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Bilal v. Lawrence Correctional Center

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 21, 2019

TARIQ K. BILAL, and CARLOS H. GARCIA, #M41479, Plaintiffs,
v.
LAWRENCE CORRECTIONAL CENTER, and SAMER HERNANDEZ, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Carlos Garcia, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections who is currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center, and Plaintiff Tariq Bilal bring this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging the rape of Plaintiff Garcia by his cellmate while at Lawrence Correctional Center. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs seek money damages.

         On July 17, 2019, the Court issued an order advising Plaintiffs of the consequences of bringing claims jointly in a single lawsuit, including their filing fee obligations, and giving Plaintiff Bilal an opportunity to withdraw from the case or sever his claims into an individual action. (Doc. 6). Plaintiff Bilal notified the Court prior to the deadline of August 16, 2019, that he wishes to continue in this lawsuit. (Doc. 7, p. 5). He also has filed two Motions to Proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) jointly with Plaintiff Garcia. (Docs. 3 and 9). At the time he filed this Complaint, Plaintiff Bilal was living in a personal residence and states that he is the cousin of Plaintiff Garcia (Doc. 7, p. 4). As such, Plaintiff Bilal does not meet the statutory definition of a “prisoner” for the purposes of the IFP statute. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court may, however, allow a civil case to proceed without prepayment of fees, if the litigant demonstrates that he is indigent under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) by submitting “an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets [he] possesses [showing] that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor[, ]” and the Complaint survives review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Furthermore, because Plaintiff Garcia is a prisoner, the Court is required to review the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under both statutes, any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or requests money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se Complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

          Plaintiffs make the following allegations: On August 19, 2017, Plaintiff Garcia's cellmate, Hernandez, a gang member of the Ambro's Latin Folks Nation, received a written note from a member of another gang, the Spanish Cobra Folks Nation. (Doc. 1, p.7). Hernandez flushed the note down the toilet and started acting weird towards Garcia. A while later, while Garcia was reading his book, Hernandez attacked and raped him. During the attack Hernandez accused Garcia of snitching on the Ambro's Latin Folks Nation and threatened to kill him. Following the rape, Garcia pressed the panic button several times, but no one came. Garcia had to wait until 11:00 p.m. to be able to talk to a corrections officer. Garcia told the officer that he needed a crisis team and that he was going to kill himself so that he could get out of the cell and report the incident. Garcia was taken to a hospital in Indiana where a rape kit was performed. Id. at p. 8. He then was placed on suicide watch because he wanted to kill himself.

         Discussion

         Because Plaintiffs have failed to associate their claims with a proper defendant pursuant to Section 1983, the Complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citations omitted). While only individuals can be sued under Section 1983 for money damages, neither the Constitution nor other federal law provides for a tort cause of action between private citizens; these causes of action are creatures of state law.

         First, Plaintiff Garcia's former cellmate Hernandez, as a private citizen, is an improper defendant. Plaintiffs have not indicated that Hernandez was acting under color of law when he attacked and raped Plaintiff Garcia. As such, Plaintiffs' only avenue for relief based on the claims against Hernandez is in state court. See Pasiewicz v. Lake County Forest Preserve Dist., 270 F.3d 520, 526 (7th Cir.2001) (“The federal government is not the enforcer of state law”).

         Second, Plaintiffs also cannot pursue a request for money damages against Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”). Lawrence is not a “person” within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act, and is therefore not subject to a Section 1983 lawsuit. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).

         Finally, the Court notes that it appears that Plaintiff Bilal does not have standing pursuant to Article III of the Constitution to bring the claims alleged in the Complaint. “When considering whether a party satisfies the constitutional requirement of standing, the court must determine that ‘the plaintiff himself has suffered some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively illegal action.'” Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 739 (7th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). As currently drafted, the Complaint only includes allegations affecting Plaintiff Garcia and does not explain how Plaintiff Bilal's rights were violated. Although Plaintiff Bilal states that he is invested in the case and is helping Plaintiff Garcia through the judicial process (Doc. 7, p. 4), he is only entitled to assert his own rights. Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 739-40 (7th Cir. 1999). If, in fact, Plaintiff Bilal is only attempting to bring claims on behalf of Plaintiff Garcia, he has no standing to do so.

         Leave to Amend

          Plaintiffs will be given an opportunity to re-plead their claims in an amended complaint if they wish to proceed with this case. A successful complaint generally alleges “the who, what, when, where, and how…” DiLeo v. Ernst & Young,901 F.2d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 1990). When preparing the amended complaint, Plaintiffs should identify each defendant in the case caption and set forth sufficient allegations against each ...


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