Jennings, Jr. v. Garner et al
ORDER REFERRING CASE to Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams. Signed by Chief Judge Michael J. Reagan on 12/5/2017. (tjk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
JAMES C. JENNINGS, Jr., #Y14477,
and MS. COLLINS,
Case No. 17-cv-01220-MJR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
REAGAN, Chief District Judge:
Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violations of his constitutional rights at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff claims that he was attacked by another inmate on July 26, 2017, after being denied
protective custody by Mr. Garner (internal affairs officer), Ms. Collins (head counselor), and
Sherry Benton (administrative review board chairperson). (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11, 19-24, 31-34, 3639). He was issued a disciplinary ticket for fighting and held for six days in disciplinary
segregation before the ticket was dismissed. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11, 25-30, 41-46). Plaintiff now
seeks monetary damages against the defendants. (Doc. 1, p. 12, 35, 40).
This matter is before the Court for preliminary review of the 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
(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
Id. 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, 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 in 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 survives screening under this standard.
Plaintiff was attacked by another inmate after being denied protective custody at Menard
in June and July 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 10-11, 31-34, 36-39). He was released from segregation
into Menard’s East Cell House on or around June 17, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Two days later,
several well-known “moes” 1 approached Plaintiff and told him to check into protective custody
for his own safety. Id. One of these inmates, known as “Scooter,” approached Plaintiff in the
prison yard and threatened to “stab [him] up” if he did not do so. Id.
Plaintiff allegedly owed several inmates money at the time. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He apparently
intended to repay them with items he purchased from the prison commissary. Id. However,
Plaintiff does not define this term, but uses it throughout the Complaint. The exhibits suggest that this
term is used to refer to other inmates who have gang affiliations.
Plaintiff was subject to commissary restrictions because of his B-grade status. Id. Consequently,
he was only allowed to spend $30.00 at the commissary. Id.
Plaintiff approached a lieutenant and asked him for permission to spend the entire
$100.00 balance in his account. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff failed to mention that he owed anyone
money. Id. The lieutenant suspected this and, after denying Plaintiff’s request, asked another
inmate named “U-Mac” if Plaintiff “owed everybody.” Id. When U-Mac told Plaintiff about the
lieutenant’s inquiry, Plaintiff denied any outstanding financial obligations to other inmates. Id.
Plaintiff nevertheless requested protective custody, and his request was temporarily
granted. (Doc. 1, p. 8). After reporting the inmate threats to Counselor Collins and requesting
continued protective placement, she denied the request. Id. Internal Affairs Officer Garner did
the same. (Doc. 1, p. 10).
On July 20, 2017, Plaintiff spoke with Chairperson Benton about the matter. (Doc. 1, p.
10). In addition to reporting the recent threats made by Scooter and other inmates, Plaintiff
allegedly told Benton that Internal Affairs Officer “Gee” previously informed Plaintiff that he
should not be housed on “the hill” at Menard and would be transferred. (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 19-24).
Benton agreed to look into the matter. (Doc. 1, p. 10). While she did so, Plaintiff remained in
protective custody. Id. On July 25, 2017, Plaintiff received paperwork from Benton that denied
his request for protective custody and resulted in his transfer to Menard’s West Cell House. Id.
Plaintiff claims that “everybody from the East House” also transferred to the West Cell
House around the same time. (Doc. 1, p. 10). When Plaintiff went to the prison yard, Scooter
approached Plaintiff and told him that he was not supposed to be “on loca.” Id. He was attacked
the following day. Id.
As Plaintiff returned from the gym to the West Cell House on July 26, 2017, Inmate
Elliot stepped out of line and struck Plaintiff in the right ear. (Doc. 1, p. 10). The blow to his
head caused Plaintiff to feel dizzy and lightheaded. Id. He fell to the ground. Id. Inmate Elliot
then climbed on top of Plaintiff and began hitting him in the face. Id. When Plaintiff shielded
his face with his hands, Inmate Elliot hit Plaintiff in his left ear and caused serious bleeding.
(Doc. 1, p. 11).
Following the incident, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary ticket for fighting and taken to
segregation. (Doc. 1, pp. 11, 25-27). He spoke with Internal Affairs Officer Gee about the
ticket, and Gee assured Plaintiff that he would speak directly to the lieutenant in charge of his
disciplinary hearing. Id. In the meantime, Plaintiff remained in segregation, where he wrote the
lieutenant a kite challenging the ticket and his punishment with segregation. Id. The lieutenant
ultimately dismissed the ticket on August 1, 2017. Id. On the same date, Plaintiff transferred
from segregation into protective custody, where he remained until transferring to Shawnee
Correctional Center. Id.
In the statement of his claim, Plaintiff does not complain about the denial of medical care
for the injuries he sustained on July 26, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 11). However, his exhibits point to a
possible delay or denial of medical care. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11, 19-24, 31-34, 36-39). Plaintiff was
allegedly treated in the prison health care unit by a nurse on August 6, 2017. Id. He objects to
the $5.00 co-pay he was charged for these services. Id.
Plaintiff now seeks monetary damages against the defendants for their “negligence” in
denying him protective custody and for his placement in disciplinary segregation on false
disciplinary charges for six days. (Doc. 1, pp. 12, 35, 40).
To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in
accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the
Court deems it appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff’s pro se Complaint into the
Count 1 -
Defendants failed to protect Plaintiff from a known risk of harm
from Scooter, Elliot, and other “moes” at Menard, in violation of
the Eighth Amendment, when they denied his requests for
protective custody in June and July 2017.
Count 2 -
Defendants deprived Plaintiff of liberty without due process of
law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, when placing him
in segregation for six days following his attack by Inmate Elliot
and pending a hearing on the disciplinary ticket he received for
Count 3 -
Plaintiff received inadequate medical care for the injuries he
sustained during the attack by Inmate Elliot on July 26, 2017, in
violation of the Eighth Amendment.
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 designations do not constitute an
opinion regarding their merit. Any claim not identified above but encompassed by the
allegations in the Complaint shall be considered dismissed without prejudice from this
Claim Subject to Further Review
The Supreme Court has long held that “prison officials have a duty . . . to protect
prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833
(1994) (internal citations omitted); Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 889 (7th Cir. 2006).
However, not every harm caused by another inmate translates into constitutional liability for the
officers who are responsible for the prisoner’s safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. In order to state
a failure to protect claim, a plaintiff must allege that (1) he was incarcerated under conditions
posing a substantial risk of serious harm (i.e., an objective standard), and (2) the defendant acted
with deliberate indifference to that risk (i.e., a subjective standard). Id.; Pinkston, 440 F.3d at
889. The Complaint satisfies both components of this claim for screening purposes.
With regard to the objective component, the Seventh Circuit has held that a generalized
risk of violence does not support an Eighth Amendment claim. Riccardo v. Rausch, 375 F.3d
521, 525 (7th Cir. 2004). Plaintiff must allege a “tangible threat to his safety or well-being.”
Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 777 (7th Cir. 2008). For screening purposes, Plaintiff
describes a sufficiently serious threat to his safety when referring to the warnings he received
from other inmates and the threat he received from Scooter just days before the attack by Inmate
Elliot. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11).
The subjective component of this claim is satisfied where allegations suggest that the
defendant knew that an attack was “almost certain to materialize if nothing [wa]s done” and took
no action despite being in a position to do so. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 911 (7th Cir. 2005).
Although Plaintiff characterizes the defendants’ conduct as negligence, the allegations suggest
that it rose to the level of deliberate indifference. See Norfleet v. Walker, 684 F.3d 688 (7th Cir.
2012) (courts must analyze a pro se litigant’s potential claims and not just the legal theories he
propounds). A liberal construction of the Complaint supports an Eighth Amendment claim
against all three defendants because each denied Plaintiff’s request for continued protective
placement after learning of the specific threats he received in June and July 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 811). Plaintiff was attacked the day after he was released back into the general population. Id.
Count 1 therefore survives screening against Defendants Garner, Benton, and Collins.
Claims Subject to Dismissal
Plaintiff complains that he was unfairly detained in disciplinary segregation for six days,
pending a hearing on the ticket he received for fighting. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11). To trigger due
process protections under the Fourteenth Amendment, he must possess a protected liberty
Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S 215, 223-24 (1976).
A transfer into disciplinary
segregation for an “extended period under particularly harsh conditions may constitute a
deprivation of liberty sufficient to require constitutionally minimal process.” James v. Pfister, -F. App’x --, 2017 WL 3880880 (7th Cir. Sept. 1, 2017) (citing Kervin v. Barnes, 787 F.3d 833,
835-37 (7th Cir. 2015); Hardaway v. Meyerhoff, 734 F.3d 740, 743 (7th Cir. 2013); Marion v.
Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 697 (7th Cir. 2009)). A protected liberty interest arises only
when Plaintiff’s confinement in segregation “impose[s] an ‘atypical and significant hardship on
the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.’” Hardaway, 734 F.3d at 743
(citing Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)). Courts consider two factors when making
this determination: “the combined import of the duration of the segregative [sic] confinement
and the conditions endured.” Id. at 743 (citing Marion, 559 F.3d at 697-98) (emphasis in
original). In other words, a liberty interest may arise if the length of confinement in segregation
is substantial and the record reveals that the conditions of confinement were unusually harsh.
Marion, 559 F.3d at 697-98, n. 2.
This claim presents several problems. First, Plaintiff was only held in segregation for six
days, a short duration under most standards. Unless the conditions were particularly harsh,
Plaintiff’s confinement in disciplinary segregation would not give rise to a protected liberty
interest. Second, Plaintiff fails to describe the conditions he faced in disciplinary segregation.
Therefore, the Court is unable to assess whether the conditions were sufficiently harsh to trigger
a liberty interest or due process protections. Third, Plaintiff identifies no due process violations
in connection with the disciplinary ticket. Safeguards typically include: (1) advance written
notice of the charges against the plaintiff; (2) the opportunity to appear before an impartial
hearing body to contest the charges; (3) the opportunity to call witnesses and present
documentary evidence in his defense (if prison safety allows and subject to the discretion of
correctional officers); and (4) a written statement summarizing the reasons for the discipline
imposed. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-69 (1974). In fact, Plaintiff appears to
have received the process he was due. Following a hearing, Plaintiff’s ticket was dismissed, and
he was released from disciplinary segregation. Finally, he names no defendants in connection
with this claim. Count 2 does not survive screening for each of these reasons and shall be
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim.
The Complaint articulates no colorable Eighth Amendment claim against the defendants
for the denial or delay of adequate medical care following Plaintiff’s attack on July 26, 2017.
Plaintiff’s only complaint regarding medical treatment in the statement of claim pertains to the
$5.00 co-payment he was charged for services on August 6, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 11). This gives
rise to no constitutional claim.
An inmate’s constitutional rights are not violated by the
collection of a fee for prison medical or dental services. Whether or not a statutory exemption
should apply to the co-payment rule is a question of state law and is not cognizable in a § 1983
action. Poole v. Isaacs, 703 F.3d 1024, 1027 (7th Cir. 2012) (“the imposition of a modest fee for
medical services, standing alone, does not violate the Constitution”).
In several grievances that he included as exhibits to the Complaint, Plaintiff complained
of a delay in treating his ear injury. (Doc. 1, pp. 20, 22, 24, 42, 44, 46). A delay in treating a
serious medical condition can rise to the level of deliberate indifference and support an Eighth
Amendment claim. McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976); Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 463 (7th Cir. 2009)). However,
Plaintiff does not mention any delayed treatment in the statement of his claim. (Doc. 1, pp. 811). He also names no individual – let alone a defendant – in connection with a medical claim.
Id. Where a plaintiff has not identified a defendant in reference to a claim, the defendant cannot
be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims, if any, are directed against him.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Liability under § 1983 hinges on personal involvement in or
responsibility for the deprivation of a constitutional right. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d
724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001)).
A state official may be held liable, if he “caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation.”
Sheik-Abdi v. McClellan, 37 F.3d 1240, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994) (citing Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699
F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983)); see also Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809, 810 (7th
Cir. 2005). Therefore, to state a claim against an individual defendant for the denial of medical
care, Plaintiff must associate specific defendants with the misconduct that resulted in his denial
of adequate treatment. Having failed to do so, Plaintiff cannot proceed with his claim for money
damages in Count 3 against the defendants, and this claim shall be dismissed without prejudice.
Claims Against Non-Parties
In the statement of his claim, Plaintiff mentions several individuals who are not named as
defendants in this action.
These individuals include Internal Affairs Officer Gee, two
lieutenants, and a nurse, among others. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11). When parties are not listed in the
caption, this Court will not treat them as defendants, and any claims against them should be
considered dismissed without prejudice. See FED. R. CIV. P. 10(a) (noting that the title of the
complaint “must name all the parties”); Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir.
2005) (holding that to be properly considered a party, a defendant must be “specif[ied] in the
caption”). Accordingly, any claims against these individuals shall be considered dismissed
without prejudice from this action.
IFP Motion (Doc. 2)
Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and the motion shall be
addressed in a separate court order.
Motion for Recruitment of Counsel (Doc. 3)
Plaintiff filed a motion for recruitment of counsel, which shall be referred to a
United States Magistrate Judge for a decision.
Exhibit (Doc. 6)
Finally, Plaintiff filed a set of exhibits, which the Court reviewed but did not construe as
part of the Complaint. The Court does not accept piecemeal amendments to the Complaint.
Further, the exhibits did not impact the screening of this matter. The first four pages consist of
payment authorizations for photocopies, which are irrelevant to the claims at issue in this case.
(Doc. 6, pp. 1-4). The final two pages consist of a request for relief that is already included in
the Complaint. (Doc. 1, p. 12; Doc. 6, pp. 5-6). The exhibits shall remain on file for Plaintiff’s
use, but are not incorporated into the original Complaint.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that COUNTS 2 and 3 are DISMISSED without prejudice
against all of the defendants for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
IT IS ORDERED that COUNT 1 survives preliminary review and shall proceed against
Defendants GARNER, BENTON, and COLLINS.
With regard to COUNT 1, the Clerk shall prepare for Defendants GARNER, BENTON,
and COLLINS: (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 (Doc. 1), and this Memorandum and Order to each Defendant’s place of
employment as identified by Plaintiff. 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.
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. § 1997e(g).
Pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(a)(2), this action is REFERRED to United States Magistrate
Judge Stephen C. Williams for further pre-trial proceedings, including a decision on the motion
for recruitment of counsel (Doc. 3), pursuant to Local Rule 72.2(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), if
all parties consent to such a referral. Further, this entire matter shall be REFERRED to United
States Magistrate Judge Williams for disposition, pursuant to Local Rule 72.2(b)(2) and
28 U.S.C. § 636(c), if all parties consent to such a referral.
If judgment is rendered against Plaintiff, and the judgment includes the payment of costs
under § 1915, Plaintiff will be required to pay the full amount of the costs, regardless of whether
his application to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(f)(2)(A).
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 3.1(c)(1).
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 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).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: December 5, 2017
s/ MICHAEL J. REAGAN
United States Chief 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?