, Plaintiff was housed in segregation beside a seriously mentally ill inmate who defecated and urinated on the floor of his cell. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-4). Plaintiff repeatedly requested clean-up of the mess or cleaning supplies to use for this purpose, but the staff disregarded his complaints. (Id.). He seeks money damages for the resulting deprivation of his constitutional rights. (Id. at p. 1).

         The Complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to screen prisoner Complaints and filter out non-meritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or requests money damages from an immune defendant must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). At this juncture, the factual allegations are liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Based on the allegations summarized above, the Court finds it convenient to designate a single Count in the pro se action:

Count 1: Defendants subjected Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Jefferson County Justice Center for forty-five days in 2017 by forcing him to live near an inmate who urinated and defecated on the floor and by disregarding Plaintiff's requests to clean the area or provide him with supplies for this purpose.

         Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed herein is considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under Twombly.[1]

         Discussion

         The Complaint does not survive preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Plaintiff names the Jefferson County Justice Center (“Jail”) as the only defendant. However, he does not mention the defendant in the statement of his claim, and the Jail is not a “person” subject to suit under Section 1983. Smith v. Knox Cnty. Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th Cir. 2012); Powell v. Cook Cnty. Jail, 814 F.Supp. 757, 758 (N.D. Ill. 1993). It is not even a legal entity.

         A defendant must have the legal capacity to be sued. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(b). When determining whether an entity has this capacity, federal courts look to state law. Magnuson v. Cassarella, 812 F.Supp. 824, 827 (N.D. Ill. 1992). Under Illinois law, a county jail is not considered a suable entity. Isaacs v. St. Clair Cnty. Jail, No. 08-0417-DRH, 2009 WL 211158, at *3-4 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 2009); Hedger v. Wexford, No. 18-cv-2081-JPG, 2019 WL 117986, at *2 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 7, 2019). Jefferson County Justice Center shall thus be dismissed with prejudice.

         Even if Plaintiff intended to name Jefferson County instead, the Complaint would still fail to state a claim for relief. Governmental entities can only be held liable for the unconstitutional acts of employees that are carried out pursuant to an official policy or custom. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). The Complaint mentions no policy or custom that resulted in the constitutional deprivation at issue. See id.; Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Any claims against Jefferson County should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

         Although Plaintiff refers to certain individuals in the statement of his claim or exhibits, he chose not to name them as defendants in the case caption of the Complaint. When parties are not listed in the case caption, this Court will not treat them as defendants. Any claims against them should be considered dismissed without prejudice. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) (noting that the title of the complaint “must name all the parties”); Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005) (defendant must be “specif[ied] in the caption”).

         Section 1983 creates a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, “to be liable under [Section] 1983, an individual defendant must have caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation.” Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809, 810 (7th Cir. 2005). In other words, to survive screening, Plaintiff must identify particular defendants who acted or failed to act in a way that caused a deprivation of his constitutional rights. Having failed to do so, the Complaint shall be dismissed.

         Plaintiff will have an opportunity to re-plead his claim, if he wishes to proceed with this action. When preparing his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff should identify each defendant in the case caption and set forth sufficient allegations to describe what each defendant did, or failed to do, to violate his constitutional rights. To avoid dismissal of this action with prejudice, he must also follow the instructions and deadline in the below disposition. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41.

         D ...


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