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Golden v. Cox

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 14, 2019

ERIC GOLDEN, #B05324, Plaintiff,
v.
IAN COX, CHARLES W. HECK, and MARCUS MYERS, SR., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Eric Golden, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections currently incarcerated at Western Illinois Correctional Center, brings this action for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Golden asserts First and Fourteenth Amendment claims related to events that occurred at Pontiac Correctional Center and Pinckneyville Correctional Center. He seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 1).

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 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, 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action against Ian Cox, an internal affairs officer at Pontiac, and Charles W. Heck and Marcus Myers, Sr., adjustment committee members at Pinckneyville. Plaintiff alleges that he was wrongly accused and found guilty of unauthorized leadership and organizational security threat group (“STG”) activity when he was simply communicating by telephone with a person who is a former member of his religion. He alleges Cox wrote him the disciplinary ticket and Heck and Myers found him guilty despite overwhelming evidence in his favor. He alleges this violated his rights to “freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to assemble, and freedom to associate” and resulted in unlawful confinement and revocation of privileges. Following the disciplinary proceedings, he received 4 months C grade, 4 months segregation, revoke GCC or SGT 2 months, disciplinary transfer, 4 months commissary restriction, and 6 months contact visits restriction.

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide this action into the following counts:

Count 1: First Amendment claim against the Defendants for disciplining Plaintiff for STG activity when he was actually communicating with an individual who is a former member of his religion.
Count 2: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Cox for issuing a false disciplinary ticket and Heck and Myers for finding Plaintiff guilty of the false disciplinary ticket despite overwhelming evidence in his favor.

         The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designations do not constitute an opinion regarding their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.[1]

         Discussion

         Count 1

         Plaintiff claims his First Amendment rights were violated because he was disciplined for STG activity when he was actually communicating with an individual who is a former member of his religion. This threadbare, conclusory allegation is insufficient to state a claim. See Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009) (“courts should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements”); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (an action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face”). Count 1 is, therefore, dismissed without prejudice.

         Count 2

         Plaintiff's claim that he was issued and found guilty of a false disciplinary ticket fails to state a claim. Standing alone, the receipt of a false disciplinary ticket does not give rise to a due process violation. This is because “due process safeguards associated with prison disciplinary proceedings are sufficient to guard against potential abuses[, ] [and a] hearing before a presumably impartial Adjustment Committee terminates an officer's possible liability for the filing of an allegedly false disciplinary report.” Hadley v. Peters, 841 F.Supp. ...


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