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Gakuba v. Rains

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 27, 2019

PETER GAKUBA, #M52946, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID RAINS, MOSS, MICHELLE NEESE, and JOHN / JANE DOES 1-50, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Peter Gakuba, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Robinson officials who interfered with his access to the courts. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-10). He brings claims against three wardens (Rains, Moss, and Neese) and fifty unknown prison officials (John/Jane Does 1-50) for conspiring to violate his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks money damages and equitable relief.[1] (Id.).

         The Complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to screen prisoner Complaints to 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).

         The Complaint

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff makes the following allegations (Doc. 1, pp. 7-9): Robinson officials prevented Plaintiff from challenging his wrongful conviction in a direct appeal and numerous post-conviction proceedings between October 2016 and June 2018. (Id. at p. 7). After he complained of mail interference by staff, [2] Wardens Rains and Moss met with Plaintiff to discuss the matter in October/November 2016.[3] They also informed Plaintiff that he would no longer be allowed to incur legal expenses as an indigent person. At the time, Plaintiff was unrepresented by counsel in his direct appeal and post-conviction proceedings.[4] He required additional allowances for online research, printer access, and photocopies because of his pro se status. Warden Rains nevertheless ordered all library staff to deny his requests for photocopies and legal supplies. (Id.). Warden Neese later made an exception for postage but nothing else. (Id. at p. 8). Plaintiff began mailing his legal documents to an attorney for photocopying at a cost of $750 per hour. Despite his efforts, Plaintiff lost his direct criminal appeal and his requests for post-conviction relief. When he identified Warden Rains as a respondent in a habeas action, Plaintiff was involuntarily transferred to another prison that has no library. He sued officials at that facility and was transferred back to Robinson, where the ban on legal expenses was lifted only after he lost his direct appeal and collateral attack. (Id.).

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following five counts, consistent with Plaintiff's characterization of the claims:

Count 1:
First and/or Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants for interfering with Plaintiff's access to the courts from October 2016 until June 2018, by denying his access to photocopies, legal supplies, postage, and a law library.
Count 2:
First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants for responding to Plaintiff's complaints about legal mail interference in September 2016, by barring additional legal expenses, denying his access to legal supplies, and transferring him to a prison with no law library.
Count 3:
Claim against Defendants for conspiring to retaliate against Plaintiff by denying meaningful access to the courts from October 2016 until June 2018.
Count 4:
Monell claim against “IL. State Depts.” and “Agencies” for “invoking” a practice of retaliation and other First Amendment violations ...

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