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Robinson v. Morris

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 23, 2019



          Hon. Reona J. Daly, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Tony Terrell Robinson, an inmate in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), brings this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346. Plaintiff alleges he was terminated from his job as an orderly in the law library at the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Illinois (“FCI Greenville”) for retaliatory reasons. Plaintiff, through assigned counsel, sought leave to file an amended complaint (Doc. 33). The Court granted leave and Plaintiff is now proceeding on his First Amended Complaint on the following claims (Doc. 36):

Count One: First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Morris, the Supervisor of the Education Department at the BOP, for terminating Plaintiff from his job in response to Plaintiff's complaints about a change in the law library hours.
Count Two: Claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the United States for retaliatory discharge.
Count Three: First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Smith, a Lieutenant in the Special Investigation Section at FCI Greenville, for threatening Plaintiff with a transfer for engaging in protected speech.
Count Four: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Morris and Werlich, the Warden of FCI Greenville, for amending policies that forced Plaintiff to choose between eating his evening meal and accessing the library.

         This matter has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge Reona J. Daly by United States District Judge J. Phil Gilbert pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and SDIL-LR 72.1(a) for a Report and Recommendation on the following motions:

• Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant United States of America (Doc. 47)
• Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies filed by Defendant Smith (Doc. 49)
• Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Morris, Smith, and Werlich (Doc. 50)

         Plaintiff has responded to each motion (Docs. 61, 62, and 63). Defendants have replied (Docs. 64 and 65). Based on the following, it is recommended that Defendant Morris, Smith, and Werlich's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 50) be GRANTED; Defendant Smith's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 49) be GRANTED; and Defendant United States of America's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 47) be GRANTED.

         Findings of Fact

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at FCI Greenville. According to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was assigned a job in the prison law library on or about March 1, 2017. In April 2017, Defendant Morris posted an Inmate Bulletin notifying prisoners of a change in the law library's policies. Pursuant to the new policy, inmates would be allowed to use the law library after 4:00 p.m.; however, inmates choosing to do so would have to forego their evening meal. On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff wrote an email to Defendant Warden Werlich asserting that inmates should not have to choose between law library access and food. Warden Werlich responded, indicating that Plaintiff would “hear from Captain Patterson and Mr. Morris in the very near future” (see Doc. 36-3 at 2). As a result of his email, Plaintiff was directed to report to Captain Patterson's office to discuss his concerns. Captain Patterson (who is not a defendant) advised Plaintiff he would inform Defendant Morris that they spoke. Plaintiff reported back to the law library where his supervisor, non-defendant Hustedde, asked why he had been called away. Plaintiff explained his position regarding the new law library policy to Hustedde and indicated his belief there was sufficient staff at the institution to allow inmates to access both the library and chow at the same time. Plaintiff claims that on information and belief Hustedde notified Defendant Morris of Plaintiff's comments about the new library policy and staff schedules.

         Subsequently, Defendant Morris terminated Plaintiff from his job at the law library, stating Plaintiff was a security threat because he paid too much attention to the staff's “comings and goings.” Plaintiff commenced the administrative review process in response to his termination on May 5, 2017, and sent several requests to Defendant Morris concerning the nature of his termination. On August 4, 2017, Plaintiff was called to Defendant Smith's office and met by Defendants Morris and Smith. Defendant Smith asked Plaintiff why he was asking about staff schedules, and Plaintiff denied ever inquiring about the same. Smith told Plaintiff that if he continued to “probe and ask questions about the safety and security of this institution and keep grieving about every little thing” he would “ship” Plaintiff to a place he would “not want to go.”

         Legal Standards

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal if a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and draws all possible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007) (quotations omitted). A plaintiff need not set out all relevant facts or recite the law in his or her complaint; however, the plaintiff must provide a short and plain statement that shows that he or she is entitled to relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Thus, a complaint will not be dismissed if it “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party can demonstrate “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322(1986); see also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party “must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Estate of Simpson v. Gorbett, 863 F.3d 740, 745 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). In assessing a ...

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