Johnson v. Decker et al
OPINION AND ORDER: The court DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint (INND Rev. 8/16) and send it to Thomas B. Johnson and GRANTS Thomas B. Johnson until 4/18/2018, to file an amended complaint. Signed by Judge Robert L Miller, Jr on 3/5/2018. (Copy mailed to pro se party w/forms)(rmc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
THOMAS B. JOHNSON,
CAUSE NO.: 3:18-CV-026-RLM-MGG
TIMOTHY P. DECKER,
JULIE LAWSON, and
OPINION AND ORDER
Thomas B. Johnson, a prisoner without a lawyer, alleges a policy of racial
segregation at St. Joseph County Jail. “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) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review the merits
of 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.
Mr. Johnson alleges the defendants “are practicing segregation by housing
African-American offenders in higher-security pods than whites, or other ethnic
groups.” (ECF 4 at 3.) A policy of that sort could form the basis for an Equal
Protection claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Johnson v. California, 543 U.S.
499 (2005) (holding that a policy of racial segregation in state prisons must be
evaluated under a strict scrutiny standard). However, Mr. Johnson has not
alleged facts sufficient to state a claim.
A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to "state a claim that
is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
"A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 556). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has
not shown—that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 679 (quotation marks
and brackets omitted). Thus, "a plaintiff must do better than putting a few words
on paper that, in the hands of an imaginative reader, might suggest that
something has happened to her that might be redressed by the law." Swanson v.
Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original).
A plaintiff “must demonstrate intentional or purposeful discrimination to
show an equal protection violation.” Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091, 1104 (7th
Cir. 1982) (quotation marks omitted). Specifically, he must show “the
decisionmaker singled out a particular group for disparate treatment and
selected his course of action at least in part for the purpose of causing its adverse
effects on the identifiable group.” Id. Mr. Johnson’s complaint doesn’t allege facts
showing specific actions taken by the defendants for the purpose of causing
adverse effects on African Americans. It relies on conclusory allegations of
discrimination. Without more, these aren’t sufficient to state a claim.
Mr. Johnson also alleges inmates are denied “the right to have grievances
properly heard” at St. Joseph County jail. No such constitutional right exists.
See Kervin v. Barnes, 787 F.3d 833, 835 (7th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he inadequacies of
the grievance procedure itself . . . cannot form the basis for a constitutional
Based on the complaint, Mr. Johnson hasn’t stated a claim for relief.
Nevertheless, because so many questions remain unanswered, he will be allowed
to file an amended complaint if he has additional factual information to provide.
See Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013). If he files an amended
complaint, Mr. Johnson must set forth every claim that he is trying to bring in
this case. He needs to provide all the relevant facts and fully explain what each
defendant did and the harm resulting from each defendant’s actions. He needs
to address the questions raised in this order.
For these reasons, the court:
(1) DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank
Prisoner Complaint (INND Rev. 8/16) and send it to Thomas B. Johnson;
(2) GRANTS Thomas B. Johnson until April 18, 2018, to file an
If Mr. Johnson doesn’t respond by the deadline, this case will be dismissed
without further notice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A because the current
complaint does not state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
SO ORDERED on March 5, 2018.
/s/ Robert L. Miller, Jr.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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