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Decker v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 16, 2019

ROBERT K. DECKER, #51719-074, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert Decker, an inmate who is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana (“FCI-Terre Haute”), filed this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). In his Complaint, Plaintiff challenges his public safety factor designation and custody classification. (Doc. 3, p. 3). He seeks correction of both. (Id.).

         The Complaint is before the Court for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to screen prisoner complaints and filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks money damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). The factual allegations are liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in his Complaint (Doc. 3): The BOP allegedly denied Plaintiff due process of law by wrongfully assigning him a public safety factor (“PSF”) designation based on a presentence report (“PSR”) that erroneously disclosed an arrest or conviction for enticement of a child/relative under the age of sixteen and second degree harassment or physical contact. (Id. at p. 3). Plaintiff maintains that he was actually arrested for second degree custodial interference. (Id.). As a result of this error in his PSR, Plaintiff's custody classification included a PSF designation that limits his range of safe housing options and prevents his smooth reintegration into society. (Id.). When Plaintiff notified his unit teams at FCI-Terre Haute and the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois (“USP-Marion”) of these errors, they took no action to correct his PSF or custody classifications. (Id.).

         Based on the allegations summarized above, the Court finds it convenient to designate a single count in this pro se action:

Count 1: Defendant denied Plaintiff due process of law in connection with his PSF designation and custody classification.

         The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. Any claim encompassed by the allegations in the Complaint but not addressed herein is considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under Twombly.[1]

         Discussion

         The Complaint does not survive screening. Liability under Bivens hinges on personal responsibility for a constitutional violation. Del Raine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024, 1047 (7th Cir. 1994). In other words, “an individual defendant must have caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation.” Id. Plaintiff does not name an individual defendant in the Complaint. He names the BOP as the only defendant. However, the BOP is not a person and is also not a proper defendant under Bivens. See Ziglar v. Abbasi, -- U.S. --, 137 S.Ct. 1843, 1860 (2017) (Bivens claim is brought against the individual official for his or her own acts and not the acts of others); Sterling v. United States, 85 F.3d 1225, 1228-29 (7th Cir. 1996) (“[T]he point of Bivens was to establish an action against the employee to avoid the sovereign immunity that would block an action against the United States.”). Count 1 cannot proceed against the BOP and shall be dismissed without prejudice.

         In Plaintiff's proposed First Amended Complaint, he identifies the Department of Justice, United States Attorney General, and Acting BOP Director as defendants. However, he does not mention any of these individuals in the statement of his claim. He still refers to the BOP. While it is true that he occasionally refers to “Defendants” as a group, Plaintiff's use of vague phrasing to identify the defendants is insufficient to connect specific individuals to illegal acts, even at this early stage. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted) (rejecting the use of “vague phrasing” to connect defendants to specific acts of misconduct). The First Amended Complaint presents essentially the same problem as the original Complaint.

         Plaintiff's proposed Second and Third Amended Complaints pose a different problem. In both, Plaintiff omits all references to Count 1. He focuses on an entirely new due process claim. Plaintiff challenges the BOP's practice of changing disciplinary rules and regulations without first publishing them for comment by the public or inmate population. The Court cannot discern whether Plaintiff intended to abandon Count 1 by omission or simply add this claim to his prior complaint(s). Plaintiff must clear up this issue before the Court can proceed with its Section 1915A review of this matter.

         He may do so by filing an Amended Complaint that sets forth all claims he intends to pursue in this action. The Court does not accept piecemeal amendments. An amended complaint supersedes and replaces all prior versions of the complaint and renders them void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2004). Therefore, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint must stand on its own without reference to any prior pleading. Until Plaintiff files an amended complaint that comports with these requirements, the Court cannot determine which claims form the basis of this action and screen them under Section 1915A.

         D ...


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