Williams v. Pavese et al
OPINION AND ORDER: DIRECTING the clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint form and send it to the Plaintiff; GRANTING Plaintiff to/including 6/26/2017 to file an amended complaint; DENYING 8 motion to proceed in forma pauperis; CAUTIONING Plaintiff that if he does not respond by the deadline this case will be dismissed without further notice. Signed by Judge Jon E DeGuilio on 5/30/17. (Attachments: # 1 Blank Amended Complaint form)(Copy sent to pro se party)(jld)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
MICHAEL JEROME WILLIAMS,
MICHAEL J. PAVESE, et al.,
Cause No. 3:16-CV-851 JD
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael Jerome Williams, a pro se prisoner, initially filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 alleging that he was wrongly reclassified at the Westville Correctional Facility (Westville)
and removed from the Department of Labor PEN1 program. ECF 2. The crux of his complaint
was that he has a federal right to continued enrollment in the PEN program. However, the court
explained that he had no such right. ECF 6. Though the complaint did not state a claim, he was
granted leave to file an amended complaint and clarify his allegations in the spirit of Luevano v.
Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013). Williams has now filed an amended complaint,
alleging that he was removed from the PEN program based on racial discrimination.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review a prisoner complaint and dismiss it
if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Courts apply the same
standard under Section 1915A as when deciding a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
PEN is an acronym for Prison Enterprises Network, which is a division of the Indiana Department of
Correction. It’s mission is to equip offenders for successful reentry through meaningful work and career
development while operating in a self-sustaining manner. https://secure.in.gov/idoc/penproducts/2541.htm (Last
visited Feb. 21, 2017.)
12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.
Bissessur v. Indiana Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 603. Furthermore, “[a]
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). To state claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege: “(1) that defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that the
defendants acted under color of state law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
On April 1, 2016, Williams and the entire work crew of 16 offenders were searched
leaving the PEN program. The crew consisted of 4 black offenders, 2 Hispanic offenders and 10
white offenders. Five of those individuals were found to have contraband and were disciplined.
Eleven offenders - 7 white, 3 black offenders and 1 Hispanic - passed the search and were found
to have no contraband in their possession. Four days later, the black and Hispanic offenders who
successfully passed the search were nevertheless removed from the PEN program. However, the
7 white offenders were allowed to stay. Williams alleges that “Mark Seviere, Andrew Pazera,
Mr. Salyer, Mr. Parry, Glenn Handzlik, Rob Wright, Jeff Durzynski, [and] Mr. Sizemore,”
discriminated against him based on his race. Williams also complains that “Mark Seviere,
Andrew Pazera and Michael J. Pavese were able to right the wrong,” because they reviewed the
decision to have Williams removed from the PEN program, but they upheld it.
While an inmate’s expectation keeping a specific prison job does not implicate a
protected property interest, Bulger v. U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 65 F.3d 48, 50 (5th Cir. 1995), the
equal protection clause precludes prison officials from denying a prisoner job opportunities
based on race or ethnicity. Black v. Lane, 824 F.2d 561, 562 (7th Cir.1987) (A black inmate
stated a cause of action by alleging racial discrimination in the assignment of prison jobs). Thus,
Williams’ allegation that he was terminated from the PEN program based on his race, states a
While it is clear that Williams’ allegation of race discrimination states a claim, it is not
clear which defendant(s) are alleged to have racially discriminated against him. He simply states
that the defendants discriminated against him by removing him from the program, while leaving
all the white offenders in the program. Williams does not identify any facts that establish what
role each of these defendants played in the decision to remove him from the PEN program based
on his race. And, while he complains that three defendants upheld the decision to remove him, he
fails to explain why he believes they did so based on his race. Williams must clearly explain
what each person did (or did not do) that violated his constitutional rights. Absent some factual
allegations, it is not plausible for the court to conclude that all 10 defendants racially
discriminated against him.
This omission of not identifying which defendants were personally responsible for the
alleged racial discrimination is a problem because section 1983 creates a cause of action for
damages based on personal liability. A plaintiff must show the defendant’s personal involvement
or participation, or direct responsibility for the conditions of which he complains, Starzenski v.
City of Elkhart, 87 F.3d 872, 879 (7th Cir. 1996), by demonstrating a causal link between the
defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury. Benson v. Cady, 761 F. 2d 335, 339 (7th Cir.
1985). Section 1983 defendants “are responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone
else’s.” Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009). The doctrine of respondeat
superior, which allows an employer to be held liable for subordinates’ actions in some types of
cases, has no application to § 1983 actions. Moore v. State of Indiana, 999 F.2d 1125, 1129 (7th
Cir. 1993). Because Williams has not adequately identified which defendants were personally
involved in racially discriminating against him, he will be permitted time to file an amend
complaint to do so. See Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013).
As a final matter, Williams again moves for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF 8.
This is unnecessary, as the record reflects that Williams has already been granted leave to
proceed in forma pauperis. ECF 4.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court:
(1) DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint form
and send it to Michael Jerome Williams;
(2) GRANTS Michael Jerome Williams to and including June 26, 2017, to file an
(3) DENIES the motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF 8); and
(4) CAUTIONS him that if he does not respond by the deadline, this case will be
dismissed without further notice.
ENTERED: May 30, 2017
/s/ JON E. DEGUILIO
United States District Court
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