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Pritt v. Layton

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 11, 2017

STEVEN W. PRITT, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN LAYTON Sheriff; sued in individual capacity, et al. Defendants.

          ENTRY SCREENING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         I. Screening Standard

         Plaintiff Steven W. Pritt is a prisoner currently incarcerated at the New Castle Correctional Facility. He brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his constitutional rights were violated while he was confined at the Marion County Jail. Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen his complaint before service on the defendants. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,

[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 the plaintiff 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).

         II. The Complaint

         Pritt alleges that while he was confined at the Marion County Jail, defendant Sheriff “Matthew” prompted another inmate to throw feces on him and did not allow him to shower. He also alleges that the feces caused an infestation of cockroaches at the Jail.

         He further alleges that he was not permitted to file grievances and that his grievances and complaints have been ignored. He states generally that this resulted in a risk of harm to him.

         III. Discussion of Claims

         Applying the screening standard to the factual allegations in the complaint certain claims are dismissed while other claims shall proceed as submitted.

         A. Claims that are dismissed

         First, any claim against Sheriff John Layton must be dismissed. Pritt asserts that Layton maintained an inadequate grievance system and that Layton's actions generally created an environment in which Pritt was at risk of harm. But there is no free-standing right to a prison grievance system. See Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430-31 (7th Cir. 1996). And Pritt's general allegations that the failure of the grievance system caused him unspecified injuries are insufficient to state a claim that his constitutional rights were violated. See Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., 536 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008) (The complaint “must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). Finally, there is no allegation that would raise an inference that Sheriff Layton was personally involved in the specific acts at issue in the complaint. Matz v. Klotka, 769 F.3d 517, 528 (7th Cir. 2014) (“A damages suit under § 1983 requires that a defendant be personally involved in the alleged constitutional deprivation.”).

         Next, any claim against inmate John Doe must be dismissed because “it is pointless to include [an] anonymous defendant [ ] 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) (internal citations omitted). Bringing suit against unnamed, or “John Doe, ” defendants in federal court is generally disfavored by the Seventh Circuit. If through discovery, Pritt is able to learn the name of the unknown defendants, he may seek leave to add a claim against them.

         B. Claim ...


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