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Bentz v. Allsup

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 30, 2019

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, #S03210, Plaintiff,
v.
KRISTA ALLSUP, LASHBROOK, ELVESIZER, FRANK EVOLDIE, WILLIAM QUALLS, BRAD BRAMLET, T. BRUMLEY, T. JONES, DONAL LINDENBERG, MR. WHITE, MISS WALKER, MR. GRIFFIN, MR. HECHT, LOYD, YANKEY, [1]MR. CONWAY, MR. CHITTY, MR. MICHEALES, E. ELLIETT, JOHN HOOD, J. SPARLING, G. GUTTERSLOTH, ANDREW MARTIN, JOHN/JANE DOES, MISS MARSHAL, THOMAS LAFOND, JOHN DOE, personal property officer, KENT BROOKMAN, JASON HART, MR. SPILLER, PATRICIA STEWART, MR. COCKRUM, JOHN DOE #1, JOHN DOE #2, JOHN DOE #3, JOHN DOE #4, JOHN DOE #5, JOHN DOE #6, JOHN DOE #7, JOHN/JANE DOE #8, JOHN/JANE DOE #9, JOHN/JANE DOE #10, JOHN/JANE DOE #11, JOHN/JANE DOE #12, JOHN/JANE DOE #13, JOHN DOE #14, JOHN DOE #15, JOHN/JANE DOE #16, JOHN/JANE DOE #17, JOHN/JANE DOE #18, JOHN DOE #19, JOHN DOE #20, JOHN DOE #21, JOHN DOE #22, JOHN DOE #23, JOHN/JANE DOE #24, JOHN/JANE DOE #25, JOHN/JANE DOE #26, JOHN/JANE DOE #27, JOHN/JANE DOE #28, JOHN/JANE DOE #29, and JOHN/JANE DOES, Unidentified, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         Plaintiff David Bentz, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights. Bentz claims that he was issued a false disciplinary ticket and placed in segregation for filing lawsuits against certain defendants. He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.

         Bentz's Complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review 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). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriquez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         Bentz makes the following allegations: On June 14, 2018, Allsup issued Bentz a false disciplinary ticket for forgery and giving false information to an employee in retaliation against Bentz for filing a lawsuit against her. (Doc. 1, p. 7). As a result, he was “deadlocked” within his cell from June 14, 2018, until June 27, 2018, and was denied showers, yard exercise, chow line movements, use of the commissary, hygene indigent kits, law library access, legal exchange, and other general population activities. (Id.). On June 27, 2018, he went before the Adjustment Committee. (Id. at p. 10). Bentz asked for (1) the recusal of Adjustment Committee Members Brookman and Hart on the basis of bias because he is suing them in another civil lawsuit; (2) the identification of the internal affairs officer mentioned in the disciplinary ticket and that such officer be called as a witness; and (3) the incident report and other documents regarding the disciplinary ticket. All of his requests were denied. (Id. at pp. 10, 11, 17). He was found guilty and moved to segregation. (Id. at p. 11).

         Between June 27, 2018, and July 11, 2018, Bentz was placed in punitive segregation in unconstitutional conditions. (Id. at pp. 8, 9). He was housed in dirty cells without running water, cleaning supplies, writing supplies, hygiene items, ice or ice water, linens, including towels, change of clothes, or access to laundry services, showers, or exercise time. Bentz's mattress and pillow were soiled, and he had no light switch and so the lights were off at all times. He was also exposed to excessive heat with no ventilation. (Id. at pp. 8, 9).

         From June 14, 2018, until July 11, 2018, he was denied access to legal storage to access court documents and the law library. (Id. at pp. 7, 8, 9, 15). On July 14, 2018, Bentz was again denied access to his legal storage. (Id. at p. 11).

         On January 31, 2019, the Administrative Review Board expunged Bentz's charge of giving false information to an employee. (Id. at p. 13).

         Preliminary Dismissals

         In addition to listing twenty-nine unidentified John/Jane Doe defendants, Bentz identifies a group of defendants as “unidentified John/Jane Does, ” in the case caption and asserts claims against this group throughout the statement of claim. While a plaintiff may use the “John Doe” designation to refer to specific individuals whose names are unknown, a plaintiff will run afoul of the pleading standards in Iqbal and Twombly by merely asserting that a group of Menard correctional officers and staff has violated his constitutional rights. See Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (finding the phrase “one or more of the Defendants” did not adequately connect specific defendants to illegal acts, and thus failed to adequately plead personal involvement). When a plaintiff does nothing but state that a group of staff harmed him without providing more, all he has done is establish that there is a “sheer possibility” that someone in that group harmed him. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Bentz may not know the name of individual defendants, but he must make plausible allegations against individuals, describing the “who, what, why, where, and how” that form the basis of the claim against that person. See Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). To allow otherwise would be effectively allowing Bentz to amend his Complaint further at will without review of this Court, a result contrary to both the local rules and § 1915A. Accordingly, “unidentified John/Jane Does” and any claims against them are dismissed without prejudice as defendants.

         Bentz also names John Doe, personal property officer, Lashbrook, John/Jane Doe #13, John Doe #14, and John Doe #15 in the case caption, but he does not assert any allegations against them in the “statement of facts” section. Because he has failed to associate any claims against these Defendants, they also shall be dismissed without prejudice. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Finally, in the statement of facts, Bentz asserts allegations against Clark, Scandland, Cleavland, John Doe #30, John Doe #31, John Doe #32, John Doe #33, John Doe #34, John Doe #35, John Doe # 36, John Doe #38, and John Doe #39, but these individuals are not listed in the case caption. The Court will not treat parties not listed in the caption as defendants, and any claims against them are considered dismissed without prejudice. See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate the following eleven Counts:

Count 1: First Amendment claim against Allsup for issuing Bentz a false disciplinary ticket and causing him to be deadlocked in his cell and placed segregation in retaliation for naming her in a lawsuit.
Count 2: First Amendment claim against Brookman, Hart, and Walker for finding Bentz guilty at the adjustment committee hearing in retaliation for filing lawsuits.
Count 3: First Amendment claim against Brumley for denying Bentz hygiene kits in July 2018 in retaliation for filing grievances and lawsuits.
Count 4: First Amendment claim against Brumley and Evoldie for denying Bentz access to his legal documents on July 14, 2018, in retaliation for filing grievances.
Count 5: Eighth Amendment claim of cruel and unusual punishment against Qualls, Brumley, Elvesizer, Bramlet, Yankey, Martin, John Doe #4, John Doe #5, John Doe #22, and John Doe #23 for subjecting Bentz to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while he was on ...

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