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Gakuba v. Wright

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 6, 2020

PETER GAKUBA, Plaintiff,
v.
CATHERINE WRIGHT, KAREN PANNIER, VIENNA CORRECTIONAL CENTER, SERINA LANE, ROB JEFFRYS, SARAH ROBERTSON, MATTHEW SWELLS, JOHN BARWICK, TRAVIS BAYLER, IDOC, and VIENNA MAIL ROOM STAFF #1-10, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         On November 19, 2019, this case was severed from Gakuba v. Swells, No. 19-cv-1081-SMY (Doc. 1). It involves the claims designated as Counts 10 and 11 in the original case, described as follows:

Count 10: First and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to courts claim against Catherine Wright and Karen Pannier for limiting his access to the law library and legal documents at Vienna Correctional Center.
Count 11: First and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to courts claim against Angela Mize for destroying Plaintiff's trust fund form.

         Plaintiff was given until January 23, 2020, to inform the Court as to whether he wanted to proceed with this lawsuit (Doc. 12). In response, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 13) and a request for equitable relief (Doc. 14), which the Court construes as a determination to pursue this case.

         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 his Amended Complaint (Doc. 13): After transferring to Vienna Correctional Center (“Vienna”) from Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”) on September 4, 2019, Plaintiff was taken to his legal materials on September 5, 2019, where he learned from Catherine Wright that the legal documents were in a heap and covered in boot prints. Wright stated that she had never seen anything like that and called warden John Barwick to photograph the documents (Id.). Barwick photographed Plaintiff's legal materials and contacted Robinson to determine what happened to Plaintiff's documents. Plaintiff was then instructed to place the documents in plastic boxes. Plaintiff wrote an emergency grievance about the state of his legal documents and asked that the photographs taken by Barwick be preserved. The grievance was deemed not to be an emergency by Warden Swells, and it was then denied by counselor Lane, grievance officer Robertson, Administrative Review Board Director Bayer, and IDOC Director Jeffrys (Id.).

         From September 5, 2019, to the present, Wright has limited Plaintiff's access to his legal documents to two visits per week for thirty minutes each visit (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). Plaintiff does not believe that is enough time to organize fourteen boxes of legal documents covering all of his cases. He also has limited access to the law library at Vienna. From September 4, 2019, to December 4, 2019, Plaintiff was only able to access the library twelve times for 90 minutes each time (Id. at p. 5). The law librarian, Karen Pannier, also refuses to allow Plaintiff to photocopy reference materials and to provide him with legal materials including paper, envelopes, and pens and pencils (Id. at p. 6). As a result of Pannier's actions, Plaintiff's habeas filings have been late or went missing (Id. at p. 8).

         Plaintiff also notes that he has had forty pieces of mail that was sent to courts go missing or arrive late (Id. at p. 6). Plaintiff submitted a grievance about his mail but Swells deemed it a non-emergency.

         Preliminary Dismissals

         Plaintiff identifies Vienna Mailroom Staff #1-10 in the caption of his Amended Complaint. Plaintiff must associate each defendant with specific acts or misconduct or omissions, in order to put each defendant on notice of which claims in the Amended Complaint are directed against him or her. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does make reference to missing and late mail, but he fails to provide any specifics as to when the mail went missing, on what date he sent the mail, and what effect those late filings had on his pending cases. Steidl v. Fermon, 494 F.3d 623, 633 (7th Cir. 2007) (plaintiff must “give the defendant ‘fair notice' of the access claim, including the identification of the underlying claim that was lost”); 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 references one filing with the Supreme Court but the attached exhibit notes that items were missing due to the destruction of legal materials rather than the attachment not being sent by mail staff (Id. at p. 22). Without this identifying information, Plaintiff fails to provide enough information to put each defendant on notice of the claims against them. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Further, Plaintiff's decision to name a large group of individuals, without any identifying information, or any facts as to how each of them violated his constitutional rights fails to state a claim.

         To the extent that IDOC and Vienna Correctional Center are listed as parties in Plaintiff's caption, these are not proper parties. The Supreme Court has held that “neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). See also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir.2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages); Billman v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir.1995) (state Department of Corrections is immune from suit by virtue of Eleventh Amendment). Thus, Plaintiff cannot maintain his claim against Vienna because it is a division of the Illinois Department of Corrections, a state government agency. Based on this authority, neither Vienna nor IDOC are “person[s]” within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act and shall be dismissed from this action. See Will, 491 U.S. at 71.

         Plaintiff also attempts to allege claims of equal protection, intentional infliction of emotional distress, spoliation, gross negligence, and illegal tort conversion, as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act but he offers only bare conclusions as to these claims. Accordingly, to ...


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