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Gakuba v. Swells

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 18, 2019

PETER GAKUBA, Plaintiff,
v.
MATTHEW SWELLS, CATHERINE WRIGHT, NURSE PRACTITIONER #1, JOHN/JANE DOES 1-50 VIENNA CC, KAREN PANNIER, JOHN BARWICK, MR. HENDERSON, SARAH ROBERTSON, ANGELA MIZE, APRIL WAMPLER, DR. SHAH, JOHN/JANE DOE 1-50 ROBINSON CC, MICHELLE NEESE, MS. HELREGEL, PROPERTY MANAGER “LITTLE JOHN”, MS. DUNLAP, AREDE JOHNSON, TRANSFER COORDINATOR STAFF 1-20, WEXFORD HEALTH SERVICES, VIENNA CORRECTIONAL CENTER, and ROBINSON CORRECTIONAL CENTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Peter Gakuba, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Vienna Correctional Center (“Vienna”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff claims he was retaliated against in violation of the First Amendment for filing a lawsuit and, as a result, was transferred from Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”) to Vienna. He also asserts claims of interference with his access to courts, deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, and violations of his rights under Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. and the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 794-94e. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner Complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in his Complaint: In July 2019, while Plaintiff was housed at Robinson, Warden Michelle Neese was served a summons in Gakuba v. Rains, Case No. 19-cv-437-NJR (S.D.Ill.). (Doc. 1, p. 9). In retaliation for Plaintiff filing that lawsuit, Neese transferred him to Vienna, despite the fact that Plaintiff had previously been denied a transfer to Vienna in 2018 and Vienna lacks air-conditioning. Prior to his transfer, Plaintiff learned his security designation was “tinkered” with so that he could be transferred to Vienna. (Id. at p. 10). Plaintiff received a letter from April Wampler on August 29, 2019 informing him that the transfer was approved. (Id. at p. 11). He filed an emergency grievance on August 30, 2019. (Id.).

         On August 30, 2019, Plaintiff suffered a nervous breakdown, which he is prone to due to his Asperger's. (Doc. 1, p. 11). He met with Dr. Helregel, the Chief Psychotherapist, and Dr. Shah. Dr. Shah dismissed Plaintiff's complaints of chest pains, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue and informed him they did not have the proper machinery, namely an EKG, to diagnose him. Dr. Shah refused Plaintiff's request for a medical hold but told him he would speak with the medical director about his condition. (Id.). Dr. Helregel told Plaintiff she spoke with Warden Brookhart and he told her he would meet with Plaintiff. Dr. Helregel advised Plaintiff that she had done all she could do for him.

         Plaintiff tried to halt his prison transfer and had his mother contact Assistant Attorney General Arede Johnson (an attorney for Warden Neese in the Rains lawsuit) and offer to settle that case in exchange for stopping the prison transfer. (Doc. 1 p.12). Johnson informed Plaintiff's mother that the institution's administration was in charge of prison transfers. (Id.). Plaintiff was transferred to Vienna on September 4, 2019. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         Vienna lacks air-conditioning and Plaintiff has a susceptibility to heat strokes due to periocular face nevus (Doc. 1, pp. 9, 15). Plaintiff also has a debilitating back injury which causes him pain and requires a bottom bunk permit, spring bunk, and bed pad, but he has not been provided with these since arriving at Vienna. (Id. at pp. 9-10).

         On September 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed three emergency grievances for heat stroke issues, the lack of a spring bunk and bed pad for his back condition, and the destruction of his legal documents during his transfer. (Id.). Those grievances were deemed non-emergencies by Warden Matthew Swells (Id. at p. 13). Plaintiff re-submitted the grievances as non-emergencies on September 5, 2019. (Id.).

         Plaintiff viewed his legal documents on September 5, 2019 and learned that a number of them were destroyed. He spoke with Vienna's property manager, Catherine Wright, who informed him that she was upset and had never seen documents destroyed like this during a transfer. (Id. at p. 12). The documents were transferred by Robinson's property manager, Little John, who Plaintiff spoke with on September 3, 2019. At that time, Little John complained that Plaintiff had 14 boxes totaling approximately 40 pounds, and that he did not have enough durable plastic boxes to protect Plaintiff's contents. Instead, he placed Plaintiff's documents in cardboard copy paper boxes that were taped shut. Plaintiff also takes issue with the location of his property boxes at Vienna because Vienna's property boxes are held two blocks away from the prison in a property warehouse and Plaintiff is unable to access his documents due to his back injury. (Id. at p. 16).

         Plaintiff submitted two additional emergency grievances on September 9, 2019 regarding an allergy to seafood and his legal documents being stored in the property warehouse. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Swells also deemed those grievances non-emergencies. (Id.). Plaintiff previously spoke with Vienna's dietary supervisor Mr. Henderson about his allergy to seafood. (Id.). He asked to be placed on a no-seafood diet but Mr. Henderson informed Plaintiff that Vienna did not have special need diets.

         On September 10, 2019 Plaintiff suffered a heat stroke at Vienna and was placed in the healthcare unit until September 11, 2019. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff was removed from the healthcare unit when Nurse Practitioner Alisa deemed him stable.

         Since transferring to Vienna, Plaintiff has also had limited access to the law library. (Doc. 1, p. 14). While at Robinson, Plaintiff received one call pass for 90-120 minutes, four days a week due to the number of cases he had pending. (Id.). At Vienna, librarian Karen Pannier only allows Plaintiff 1 visit per week of 60-90 minutes which is unreasonable given the number of cases Plaintiff has pending. (Id.). Catherine Wright has also limited Plaintiff's access to his legal documents to 30 minutes per week. (Id. at p. 17).

         Plaintiff submitted a trust fund form he received from the Court to Vienna's trust fund officer, Angela Mize, who marked the form in red ink and returned it, telling him to submit a new form. This interfered with Plaintiff's access to the courts because he did not have a second form and was therefore unable to submit his prison trust fund account to the Court for consideration along with his in forma pauperis motion. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to organize the claims in this pro se action into the following Counts:

Count 1: First Amendment claim against April Wampler, Michelle Neese, and Arede Johnson for transferring Plaintiff to Vienna Correctional Center in retaliation for Plaintiff's suit in Gakuba v. Rains, Case No. 19-cv-437-NJR (S.D.Ill.).
Count 2: Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against April Wampler and Michelle Neese for transferring Plaintiff to Vienna.
Count 3:Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Dr. Shah and Dr. Helregel for the treatment of Plaintiff's nervous breakdown.
Count 4: Medical negligence and/or medical malpractice claim against Dr. Shah and Dr. Helregel for the treatment of Plaintiff's nervous breakdown.
Count 5: First Amendment and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to courts claim against Little John for the destruction of Plaintiff's legal documents during the transport from Robinson Correctional Center.
Count 6: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Mr. Henderson for refusing to place Plaintiff on a no-seafood diet despite his allergies.
Count 7: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Nurse Practitioner Alisa for the treatment of Plaintiff's heat stroke.
Count 8: Medical negligence and/or medical malpractice claim against Nurse Practitioner Alisa for the treatment of Plaintiff's heat stroke.
Count 9: ADA and RA claim for Vienna Correctional Center's lack of air conditioning, access to spring bunks and bed pads, and access to legal documents.
Count 10: First and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to courts claim against Catherine Wright and Karen Pannier for limiting his access to the law library and legal documents at Vienna Correctional Center.
Count 11: First and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to courts claim against Angela Mize for destroying ...

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