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Walker v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 12, 2019

JAMES E. WALKER, #R02343, Plaintiff,
v.
KIM BUTLER, R. HARRINGTON, S. GODINEZ, J.R. BALDWIN, A. JOHNSON, Y. JOSEPH, K. ALLSUP, V. PAYNE, B. SPILLER, B. BRAMLET, T. KNUST, C/O ELLIS, DANA, J. CLENDENIN, C/O HANKS, C/O BERRY, C/O BEST, C/O MCCARTY, C/O ROWALD, JOHN DOE 1, JOHN DOE 2, JOHN DOE 3, JOHN DOE 4, JOHN DOE 5, JOHN DOE 6, JOHN DOE 7, JOHN DOE 8, JOHN DOE 9, and C/O SMOLAK, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         Plaintiff James Walker, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights while he was at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Walker's original Complaint was dismissed for failure to state claim. (Doc. 9). He was granted leave to file an amended complaint, which he filed on August 23, 2019. Before the Court conducted a preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 13), Walker filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint in order to add defendants to his First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 14). Walker also filed another Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint on October 2, 2019. (Doc. 16). Along with this second motion for leave to amend, he submitted to the Court a proposed amended complaint.

         As it appears that Walker wishes to proceed with the latest version of the purposed amended complaint, the Court will deny the first Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. 14), grant Walker's second Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. 16), and conduct a preliminary review of the proposed amended complaint filed with the Court on October 2, 2019, now designated the “Second Amended Complaint.” Walker's Motion for Extension of Time (Doc. 12) to file an amended complaint will be denied as moot.

         The Second Amended Complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, any portion of a 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). 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).

         Preliminary Dismissals

         In the Second Amended Complaint, Walker repeatedly claims that Salvador Godinez and John Baldwin, former directors of IDOC, Harrington and Butler, former wardens of Menard, and A. Johnson, an assistant warden at Menard “each are legally responsible for the operations of Menard Correctional Center and the conduct of…” various defendant employees. But Walker cannot pursue a claim against a defendant based solely upon his or her supervisory role. The doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to Section 1983 actions. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001). Section 1983 liability requires personal responsibility for the deprivation of a constitutional right and attempting to assert personal liability by repeating the same statement that Godinez, Baldwin, Harrington, Butler, and Johnson “endorsed” such practice is not enough to suggest personal involvement. See Palda v. General Dynamic Corp., 47 F.3d 872, 875 (7th Cir. 1995). Therefore, claims against these defendants based on their supervisory positions are dismissed.

         To the extent that Walker is attempting to allege Godinez, Harrington, and Butler are liable because they concurred in the denial of his grievances, this claim also fails. “Prison officials who simply processed or reviewed inmate grievances lack personal involvement in the conduct forming the basis of the grievance.” Owens v. Evans, 878 F.3d 559, 563 (7th Cir. 2017). Furthermore, the Seventh Circuit has rejected the idea that liability extends to every prison official who is aware of an inmate's complaints. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir.2009). Therefore, the claim of liability based solely on the denial of his grievance is also dismissed against Godinez, Harrington, and Butler.

         Because there are no further claims against them, Godinez, Baldwin, and Harrington will be dismissed from this action.

         Defendants Joseph and Spiller will also be dismissed. Against Joseph, Walker claims that he made it difficult for Walker to: (1) use the institutional system to receive legal mail; (2) receive grievances in a timely manner; and (3) access the law library and legal exchange. These claims do not assert a constitutional violation and are not enough to show that Walker is entitled to relief. As to Spiller, Walker does not assert any allegations against him in the statement of claim. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Accordingly, Joseph and Spiller, and any claims against them, will be dismissed. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Second Amended Complaint

         In the Second Amended Complaint, Walker alleges the following: During his time at Menard he was denied access to the courts by the conduct of various staff members, his grievances were repeatedly mishandled, and his legal mail opened without him being present.

         From 2013 to 2016, Defendants Bramlet, Knust, and Clendenin of the law library did not provide Walker with legal assistance, proper copies of grievances or court documents, paper and pens, and adequate access to the law library so that he could conduct research in order to prepare for various motions and responses in his other court cases. Because of the lack of access to the law library and assistance, he missed court deadlines, and his habeas petition and defendants from other civil lawsuits were dismissed.

         Specifically, on one occasion while using the law library, he was forced to leave by Defendant Ellis in order to use the bathroom in his cell and was not allowed to return to the library to continue his work. Walker was only allowed ten sheets of paper, two pens, and three large envelopes once a month, and Defendants Dana, Bramlet, and Knust denied his requests for additional supplies.

         Defendant John Doe 1 of the mailroom mishandled his mail on several occasions causing Walker to miss court deadlines and pay extra postage fees to mail documents a second time.

         In 2014, Walker submitted a Freedom of Information (“FOIA”) request for records regarding lockdowns at Menard, which was denied. His requested a “legal exchange” to access documents in his excess property box so that he could prepare and seek review of the denial. Defendant Smolak denied his request, and he was not allowed a legal exchange until after the deadline to request a review. In November, Walker made additional requests to access “legal exchange, ” but his requests were denied by John Doe 2.

         In February 2015, Walker did not receive copies of two motions he requested and was forced to rewrite both motions. Around the same time, he was scheduled for a legal exchange because he had a pending court deadline of March 13, 2015. His legal exchange was canceled and requests to schedule a new date denied. He missed the court deadline and had to file a motion for an extension. Walker missed another court deadline in 2016, after placing a request to access the law library and legal exchange to retrieve exhibits. Both requests were ignored until after the deadline had passed.

         In 2016, Clendenin denied Walker access to administrative directive rules in retaliation for Walker filing a grievance about privacy problems. His repeated requests for legal exchange to access his legal documents were denied by John Doe 8.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint, the Court designates the following seventeen Counts:

Count 1: First Amendment access to courts claim against Butler, Bramlet, Knust, and John Doe 1 for hindering Walker's ability to file a habeas petition and appeal in 2013 and 2014.
Count 2: First Amendment access to courts claim against John Doe 1 for withholding and untimely mailing Walker's legal documents in July and August 2013.
Count 3: First Amendment access to courts claim against Bramlet, Knust, and Ellis for denying Walker access to the law library to research in 2013.
Count 4: First Amendment access to courts claim against Bramlet and Knust for not providing Walker legal materials and adequate access to the law library in January, May, and June 2014.
Count 5: First Amendment access to courts claim against Dana, Bramlet, and Knust for denying Walker paper, pens, and envelopes in June 2014.
Count 6: First Amendment access to courts claim against Smolak for denying Walker's requests for a legal exchange to ...

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