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Moon v. Lockett

United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division

May 11, 2015

CHARLES LOCKETT, et al, Defendants.



Darnell Moon was formerly confined at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana (“the FCC”). He alleges in this action that the defendants violated his federally secured rights. He seeks damages. The operative pleading setting forth his claims is the amended complaint filed on March 24, 2014 (Dkt. 7).

Moon was a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h) at the time this action was filed. Specifically, he was confined to a halfway house. This means that the Amended Complaint is subject to the screening requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). This statute directs that the court dismiss a complaint or any claim within a complaint which “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id.

Applying the screening standard of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) and the pleading standard of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the legally insufficient claims must be dismissed and the remaining claim may proceed, all consistent with the following:

1. Moon’s claims are principally asserted pursuant to the theory recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Bivens “authorizes the filing of constitutional tort suits against federal officers in much the same way that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 authorizes such suits against state officers . . . .” King v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 415 F.3d 634, 636 (7th Cir. 2005). Jurisdiction for such a claim is derived from 28 U.S.C. § 1331. To state a Bivens claim the plaintiff must allege a violation of the United States Constitution or a federal statute. Goulding v. Feinglass, 811 F.2d 1099, 1102 (7th Cir. 1987).

2. The amended complaint also asserts statutory civil rights claims and tort claims under Indiana law.

3. Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that pleadings contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163 (1993).

a. “A complaint must always . . . allege, enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face:” Limestone Development Corp. v. Village of Lemont, Ill., 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).
b. In reviewing a complaint, the court accepts the factual allegations as true, but conclusory assertions or a recitation of a cause of action's elements are not. See Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 662 (7th Cir. 2011)(“[W]e need not accept as true legal conclusions, or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.”) (internal citations omitted).
c. A plaintiff may plead himself out of court by revealing in his complaint facts that defeat his claim. See Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830–31 (7th Cir. 2007); Ciarpaglini v. Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 331 (7th Cir. 2003). A claim’s insufficiency can be “based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).
d. Pro se complaints 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).

4. At paragraphs 79–80 of the amended complaint, Moon alleges retaliation based on his having filed grievances against prison staff. This claim is actionable as to his allegation that prison staff took specific adverse actions against him by taunting him and by refusing him to move him to a new cell after being assaulted by his cellmate, but is not actionable as to his allegation that prison staff retaliated by bringing him cold meals and delaying his mail. The claim of retaliation which is actionable is viable against only a person who has participated in the retaliation may be liable. E.g., Hoskins v. Lenear, 395 F.3d 372, 375 (7th Cir. 2005). In this instance, that claim extends to defendants Harrington (¶¶ 42, 52), Gates (¶¶ 42, 47, 52), Rumple (¶¶ 42, 47, 52, 59), Booth (¶¶ 43, 49), Collins (¶¶ 47, 52, 59), Lotz (¶¶ 51, 59), Betts (¶¶ 52, 59, 64, 76), Wingerd (¶ 54), Lockett (¶¶ 60, 61), Church (¶ 60), Pitt (¶ 60), Boyer (¶ 60, 61), Rardin (¶¶ 60, 61), Beighley (¶ 60), Rupska (¶ 60), English (¶ 60), Boylan (¶¶ 62, 68), Sullivan (¶ 63), Rogers (¶¶ 64, 67), Tussey (¶ 75), and Iaucino (¶ 76). The claim of retaliation is not actionable as to defendants Peters, Puthoff, Gibbens, Booker, Klink, Heiser, Pullen, Singleton, or Miller and is dismissed as to these defendants.

5. At paragraphs 81–84 of the amended complaint, Moon alleges that 21 of the defendants “violated his substantive Due Process right to be free from oppressive and abusive executive misconduct.” He also presents a claim that several of the defendants violated his Fifth Amendment right to Equal Protection of the Law by singling him out “for unfair and discriminatory treatment based on (1) his race, and (2) filing of complaints against staff . . . .” These theories are misplaced in Moon’s present case. Claims based on the conditions of his confinement and his treatment by prison staff are properly based on the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. See 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"; prison officials have a duty to provide humane conditions of confinement by ensuring that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and by taking reasonable measures to ...

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