Croom v. Lashbrook et al
ORDER REFERRING CASE to Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams. Signed by Judge David R. Herndon on 11/6/2017. (tjk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Case No. 17 cv–612 DRH
JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, and
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HERNDON, District Judge:
Plaintiff Christopher Croom, an inmate at Menard Correctional Center,
brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks declarative relief and monetary damages. This case
is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Amended Complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening – The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible
or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a
civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal – On review, the court shall identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the
complaint, if the complaint–
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an
objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable person would find
meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross
“the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At this juncture, the
factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed.
Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).
The Amended Complaint
Plaintiff originally filed suit on June 9, 2017. (Doc. 1). After Plaintiff filed
this case, the Court determined that Plaintiff had attempted to proceed on
unrelated claims in the same lawsuit.
The Court dismissed some
defendants and severed some claims into separate lawsuits. (Doc. 4). The Court
then conducted a threshold review of this case and considered Plaintiff’s Motion
for Reconsideration. (Doc. 9). The Court found that Plaintiff had not adequately
pleaded personal involvement of any defendant in his conditions of confinement
claim and dismissed the Complaint accordingly.
The Court noted,
however, that Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration contained additional facts not
available in the Complaint, and encouraged him to file an Amended Complaint
containing those facts. (Doc. 9). Plaintiff submitted an Amended Complaint on
August 7, 2017; it was docketed on August 24, 2017. (Doc. 12).
The Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff’s constitutional rights were
violated when he was confined in a 36 square foot cell on February 13, 2017.
(Doc. 12, p. 5). The mattress had a urine stain on it, and Plaintiff was deprived of
cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and showers for 18 days. (Doc. 12, pp. 5-6).
He did not receive clothes or his eye glasses for 10 days. (Doc. 12, p. 5). Plaintiff
asked correctional officers for hygiene products, but they told him to “ask your
homeboys” or “don’t come to seg.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that the cell was too small
to exercise in because the majority of the space is taken up by the furniture. (Doc.
12, p. 6).
Plaintiff submitted 13 grievances to Dia Rodely on his conditions of
confinement issues; only 2 were answered. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that Chief
Administrative Officer Lashbrook conducts rounds in segregation and has seen
the cell sizes with her own eyes. (Doc. 12, p. 7). Plaintiff also alleges that he has
sent Lashbrook letters, and she failed to respond.
(Doc. 12, p. 8).
further alleges that Lashbrook knows that counselors at Menard throw away
grievances and condones the practice. Id.
As a result of the cell size, Plaintiff has suffered a neck and back injury
because he cannot do stretching exercises in the cell. (Doc. 12, p. 7). Plaintiff
also suffers from depression. Id.
Based on the allegations of the Amended Complaint, the Court finds it
convenient to divide the pro se action into 2 counts. 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. The following claim survives threshold
Count 1 – Lashbrook and Rodely were deliberately indifferent to the
unconstitutional conditions of confinement that Plaintiff was
subjected to in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they refused
to address his complaints regarding cell size, lack of cleaning
supplies, lack of hygiene products, inadequate showers, and lack of
Plaintiff has also attempted to bring another Count, but for the reasons
elucidated below, this claim does not survive threshold review.
Count 2 – Rodely and Lashbrook improperly interfered with the
grievance process when Rodely threw Plaintiff’s grievances away and
Lashbrook condoned the behavior.
In a case involving conditions of confinement in a prison, two elements are
required to establish violations of the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual
punishments clause. McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1993). First, an
objective element requires a showing that the conditions deny the inmate “the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities,” creating an excessive risk to the
inmate's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Jackson
v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir. 1992). Not all prison conditions trigger
Eighth Amendment scrutiny—only deprivations of basic human needs like food,
medical care, sanitation, and physical safety. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
346 (1981). Conditions of confinement may be considered in combination with
each other when each standing alone would not violate the Eighth Amendment.
Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 493 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501
U.S. 294, 304 (1991)).
Despite Plaintiff's assertion that the approximately 40-square-foot cells at
Menard “have been deemed unconstitutional,” this Court is unaware of any
authority supporting this proposition. Cases have been clear that the inquiry is
whether the conditions inflict the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain
grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452
U.S. 337, 346 (1981). The Rhodes Court found that double-celling was not per-se
unconstitutional. Id. at 347. However, Plaintiff has made it clear that he was
subjected to double-celling in a small cell in combination with other conditions.
Specifically, he has alleged that he was deprived of opportunities to exercise, as
well as hygiene products, showers, and cleaning supplies. The lack of hygiene
opportunities and exercise could act in concert with the small cell size to create
an unconstitutional condition of confinement.
The Court therefore finds that
Plaintiff has adequately pleaded the objective element.
Plaintiff has also satisfied the subjective component, which requires that
the prison official had a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Wilson, 501 U.S. at
298; McNeil, 16 F.3d at 124. An official must be deliberately indifferent to health
or safety; he or she must be aware of facts from which the inference could be
drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and must actually draw the
inference. See, e.g., Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303; Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Del Raine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024, 1032 (7th
Cir. 1994). Plaintiff has alleged that Lashbrook was aware of the small cell size in
the North cell house at Menard because she regularly toured the facility. He has
also alleged that he wrote her letters complaining about the specific conditions he
was subjected to and that she failed to respond. Likewise, he has alleged that his
counselor, Rodely, was aware of the conditions because of grievances he sent her,
and that she also took no action. The Seventh Circuit has been clear that failure
to respond to grievances and letters adequately alleges the subjective element at
the pleading stages. Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 781-82 (7th Cir. 2015).
Therefore, Count 1 shall proceed against Lashbrook and Rodely.
But Count 2 must be dismissed.
Although the refusal to respond to
grievances may establish deliberate indifference, there is no stand-alone
constitutional claim based on the failure of the grievance process.
grievance procedures are not constitutionally mandated and thus do not implicate
the Due Process Clause per se. As such, the alleged mishandling of grievances
states no claim. Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011). See also
Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 772 n.3 (7th Cir. 2008); George v. Smith,
507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007); Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th
Cir. 1996). Accordingly, Count 2 will be dismissed with prejudice for failure to
state a claim.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Count 1 survives threshold review against
Lashbrook and Rodely. Count 2 is DISMISSED with prejudice for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
IT IS ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall prepare for Defendants
Lashbrook and Rodely:
(1) Form 5 (Notice of a Lawsuit and Request to Waive
Service of a Summons), and (2) Form 6 (Waiver of Service of Summons). The
Clerk is DIRECTED to mail these forms, a copy of the complaint, and this
Memorandum and Order to each Defendant’s place of employment as identified
If a Defendant fails to sign and return the Waiver of Service of
Summons (Form 6) to the Clerk within 30 days from the date the forms were
sent, the Clerk shall take appropriate steps to effect formal service on that
Defendant, and the Court will require that Defendant to pay the full costs of
formal service, to the extent authorized by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, with respect to a Defendant who no
longer can be found at the work address provided by Plaintiff, the employer shall
furnish the Clerk with the Defendant’s current work address, or, if not known, the
Defendant’s last-known address. This information shall be used only for sending
the forms as directed above or for formally effecting service. Any documentation
of the address shall be retained only by the Clerk. Address information shall not
be maintained in the court file or disclosed by the Clerk.
Defendants are ORDERED to timely file an appropriate responsive pleading
to the complaint and shall not waive filing a reply pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
Pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(a)(2), this action is REFERRED to a United
States Magistrate Judge for further pre-trial proceedings.Further, this entire
matter is REFERRED to a United States Magistrate Judge for disposition, as
contemplated by Local Rule 72.2(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), should all the
parties consent to such a referral.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that if judgment is rendered against Plaintiff
and the judgment includes the payment of costs under Section 1915, Plaintiff will
be required to pay the full amount of the costs, notwithstanding that his
application to proceed in forma pauperis has been granted. See 28 U.S.C. §
Plaintiff is ADVISED that at the time application was made under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 for leave to commence this civil action without being required to prepay
fees and costs or give security for the same, the applicant and his or her attorney
were deemed to have entered into a stipulation that the recovery, if any, secured
in the action shall be paid to the Clerk of the Court, who shall pay therefrom all
unpaid costs taxed against plaintiff and remit the balance to plaintiff. Local Rule
Finally, Plaintiff is ADVISED that he is under a continuing obligation to
keep the Clerk of Court and each opposing party informed of any change in his
address; the Court will not independently investigate his whereabouts. This shall
be done in writing and not later than 7 days after a transfer or other change in
Failure to comply with this order will cause a delay in the
transmission of court documents and may result in dismissal of this action for
want of prosecution. See FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b).
Digitally signed by
Judge David R. Herndon
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?