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Thomas v. Jeffreys

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 6, 2020

TRACY A. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROB JEFFREYS, CHRISTOPHER SCOTT THOMPSON, LOVE, JANE DOE ASSISTANT WARDEN, R. KING, C. HALE, and PATTY SNEED, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         Plaintiff Tracy A. Thomas, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendants failed to accommodate his disability and denied him access to the law library. He asserts claims against the defendants under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 794-94e. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, 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 September 2019, Plaintiff asked to access the law library at Pinckneyville. He received a response indicating that he was scheduled for a visit on September 17, 2019, but when he went on his call pass to the law library, he learned that he could not access the law library because he was in a wheelchair and the elevator was not working. Plaintiff learned that the elevator had not worked for some time. As a result of the disabled elevator, Plaintiff has not been able to access to the law library at Pinckneyville. He wrote an emergency grievance which was deemed an emergency but denied by counselor Hale and deemed moot by the Administrative Review Board's Patty Sneed and Rob Jeffreys. Plaintiff seeks an injunction ordering defendants to repair the elevator so that he may access the law library.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate the following single count in this pro se action:

Count 1: Defendants violated his rights under the ADA and/or RA when they denied him access to the law library.

         The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.[1]

         At this stage, Plaintiff's allegations are sufficient to articulate a colorable ADA and/or RA claim. Plaintiff's claim, however, cannot proceed against the individual defendants as individual employees of IDOC cannot be sued under the ADA or the RA. Jaros v. Illinois Dep't of Corrs., 684 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2012). The proper defendant is the relevant state department or agency. See 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1)(b); Jaros, 684 F.3d at 670, n. 2 (individual capacity claims are not available; the proper defendant is the agency or its director (in his official capacity)). As such, Rob Jeffreys, the IDOC Director, will remain in the case, in his official capacity only.

         To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to raise any individual claims against Defendants, those claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. Plaintiff alleges that a number of Defendants improperly denied his grievance regarding his access to the law library, but the denial or mishandling of a grievance does not amount to a constitutional violation. Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011) (“[T]he alleged mishandling of [a prisoner's] grievance by persons who otherwise did not cause or participate in the underlying conduct states no claim.”); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff also alleges that he was not able to appeal his case due to his inability to access the law library, but he fails to allege an access to courts claim because he does not allege what case he was trying to appeal or how counselors King and Hale, Warden Thompson, Jane Doe Assistant Warden, and Rob Jeffreys interfered with his access to the courts. Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 968 (7th Cir. 2006). Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 671 (7th Cir. 2009) (“a prisoner's complaint must spell out, in minimal detail, the connection between the alleged denial of access to legal materials and an inability to pursue a legitimate challenge to a conviction, sentence, or prison conditions”) (quotations omitted). He only alleges that these individuals denied his grievances regarding his library access, which does not state a claim (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Preliminary Injunction

         Plaintiff's Complaint seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction and requests that the Court order that the elevators at Pinckneyville be fixed so that he can access the law library. On November 4, 2019, Plaintiff was instructed to file a formal motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 4). Instead, Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 6) to the Order indicating that he is unable to file a motion because he is not skilled in the law and does not have access to the law library to learn how to file a formal motion.

         In light of the concerns presented by the Complaint, the Court will construe Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction in his Complaint as a motion. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to DOCKET a motion for preliminary injunction based on the allegations in the Complaint. ...


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