Augusta et al v. Employees of Vandalia Correctional Center et al
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the COMPLAINT is DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to comply with Rule 8 and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Employees of Vandalia Correctional Center, Employee s of IDOC, and Employees of Stateville Correctional Center are DISMISSED from this action with prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that WAGGONER, RAUNER, BALDWIN, and PFISTER are DISMISSED from this action without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.As all defendants have been dismissed from this action, the Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to modify the case caption as follows: QUENNEL AUGUSTA, Plaintiff v. UNKNOWN PARTY, Defendant. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, shoul d he wish to proceed with this case, Plaintiff shall file his Second Amended Complaint within 28 days of the entry of this order. Should Plaintiff fail to file his Second Amended Complaint within the allotted time or consistent with the instructions set forth in this Order, the entire case shall be dismissed with prejudice for failure to comply with a court order and/or for failure to prosecute. (Amended Pleadings due by 12/4/2017). Signed by Judge Staci M. Yandle on 11/6/2017. (tjk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Case No. 17-cv-798-SMY
EMPLOYEES OF VANDALIA
EMPLOYEES OF IDOC,
RANDY PFISTER, and
EMPLOYEES OF STATEVILLE
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
YANDLE, District Judge:
The Original Complaint in this case (Doc. 1) was filed by two Vandalia Correctional
Center (“Vandalia”) inmates: Quennel Augusta and Shawn J. Flores. Plaintiffs filed the action
pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that they have been subjected to unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at Vandalia and at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”). On
September 1, 2017, the Court entered an Order pursuant to Boribourne v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852
(7th Cir. 2004). (Doc. 5). On October 4, 2017, consistent with the Boribourne Order and
Plaintiffs’ responses (or failure to respond), Plaintiff Flores’s claims were severed into a new
action (17-cv-1071-NJR) and Plaintiff Augusta was granted leave to file an amended complaint.
On October 24, 2017, Plaintiff Augusta filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 15) and a
Motion to Request Advice (Doc. 16). On November 1, 2017, he filed a “Motion for Instant
Action” (Doc. 17), which the Court construes as a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order.
This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Amended Complaint
(Doc. 15) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and to address Plaintiff’s Motion to Request Advice
(Doc. 16) and Motion for Instant Action (Doc. 17).
Section 1915A provides as follows:
(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
(b) Grounds for Dismissal – On review, the court shall identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the
(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 in fact.”
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, 102627 (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. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577
F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).
The Complaint must also comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
which requires that a pleading set forth a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it demands
more than bare legal conclusions and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.
Id; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“the pleading standard Rule 8...demands
more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” and “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice”); Alexander v. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013) (conclusory statements
and labels are insufficient). A complaint must, at a minimum, give the defendant fair notice of
what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests; and the factual allegations must raise a
right to relief above the speculative level. See Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599,
602-03 (7th Cir. 2009).
After fully considering the relevant allegations in Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, the
Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.
The Amended Complaint
Plaintiff asserts a litany of complaints about the conditions at Vandalia including: broken
toilets and faucets (Doc. 15, p. 7); an outbreak of scabies somewhere in the prison (Doc. 15, p.
7); inadequate heat and/or air conditioning (Doc. 15, pp. 7-9); dirty bug infested mattresses (Doc.
15, pp. 5,7); failure to give certain inmates working outside cold drinking water (“work camp”
inmates receive ice water, but “uphill” inmates do not receive ice water) (Doc. 15, p. 9); the
microwave and phones are located in the bathrooms, there is no antibacterial soap (Doc. 15, pp.
5, 11); cleaning supplies are inadequate (Doc. 15, pp. 5-7, 11); and inmates are not receiving
enough juice (Doc. 15, p. 14). Plaintiff generally alleges that Vandalia is not a safe prison. For
instance, he is concerned about whether the correctional officers, many of whom are female and
outnumbered, are capable of protecting inmates in the event of a fight. (Doc. 15, pp. 13-14). He
has also witnessed many fights, involving both correctional officers and inmates. Id. Plaintiff is
concerned that inmates, including mentally ill inmates, are allowed to use razors to shave
because these razors could be used as weapons. (Doc. 15, p. 8). He claims that his life is in
danger, but does not identify any specific threat to his safety (Doc. 15, pp. 8-10). Instead, he
describes general concerns about safety issues at Vandalia. Plaintiff also alleges that employees
have been tampering with his mail by opening it without his permission. (Doc. 15, p. 9).
With regard to the above allegations, it is often unclear whether Plaintiff has been
personally subjected to the complained of conditions or if he is generally describing conditions
he has observed or otherwise become aware of at Vandalia. Also, although some of the
allegations are directed against “employees of Vandalia” or “employees of IDOC,” most of the
claims are not associated with any particular defendant.
Plaintiff does direct a few specific allegations against a correctional officer identified as
McHaffrey. (Doc. 15, pp. 10-12). For instance, he claims that McHaffrey denied him lunch on
one occasion because Plaintiff was running late and also denied him a shower on one occasion.
Id. McHaffrey, however, is not named as a defendant in this action. Accordingly, any claims
directed against him shall be disregarded. See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551 (7th Cir.
Before addressing the specific allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Court finds it
appropriate to eliminate certain defendants from the case at the outset. Plaintiff has named
several categories of individuals as defendants, including “Employees of Vandalia Correctional
Center,” “Employees of IDOC” and “Employees of Stateville Correctional Center.” These
groups of individuals are not appropriate defendants and must be dismissed.
To state a § 1983 claim against an individual or entity, a plaintiff must specifically
identify them, by name or Doe designation. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007); FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). Here, Plaintiff has attempted to implicate an amorphous
collection of unnamed individuals in connection with his allegations. This is insufficient to state
a claim. Therefore, “Employees of Vandalia Correctional Center,” “Employees of IDOC” and
Employees of Stateville Correctional Center will be dismissed from this action with prejudice.
However, the dismissal is without prejudice as to specific individuals who are employees of
these entities being named as defendants in an amended pleading.
The remaining defendants, Stephanie Waggoner (warden), Bruce Rauner (governor),
John Baldwin (IDOC director) and Randy Pfister (warden) will also be dismissed. Other than
Waggoner, these individuals are identified as defendants in the case caption and/or list of
defendants, but are not referenced in the body of the Complaint. Merely naming a party in the
caption of a complaint is not sufficient to state a claim against him or her. Collins v. Kibort, 143
F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998). Further, Plaintiff’s failure to assert a specific act of wrongdoing as
to these individuals does not satisfy the personal involvement requirement necessary for § 1983
liability. See Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995) (“to recover damages under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must establish that a defendant was personally responsible for the deprivation
of a constitutional right.”). Waggoner is referenced in the body of the Complaint as the
individual who is responsible for inmate safety at Vandalia. (Doc. 15, p. 7). However, she is not
subject to liability merely because she is a supervisor. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676
(2009). For these reasons, Waggoner, Rauner, Baldwin and Pfister shall be dismissed from this
action without prejudice.
Plaintiff’s Complaint asserts numerous claims that are not associated with any particular
defendant. This, standing alone, is grounds for dismissing the Complaint. See Hoskins v.
Poelstra, 320 F.3d 761, 764 (7th Cir. 2003) (plaintiffs must make allegations that associate
specific defendants with specific claims, so the defendants are put on notice of the claims
brought against them and so they can properly answer the complaint). However, even if Plaintiff
had associated his claims with a specific defendant, the Complaint would still be subject to
dismissal. Plaintiff complains of various conditions at Vandalia, but it is not entirely clear which
of the complained of conditions, if any, have actually affected Plaintiff. Additionally, many of
the allegations are conclusory and/or simply do not suggest the deprivation of a constitutional
right. Finally, with respect to Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims, the Complaint is devoid of
any allegations suggesting that officials have acted with deliberate indifference to the
complained of conditions. Plaintiff merely alleges that certain objectionable conditions exist.
Without more information, the Complaint (1) fails to comply with Rule 8 because it does
not provide defendants with fair notice of what Plaintiff’s claims are and the grounds upon which
his claims rest and (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. As such, the
Complaint shall be DISMISSED without prejudice and with leave to amend.
Motion for Instant Action
Plaintiff has filed a “Motion for Instant Action” (Doc. 157). In the motion, Plaintiff
requests “protected custody” from Vandalia employees. (Doc. 157, p. 1). He claims that Officer
Smith insisted on searching his legal mail for contraband. (Doc. 157, pp. 1-2). When Plaintiff
refused to allow Smith to search his mail (Plaintiff wanted to conduct the search himself), he was
escorted to segregation. Id. Plaintiff further claims that when Smith placed him in segregation, he
twisted Plaintiff’s arm, causing his shoulder to hurt. (Doc. 157, p. 2). Plaintiff remained in
segregation for approximately a day. Id. Plaintiff complained to the warden and the warden told
him to write her a letter. Id. Plaintiff contends that writing a letter will not prevent correctional
officers from beating him. Id. Therefore, Plaintiff asks the Court to immediately transfer him to
another prison. Id.
The Court construes Plaintiff’s motion as a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order
(“TRO”). The Federal Rules allow issuance of a TRO only if specific facts in an affidavit or
verified complaint show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the
movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition. FED. R. CIV. P. 65(b)(1). To obtain a
TRO, Plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he is reasonably likely to succeed on the merits, (2)
there is no adequate remedy at law, (3) if the injunction is not granted he will suffer irreparable
harm, (4) the irreparable harm he will suffer outweighs the harm to the defendants if the
injunction is granted, (5) and the injunction will not harm the public interest. Joelner v. Vill. of
Washington Park, Illinois, 378 F.3d 613, 619 (7th Cir. 2004).
To the extent that Plaintiff is seeking a TRO based on his legal mail being opened and
searched, he has failed to make a clear showing that he is reasonably likely to succeed on the
merits. First, the Amended Complaint, which barely references issues pertaining to Plaintiff’s
mail, is being dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Second, although a prisoner’s rights may be violated when legal mail is opened outside
of his presence, prison officials may inspect all mail for contraband. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 575-77 (1974); Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 685-86 (7th Cir. 2005). Here,
Plaintiff objects because Smith, in Plaintiff’s presence, insisted on checking Plaintiff’s mail for
contraband. This allegation, standing alone, does not suggest a violation of Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights. With respect to the inspection of Plaintiff’s legal mail for contraband, there
is no indication that irreparable harm will result if a TRO is not issued.
Plaintiff has also failed to make a clear showing of irreparable harm with regard to his
claim that submitting a letter to the warden will not prevent correctional officers from beating
him. His generalized fear (that he could suffer some sort of harm at the hands of correctional
officers) appears to be speculative at best. Plaintiff has not identified any specific, immediate
threat to his safety and mere speculation is not enough. Thus, Plaintiff has not established that he
is entitled to a TRO and his Motion for Instant Action (Doc. 17) is DENIED without prejudice.
Request for Legal Advice
Plaintiff has filed a Request for Legal Advice (Doc. 16), asking the Court to give him
information about tampering with mail. As the Court is barred from giving litigants legal advice,
the motion must be DENIED. If Plaintiff wishes to assert a claim pertaining to this issue, he may
do so if and when he files his Second Amended Complaint.
Motion for Recruitment of Counsel
The dismissal of the Complaint without prejudice raises the question of whether Plaintiff
is capable of drafting a viable amended complaint without the assistance of counsel. 1 When a pro
se litigant submits a request for assistance of counsel, the Court must first consider whether the
indigent plaintiff has made reasonable attempts to secure counsel on his own. Navejar v. Iyiola,
718 F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir. 2007)). If
so, the Court must examine “whether the difficulty of the case—factually and legally—exceeds
There is no constitutional or statutory right to counsel in federal civil cases. Romanelli v. Suliene, 615
F.3d 847, 851 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1006 (7th Cir. 2006).
Nevertheless, the district court has discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) to recruit counsel for an
indigent litigant. Ray v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 706 F.3d 864, 866–67 (7th Cir. 2013).
the particular plaintiff's capacity as a layperson to coherently present it.” Navejar, 718 F.3d at
696 (quoting Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655). “The question...is whether the plaintiff appears competent
to litigate his own claims, given their degree of difficulty, and this includes the tasks that
normally attend litigation: evidence gathering, preparing and responding to motions and other
court filings, and trial.” Pruitt, 503 F.3d at 655. The Court also considers such factors as the
plaintiff’s “literacy, communication skills, education level, and litigation experience.” Id.
Plaintiff has not provided sufficient information for the Court to determine if he has made
reasonable attempts to obtain counsel on his own. Accordingly, the Court cannot discern if the
first requirement has been met. As to the second inquiry, Plaintiff states that he has some high
school education. This, standing alone, does not suggest Plaintiff is unable to coherently present
his claims to the Court. At this juncture, the Court is merely concerned with whether this action
can get out of the gate, so to speak. All that is required is for Plaintiff to focus his allegations,
describe how his rights have been violated, and identify who violated his rights. Plaintiff alone
has knowledge of these facts. No legal training or knowledge is required to set them down on
paper, and there is presently no indication that Plaintiff’s mental status prevents him from
relaying these facts.
Thus, recruitment of counsel is not warranted at this time, and the Motion for
Recruitment of Counsel (Doc. 3) is DENIED without prejudice. The Court will remain open to
appointing counsel as the case progresses.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the COMPLAINT is DISMISSED without prejudice
for failure to comply with Rule 8 and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Employees of Vandalia Correctional Center,
Employees of IDOC, and Employees of Stateville Correctional Center are DISMISSED from
this action with prejudice. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to terminate these groups of
individuals as parties in CM/ECF.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that WAGGONER, RAUNER, BALDWIN, and
PFISTER are DISMISSED from this action without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to terminate these individuals as
parties in CM/ECF.
As all defendants have been dismissed from this action, the Clerk of Court is
DIRECTED to modify the case caption as follows: QUENNEL AUGUSTA, Plaintiff v.
UNKNOWN PARTY, Defendant.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, should he wish to proceed with this case, Plaintiff
shall file his Second Amended Complaint within 28 days of the entry of this order (on or before
December 4, 2017). Should Plaintiff fail to file his Second Amended Complaint within the
allotted time or consistent with the instructions set forth in this Order, the entire case shall be
dismissed with prejudice for failure to comply with a court order and/or for failure to prosecute.
FED. R. APP. P. 41(b). See generally Ladien v. Astrachan, 128 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir. 1997);
Johnson v. Kamminga, 34 F.3d 466 (7th Cir. 1994); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Such dismissal shall
count as one of Plaintiff’s three allotted “strikes” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
Should Plaintiff decide to file a Second Amended Complaint, it is strongly recommended
that he use the forms designed for use in this District for such actions. He should label the form,
“Second Amended Complaint,” and he should use the case number for this action (i.e. 17-cv798-SMY). The pleading should focus on claims that pertain to Plaintiff as opposed to
generalized conditions at Vandalia. Further, the pleading shall present each claim in a separate
count, and each count shall specify, by name or Doe designation, each defendant alleged to be
liable under the count, as well as the actions alleged to have been taken by that defendant.
Plaintiff should attempt to include the facts of his case in chronological order, inserting each
defendant’s name where necessary to identify the actors. Plaintiff should refrain from filing
unnecessary exhibits. Plaintiff should include only related claims in his new complaint. Claims
found to be unrelated will be severed into new cases, new case numbers will be assigned, and
additional filing fees will be assessed.
An amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint, rendering the
original complaint void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass’n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n.1
(7th Cir. 2004). The Court will not accept piecemeal amendments to a complaint. Thus, the First
Amended Complaint must stand on its own, without reference to any previous pleading, and
Plaintiff must re-file any exhibits he wishes the Court to consider along with the First Amended
Complaint. The First Amended Complaint is subject to review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
No service shall be ordered on any defendant until after the Court completes its § 1915A review
of the First Amended Complaint.
Plaintiff is further ADVISED that his obligation to pay the filing fee for this action was
incurred at the time the action was filed, thus the filing fee of $350.00 2 remains due and payable,
regardless of whether Plaintiff elects to file a First Amended Complaint. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b)(1); Lucien v. Jockisch, 133 F.3d 464, 467 (7th Cir. 1998).
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
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1914, effective May 1, 2013, an additional $50.00 administrative fee is also to
be assessed in all civil actions, unless pauper status has been granted.
independently investigate his whereabouts. This shall be done in writing and not later than
7 days after a transfer or other change in address occurs. 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).
In order to assist Plaintiff in preparing his amended complaint, the Clerk of Court is
DIRECTED to mail Plaintiff a blank civil rights complaint form.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: November 6, 2017
s/ STACI M. YANDLE
United States District Judge
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