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Walker v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 12, 2019

JAMES E. WALKER, R02343, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff James Walker, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”).[1] (Doc. 2). He seeks money damages and injunctive relief at the close of the case.[2] (Id. at p. 5).

         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

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in the Complaint (Doc. 2, pp. 1-4): During his incarceration at Menard, [3] Plaintiff endured deplorable conditions in a facility he describes as “uninhabitable.” (Id.). In 2012, he filed grievances regarding the small cell size, excessive heat exposure, [4] lead-tainted water, peeling paint, lack of cleaning supplies, and denial of exercise opportunities in Menard's North One Cell House. (Id. at p. 2). In 2013, he filed complaints about constant lockdowns, dirty cells, broken plumbing, pest infestations, foul odors, uncontrolled noise, a lack of cleaning supplies, and the denial of hygiene items in Menard's East Cell House. (Id. at pp. 2-3). In 2014 and 2015, he filed grievances about the small cells, dirty linens, broken plumbing, vermin infestation, poor ventilation, exposure to extreme cold, and lack of cleaning supplies in Menard's North II Segregation. (Id. at p. 3). Plaintiff suffered from unspecified physical and emotional harm as a result of these conditions. (Id. at p. 4). He asserts a claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement against two former wardens (Richard Harrington and Kim Butler) and two former IDOC directors (Salvador Godinez and John R. Baldwin). Plaintiff alleges these defendants were aware of the conditions but “condoned, authorized, and tolerated” them in accordance with general policy and practice. (Id.).

         The Court finds it convenient to designate a single Count in the pro se Complaint:

         Count 1:

         Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants for subjecting Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Menard from 2012-15.

         Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed herein is considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under Twombly.[5]


         In evaluating a claim of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, the Court conducts both an objective and a subjective inquiry under the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The objective inquiry requires the Court to consider whether the alleged deprivation is “sufficiently serious.” Id. This standard is satisfied where a condition results in “the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 463 (7th Cir. 2009). Inadequate shelter, bedding, cleaning supplies, and hygiene items are among the deprivations described in the Complaint and also among life's necessities. The objective component of this claim is therefore satisfied at screening.

         The subjective inquiry focuses on whether the defendants acted with deliberate indifference. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This standard is satisfied where an official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Id. Here, all of the defendants were high-level Menard and IDOC officials during the relevant time period. Although high-ranking officials normally cannot be held liable for localized violations, they “are expected to have personal responsibility for systemic conditions.” Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1428-29 (7th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff can show deliberate indifference on the part of these officials by demonstrating that he fell victim to a “general, obvious risk to inmate safety posed by the problem” and where the pervasive nature of the condition would “lead to the inference that Defendant had actual knowledge of [its] substantial risk.” Potts v. Manos, 2013 WL 5968930, at *4 (N.D. Ill. 2013) (quoting Byron v. Dart, 825 F.Supp.2d 958, 963-64 (N.D. Ill. 2011)). Plaintiff's allegations suggest that Defendants may have been aware of and deliberately indifferent to deplorable conditions at Menard. Therefore, Count 1 will receive further review against all Defendants.

         Motion for Recruitment of Counsel

         Plaintiff's Motion for Recruitment of Counsel (Doc. 6) is denied without prejudice pursuant to Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir. 2007) (articulating two-part test for recruitment of counsel). Plaintiff refers to a Motion for Recruitment of Counsel he filed four years ago in Walker v. Unknown Party, No. 15-cv786-MAB (S.D. Ill. 2015) (Doc. 3). He also attaches test scores, transcripts, and affidavits that address his cognitive function. He provides no updated information about his efforts to locate counsel in this particular case or current barriers to self-representation. Given that he successfully ...

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