STIGLER-EL v. STILWELL et al
ENTRY discussing complaint and directing further proceedings. The plaintiff shall have through 7/11/2014 in which to show cause why Judgment consistent with this Entry should not issue. Signed by Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 6/11/2014 (dist made)(CBU)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
C. STILWELL, F. VANIHEL,
J. CUNNINGHAM, C. CRAGE,
Case No. 1:13-cv-1961-SEB-DML
Entry Discussing Complaint and Directing Further Proceedings
Plaintiff Gaius Stigler-El is an inmate currently confined at the Plainfield Correctional
Facility. He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a violation of the First,
Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. He names the following defendants: C Stilwell,
Internal Affairs; F. Vanihel, Internal Affairs; J. Cunningham, Impartial Decision Maker; and, C.
Grage, Assistant Superintendent.1 He is seeking punitive and compensatory damages and
Because Stigler-El is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), the Court must
screen his complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Pursuant to this statute, “[a]
complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim if the allegations, taken as true, show
that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief.” Jones v. Bock, 127 S. Ct. 910, 921 (2007). A complaint
Stigler-El’s complaint does not indicate whether he is suing the defendants in their individual or official
capacities or both. To the extent Stigler-El is suing the defendants in their official capacities, suing a state
employee in his official capacity is the same as suing the state, Norfleet v. Walker, 684 F.3d 688, 690 (7th
Cir. 2010), and a state is not a person subject to an action for damages under § 1983. Will v. Michigan
Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64 (1989).
falls within this category if it “alleg[es] facts that show there is no viable claim.” Pugh v. Tribune
Co., 521 F.3d 686, 699 (7th Cir. 2008). To survive dismissal under federal pleadings standards,
[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim for relief that is plausible on its face. 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.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se complaints such as that filed by Stigler-El are
construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n. 2 (7th Cir. 2008). Nonetheless, “[p]ro se litigants are
masters of their own complaints and may choose who to sue-or not to sue,” Myles v. United
States, 416 F.3d 551, 552 (7th Cir. 2005), and the court may not rewrite a complaint to include
claims that were not presented. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999).
Stigler-El’s complaint is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A cause of action is
provided by § 1983 against “[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected,
any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United
States. Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights; instead, it is a means for
vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989)
(citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). The initial step in any § 1983 analysis
is to identify the specific constitutional right which was allegedly violated. Id. at 394; Kernats v.
O'Sullivan, 35 F.3d 1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Gossmeyer v. McDonald, 128 F.3d 481,
489-90 (7th Cir. 1997). Here, Stigler-El complains that the defendants violated his constitutional
rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments based on his religious
association with the Moorish American Citizens. The Court will address each alleged
constitutional violation in turn.
First, Stigler-El alleges that Internal Affairs Officer F. Vanihel discriminated “against G.
Stigler-El’s exercising the Moorish precepts of his Religion called ‘Islamism. . . .’” [Filing no. 1,
at ECF p. 5]. To the extent he is claiming Officer Vanihel violated the Free Exercise Clause, this
claim must be dismissed. The Establishment and Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution states
in relevant part: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . . . U.S. Const. Amend. I. There are no plausible factual
allegations in Stigler-El’s complaint to conclude that his First Amendment rights were violated
by Officer Vanihel or anyone else.
Second, Stigler-El alleges that Internal Affairs Officer C. Stilwell violated his Fifth
Amendment right to due process causing a deprivation of his “Liberty of Citizenship.” [Filing
no. 1, at ECF p. 3]. The Fifth Amendment states in relevant part: no person shall be deprived of
life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. U.S. Const. Amend. V. Here, Stigler-El’s
complaint contains no factual allegations from which this Court can extrapolate a due process
violation. This claim is dismissed.
Third, Stigler-El alleges Officer Stilwell and Assistant Superintendent C. Grage violated
his Eighth Amendment rights. The constitutional provision pertinent to Stigler-El’s claim is the
Eighth Amendment’s proscription against the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993) (“It is undisputed that the treatment a prisoner
receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the
Eighth Amendment.”). The Eighth Amendment claim is also dismissed because conditions of
confinement may rise to the level of a constitutional violation only if those conditions involved
the deprivation of a single identifiable human need or the denial of the minimal civilized
measure of life’s necessities. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298-305 (1991). Duran v. Elrod,
760 F.2d 756 (7th Cir. 1985) (“The conditions of imprisonment, whether of pretrial detainees or
of convicted criminals, do not reach even the threshold of constitutional concern until a showing
is made of ‘genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time.’”) (quoting Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 542 (1979)). Any Eighth Amendment claim thought to be brought against
Officer Stilwell is not clear from the complaint, and the claims against Assistant Superintendent
Grage are based on alleged comments that Grage made that were defamatory and caused StiglerEl emotional distress. However, these allegations do not even remotely suggest an Eighth
Amendment deprivation. Verbal abuse, harassment, and unprofessional conduct do not rise to the
level of a constitutional violation for which relief may be granted in a civil rights case. Johnson
v. Unknown Dellatifa, 357 F.3d 539, 546 (6th Cir.) (citing Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954-55
(6th Cir. 1987)), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 837 (2004).
Finally, Stigler-El alleges a due process violation under the Fourteenth Amendment
against Officer Stilwell, Officer Vanihel, and Impartial Decision-Maker Cunningham. It appears
that Stigler-El is alleging the defendants discriminated against him based on his religion. Again
however, Stigler-El fails to include any plausible factual allegations that would permit this Court
to conclude he was discriminated against based on his religion. The Fourteenth Amendment
claims against these defendants must be dismissed.
Stigler-El seeks declaratory relief from each defendant in the form of an apology, and
millions of dollars in money damages from each defendant.
As submitted, the complaint must be dismissed because it does not allege the element of
prejudice necessary to support the claims which are asserted and thus does not contain either
direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery
under some viable legal theory. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1969 (2007)
(quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F .2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984)). The court
may not rewrite a complaint to include claims that were not presented. Barnett v. Hargett, 174
F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999); Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993)
Stigler-El’s complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Stigler-El shall have
through July 11, 2014, in which to show cause why Judgment consistent with this Entry should
not issue. See Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1022 (7th Cir. 2013) (“Without
at least an opportunity to amend or to respond to an order to show cause, an IFP applicant’s case
could be tossed out of court without giving the applicant any timely notice or opportunity to be
heard to clarify, contest, or simply request leave to amend.”).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
THIS DOCUMENT REQUIRES ACTIONS IN ADDITION TO DOCKETING AND
Plainfield Correctional Facility
727 Moon Road
Plainfield, Indiana 46168
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