United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee Judge
Stewart (“Stewart”), pro se, has filed a
civil rights complaint against the Allen County Jail, and two
correctional officers, one of which is identified as
“unknown employee, ” along with a Petition to
Proceed In Forma Pauperis. [DE 2]. For the following
reasons, the Petition will be GRANTED.
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee of $400 to bring
an action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).
However, the federal in forma pauperis statute, 28
U.S.C. § 1915, provides indigent litigants an
opportunity for meaningful access to the federal courts
despite their inability to pay the costs and fees associated
with that access. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319 (1989). To authorize a litigant to proceed in forma
pauperis, the Court must make two determinations: first,
whether the litigant is unable to pay the costs of commencing
the action, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1); and second, whether
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, 28 U.S.C.
the first inquiry, an indigent party may commence an action
in federal court, without prepayment of costs and fees, upon
submission of an affidavit asserting an inability “to
pay such costs or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a). Here, the Petitioner states that he is
unemployed, has seven (7) dependents and is supported entirely by
his grandparents. Based on this income information, it
appears that he is financially eligible for in forma
inquiry does not end there, however. District courts have an
obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen
complaints before service on the defendants, and must dismiss
the complaint if it does not fall within the court's
jurisdiction, is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
complaint attempts to sue the Allen County Jail because he
claims his rights were violated during his time in custody.
However, the jail is a building. It is not a suable entity.
Smith v. Knox County Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th
Cir. 2012). Thus, the jail is not a proper defendant and must
be dismissed from the suit.
complaint also identifies one of the defendants as
“unknown employee.” However, “it is
pointless to include lists of anonymous defendants in federal
court; this type of placeholder does not open the door to
relation back under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, nor can it otherwise
help the plaintiff.” Wudtke v. Davel, 128 F.3d
1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). Therefore,
this defendant will be dismissed.
leaves Stewart's complaint against “Correctional
Officer Jackson.” 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). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level, on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555 (quotation marks, citations and footnote omitted).
“[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.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
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).
appears to make two claims of alleged constitutional
deprivations in his complaint. The first is a conditions of
confinement claim in which he contends he lost weight because
he was not receiving the proper nutrients. He has identified
“unknown employee” as the individual who
allegedly denied him proper nutrition and he does not set
forth any facts as to what “nutrients” he was not
receiving. As indicated previously, a claim against
“unknown employee” is insufficient to maintain a
claim for relief. Stewart also does not identify Correctional
Officer Jackson as having participated in this alleged
deprivation of rights. This is fatal to this claim because
section 1983 requires a plaintiff to establish that each
defendant “ ‘was personally responsible for the
deprivation of a constitutional right.'” Knight
v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 462-63 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citation omitted) (quoting Johnson v. Snyder, 444
F.3d 579, 583 (7th Cir. 2006)). Here, Stewart has not alleged
any identified defendant has participated in the violations
he alleges with respect to his nutritional needs. As a
result, he cannot proceed on his conditions of confinement
second complaint appears to be a claim under the Eighth
Amendment for denial of proper medical care. Stewart does not
indicate if he was a pre-trial detainee when he alleges these
events occurred. "Although the Eighth Amendment applies
only to convicted persons, pretrial detainees . . . are
entitled to the same basic protections under the Fourteenth
Amendment's due process clause. Accordingly, [courts]
apply the same legal standards to deliberate indifference
claims brought under either the Eighth or Fourteenth
Amendment." Minix v. Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824,
831 (7th Cir. 2010).
the Eighth Amendment, inmates are entitled to adequate
medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104
(1976). To establish liability, a prisoner must satisfy both
an objective and subjecting component by showing: (1) his
medical need was objectively serious; and (2) the defendant
acted with deliberate indifference to that medical need.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A
medical need is "serious" if it is one that a
physician has diagnosed as mandating treatment, or one that
is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize
the necessity for a doctor's attention. Greeno v.
Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005).
subjective prong, the plaintiff must establish that the
defendant "acted in an intentional or criminally
reckless manner, i.e., the defendant must have known that the
plaintiff was at serious risk of being harmed and decided not
to do anything to prevent that harm from occurring even
though he could have easily done so." Board v.
Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005).
Stewart alleges that “Correctional Officer Jackson was
negligent in informing the proper officials of my medical
condition.” He goes on to state that he informed
Officer Jackson that he “was feeling dizzy and
lightheaded because of my high blood pressure.” He then
indicates that as a result of not being treated he
“fainted, fell, and hit the back of my head.”
Complaint, p. 2. While these are bare-bone allegations, at
this early stage of the litigation the court asks only
whether the complaint, liberally construed, Arnett v.
Webster,658 F.3d 746, 751 (7th Cir. 2011),
and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor,
Thulin v. Shopko Stores,771 F.3d 994, 997
(7thCir. 2014), contains facts sufficient to state
a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against Officer Jackson.
The Court believes that it has. The Court emphasizes that
this conclusion is simply a pre-screening function performed
by this court before discovery, before submission of any
evidence, and before the defendant is even served process.