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Moore v. IDOC

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 15, 2020

CORTEZ LARNELL MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
IDOC, JOHN BALDWIN, JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, DAVE WHITE, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INCORPORATED, DR. SIDDIQUI, LT. TROKEY, LT. KOEHN, SGT. MACURIA, SGT. ROWES, C/O BURSHUR, JOHN DOE #1, and JOHN DOE #2, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         Plaintiff Cortez Larnell Moore, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights while he was at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the defendants used excessive force, failed to protect him from said force, and failed to provide him with adequate medical care. He asserts claims against the defendants under the First and Eighth Amendments. 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 the Complaint: On June 14, 2017, while on the yard at Menard, Lieutenant Trokey used excessive force against Plaintiff. He placed Plaintiff in handcuffs, cutting off his circulation, and physically and verbally assaulted him (Id. at pp. 9-13). Sergeant Macuria, C/O Burshur, John Doe #1, and John Doe #2 were present during the assault but failed to intervene (Id. at p. 13). Lieutenant Trokey assaulted Plaintiff in retaliation for Plaintiff handing him a grievance when Plaintiff entered the yard (Id. at pp. 8-9, 12). He returned to his cell but was not able to receive any medical attention because Trokey was still present in the cellhouse (Id. at pp. 13-14).

         Plaintiff continued to seek medical attention once he returned to his cell. He informed the gallery officer that he needed medical attention for his injuries, including a possible concussion (Id. at p. 15). The officer contacted Sergeant Rowe who told Plaintiff he would get him some aspirin, but Rowes did not provide him with any medication or take him to the infirmary (Id.). He put in several sick call requests but did not see Dr. Siddiqui until July 28, 2017 (Id. at p. 16). Dr. Siddiqui informed Plaintiff that he was not seen in the healthcare unit, despite submitting multiple sick call slips, because Menard was understaffed and did not have enough doctors (Id. at pp. 16-17). Dr. Siddiqui stated that Plaintiff seemed fine; he provided Plaintiff with Ibuprofen but did not submit Plaintiff for an MRI or prescribe any additional medications to help with the pain (Id. at p. 17). The Ibuprofen did nothing for Plaintiff's pain. Although Plaintiff asked for an MRI, Dr. Siddiqui informed him that Wexford would not approve an MRI for his injuries. Dr. Siddiqui never followed up with Plaintiff despite Plaintiff continuing to put in more sick call requests (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Wexford, John Baldwin, and Jacqueline Lashbrook have an unwritten policy of understaffing the healthcare unit which causes delays in care. Wexford also has a policy of refusing outside treatment including MRIs. Baldwin and Lashbrook also have a policy of cancelling medical passes which delayed Plaintiff's care.

         On June 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed two emergency grievances to both Lashbrook and Baldwin. Lashbrook, Baldwin, Lieutenant Koehn, and Trokey interfered with the grievance process making it difficult for Plaintiff to exhaust his administrative remedies. Baldwin, Lashbrook, and Dave White also failed to follow the grievance guidelines by deeming grievances filed outside of the time frame (Id.at pp. 19-20). Plaintiff also previously informed Lashbrook and Baldwin that he was afraid for his life but they failed to transfer him to another prison.

         Preliminary Dismissals

         To the extent that IDOC is listed as a party in Plaintiff's caption, it is not a proper party. 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). Based on this authority, IDOC is not a “person” within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act and shall be dismissed from this action. See Will, 491 U.S. at 71.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Lashbrook, Baldwin, and Dave White failed to properly address his grievances and that Lashbrook, Baldwin, Lieutenant Koehn, and Trokey interfered with his grievances making it difficult to exhaust his administrative remedies and pursue his claims in court. The mishandling or denying of grievances by those not personally involved in the underlying constitutional violation does not state a claim. 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). Further, there is no protected due process right in the grievance process. Owens, 635 F.3d at 953-54; George, 507 F.3d at 609. To the extent that Plaintiff alleges the defendants' actions have interfered with his access to the courts, he also fails to state a claim. The unavailability of administrative remedies is not a bar to potential litigants bringing their claims. See Hill v. Snyder, 817 F.3d 1037, 1041 (7th Cir. 2016). Thus, Plaintiff fails to allege that any of the defendants' actions hampered his access to the courts.

         Further, to the extent Plaintiff alleges that Lashbrook and Baldwin are liable for failing to properly supervise the other defendants, Section 1983 does not authorize respondeat superior or “supervisory liability.” Vinning-El v. Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)). He also fails to allege a failure to protect claim against Lashbrook and Baldwin. Although he alleges that he informed Lashbrook and Baldwin that he feared for his safety and sought a transfer, nothing in the Complaint indicates that they were aware of the specific threat posed by Lieutenant Trokey.

         Discussion

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

Count 1: Lieutenant Trokey used excessive force against Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth ...

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