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Taplin. v. Watson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 18, 2019

ENOS F. TAPLIN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAMRON WATSON Warden WIC, C/O DRALLE, C/O ZALLER, C/O KOCH, LIEUTENANT GOODING, MICHAEL P. MELVIN Warden, TERRI KENNEDY Warden, COUNSELOR WYKES, LIEUTENANT HITCHENS Security Specialist, C/O VISON, COUNSELOR VASQUEZ, COUNSELOR RAWALD, MAJOR WESTFALL, JAQULEN LASHBROOK Warden, MARANDA TATE Counselor, LACIE LIVINGSTON Counselor, COUNSELOR INBADEN, COUNSELOR KELLER, DEE DEE BROOKHART Warden, COUNSELOR MCCASLIN, ASHLEY MILLER Nurse, C. SMITH Nurse, K. KALER Nurse, RANDY P. FISTER Warden, THOMAS J. PART CEO of CCDOC BRIAN W. CARROLL Appeallate Defender, MARCOS REYES CCDOC Public Defender, DAVID ROLECKI CCDOC Public Defender, AMY CAMPANELLI CCDOC Public Defender, DARRELL F. OMAN Appellate Defender, DR. PITMAN, CHRIS JOSE DELROSARIO Doctor, PRICE Vocational Custodial Maintenance Teacher, K. ROBERTS Lakeland College Assistant Dean, OAKS Teacher, SHERER College Academic Instructor, BRUCE RAUNER Governor, JOHN BALDWIN Director, J.B. PRITZKER Acting Governor, PATTY SNEED ARB, OFFICER HOWELL, OFFICER HUGHES, OFFICER DELANY, LIEUTENANT PRIDDY, J. DYE Lieutenant, J. LOCHE Nurse, NURSE NANO, DR. CALDWELL, NURSE RUE, HICKS Personal Property Supervisor, RICE Commissory Supervisor, NURSE WILLINSTON, FISHER Personal Property Officer, ROB JEFFERYS Acting Director, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Enos F. Taplin, Jr., an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), brings this civil rights action for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Id.). He also filed a motion for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. (Doc. 3). Because Plaintiff seeks a temporary restraining order (“TRO”), the Court will take up this matter without delay. Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680 (7th Cir. 2012).

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to screen prisoner Complaints to filter out nonmeritorious 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). Along with the Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Motion”). (Doc. 2). Before screening the Complaint, the Court must first address Plaintiff's eligibility for IFP status. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).

         IFP Motion

         Plaintiff seeks permission to proceed without prepaying the full $400 filing fee for this action. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Under Section 1915, a federal court may permit a prisoner who is indigent to bring a “suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, ” without prepayment of fees upon presentation of an affidavit stating the prisoner's assets together with “the nature of the action . . . and affiant's belief that the person is entitled to redress.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Plaintiff, however, is barred from proceeding IFP under Section 1915(g), which prohibits a prisoner from bringing a civil action or appealing a civil judgment IFP, “if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Plaintiff “struck out” under Section 1915(g) before filing this action and is therefore subject to the “three strikes” bar. Plaintiff received his third strike on October 24, 2016 in Taplin v. Cook County, et al., No. 16 C 8988, Doc. 7 (N.D. Ill.)(Tharp. J.).[1] Because Plaintiff has “struck out” under Section 1915(g), he cannot proceed IFP unless he is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). “[I]mminent danger” within the meaning of § 1915(g) requires a “real and proximate” threat of serious physical injury to a prisoner. Ciarpaglini v. Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 330 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Lewis v. Sullivan, 279 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2002)).

         Plaintiff states he is in imminent danger because he is incarcerated for a wrongful conviction. He also makes conclusory statements about inhumane living conditions, but he does not set forth facts showing he is in imminent danger of serious physical injury. His other allegations appear to pertain to past events. The allegations in the Complaint do not establish that Plaintiff is under imminent danger of serious physical injury and, therefore, the IFP motion (Doc. 2) will be denied.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's Complaint, which spans 55 pages and names 54 defendants for a variety of claims, violates Rules 8, 18, and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8 requires a Complaint to include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and “a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). It also requires each allegation to “be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). The purpose of the Rule is to “give defendants fair notice of the claims against them and the grounds for supporting the claims.” Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 797 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         Rules 18 and 20 require a plaintiff to focus on related claims against the same group of defendants. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20. In George v. Smith, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals emphasized that unrelated claims against different defendants belong in separate lawsuits. 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007). This is “not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits, “but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. George, 507 F.3d at 607 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b), (g)). Claims against different defendants, which do not arise from a single transaction or occurrence or a series of related transactions or occurrences and do not share a common question of law or fact, may not be joined in the same lawsuit. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). The Seventh Circuit has stated that “buckshot complaints” that include multiple unrelated claims against different individuals should be rejected. Turley v. Gaetz, 625 F.3d 1005, 1011 (7th Cir. 2010).

         The Complaint is far from short, simple, or concise. Instead, it is repetitive, confusing, and parts of it are illegible. For most of the allegations, it is unclear where and when the events occurred. Plaintiff does not associate specific defendants with specific claims. Instead, he lists his complaints without reference to any act or omission by any specific defendant.[2]

         In addition to running afoul of Rule 8 and Twombly pleading standards, by failing to assert specific acts of wrongdoing by specific individuals, the Complaint does not meet the personal involvement requirement necessary for Section 1983 liability. Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995). Section 1983 creates a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault. Therefore, “to be liable under § 1983, the individual defendant must have caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation.” Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 805, 810 (7th Cir. 2005). To state a claim against a defendant, a plaintiff must describe what the defendant did or failed to do that violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. Gentry, 65 F.3d at 561. Merely naming a party in the caption of a Complaint is not enough to state a claim against him or her. Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998).

         The Complaint contains unrelated claims against different defendants. The allegations begin with Plaintiff's “false imprisonment” in January 2012 on charges for which he was “wrongfully convicted” in 2016 and continue through 2019. The defendants include, but are not limited to, IDOC Directors, IDOC Wardens, IDOC prison staff, IDOC medical staff, State of Illinois elected officials, public defenders, a college assistant dean, a college academic instructor, teachers, and an Administrative Review Board member. The allegations against prison officials relate to incidents that occurred at three different IDOC facilities including Lawrence, Pontiac Correctional Center, and Menard Correctional Center. Additionally, at least one defendant is named in his capacity as the Warden at Western Illinois Correctional Center.

         Plaintiff includes a variety of unrelated claims including, but not limited to, the following: false imprisonment due to wrongful conviction; inadequate medical care for an infected foot, dry skin, bad back, dislocated elbows, infected neck disease, tuberculosis, nerve damage in his hand, left wrist injury, and fractured knee; unconstitutional conditions of confinement including overcrowding, inhumane smells, inhumane conditions, inadequate air quality and temperature, contaminated prison cells, and inadequate dietary; incorrect security classification; improper blue level escape risk identification; incorrect return to A grade status; mishandling of grievances; excessive force; harassment; and false staff assault charges. Additionally, Plaintiff complains about numerous cases being dismissed by federal district courts. It appears he may be attempting to revive some of the dismissed claims by bringing them in this case. He also complains that court fees have been taken from his prison trust fund account for cases that have been dismissed. He alleges he is unable to purchase commissary items because of the withdrawal of fees which has resulted in health and safety issues.

         The Seventh Circuit recognizes that “[d]istrict judges are busy, and therefore have a right to dismiss a complaint that is so long that it imposes an undue burden on the judge, to the prejudice of other litigants seeking the judge's attention.” Kadamovas v. Stevens, 706 F.3d 843, 844 (7th Cir. 2013). In other words, judges should not have to sift through the pages of a long and incomprehensible complaint and piece together a plaintiff's claims for him. Although length alone does not warrant dismissal, length combined with unintelligibility or lack of organization do. Stanard, 658 F.3d a 797-98; Garst v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff has submitted a ...


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