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Price v. Brookhart

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 16, 2019

LEE PRICE, Plaintiff,
v.
DEANNA M. BROOKHART, VERNEN WILLIAMS, T. KELLY, C/O OCHS, AMY BURLE, and L. HARTLEROAD, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         Plaintiff Lee Price, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously filed a Complaint alleging that Deanna Brookhart failed to protect him from a sexual assault by his cellmate (Doc. 1). That Complaint was dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim, but Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his Complaint (Doc. 8). In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Vernen Williams retaliated against Plaintiff for voicing complaints and writing grievances to the warden. Defendants also improperly responded to Plaintiff's allegations of sexual assault by another inmate. He asserts claims against the defendants under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages.

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Amended 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 Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in the Amended Complaint: During a compliance check of Plaintiff's cell, he complained to Warden Brookhart about problems he was having with some of the correctional officers, including not allowing Plaintiff to go to eat, yard, or the dayroom because Plaintiff could not hear the officers' call due to his hearing disability. Brookhart told Williams to go to Plaintiff's cell first during any movement call to provide Plaintiff with a chance to get ready to leave the cell (Doc. 1, p. 8). In response to Plaintiff's complaint to the warden and a grievance he later wrote, Williams conducted a number of searches of Plaintiff's cell for contraband without submitting a shakedown slip (Id. at p. 9).

         During this same time period, Plaintiff was told to change cells a number of times. With each move, he was placed with more aggressive inmates. He asked placement coordinator T. Kelly why he was being moved so much. He was later placed with another inmate and on March 24, 2019 was sexually assaulted by that inmate (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11). Plaintiff immediately told the observation control booth about the assault and he was moved to a new cell, although he continued to run into the inmate who assaulted him in the hallway and in the chow hall (Id. at pp. 12-13). He reported the assault to internal affairs, but his claims were ultimately deemed unfounded (Id. at pp. 13-14). On April 24, 2019, he also received a memorandum from Brookhart noting that his claims were unsubstantiated (Id. at p. 15). A response from his counselor on April 30, 2019 also noted that Lt. Ochs had investigated his claims and deemed them unsubstantiated (Id.). Plaintiff also wrote grievances to L. Livingston and A. Burle but the grievances were denied as internal affairs found his claims unsubstantiated (Id. at p. 16).

         He asked to speak with mental health after he first learned that his claims had been deemed unfounded and he saw mental health professional L. Hartleroad on April 5, 2019. He informed her that he should have killed the inmate who assaulted him when he was attacked but didn't and Hartleroad applauded him on his self-control (Id. at pp. 14-15). He later learned that Hartleroad informed internal affairs of his statements and he received a disciplinary ticket (Id. at p. 9).

         Preliminary Dismissals

         Plaintiff fails to state a claim against T. Kelly because he fails to allege that Kelly violated his constitutional rights. The allegations in the Amended Complaint allege only that Plaintiff tried to inquire from Kelly, the placement coordinator, as to why Plaintiff was being required to change cells so many times (Id. at p. 10). He fails to allege, however, that Kelly violated his constitutional rights in any way. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against Kelly are DISMISSED without prejudice.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following three counts:

Count 1: Vernen Williams retaliated against Plaintiff for complaining about his actions to the warden in violation of the First Amendment.
Count 2: Deanna Brookhart, C/O Ochs, and Amy Burle improperly handled Plaintiff's grievances and failed to properly investigate his claims of sexual assault in violation of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
Count 3: L. Hartleroad was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's mental health needs when she informed internal affairs of Plaintiff's statements to her in ...

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