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Echols v. Roessler

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

October 24, 2017

CARL A. ECHOLS, Plaintiff,
X. ROESSLER, VRZINA SGT., C B. MIFFLIN Counselor, Defendants.


          Jane Magntts-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

          I. Introduction

          Carl A. Echols, an Indiana inmate incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action pro se and in forma pauperis in Sullivan County Superior Court. He could not have commenced it in this Court without paying the full filing fee because he was prohibited from doing so, in forma pauperis, by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) due to his bringing three or more actions that were dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failing to state a claim. Mr. Echols was given notice of this in Echols v. Latour, Case No. 2:14-cv-00057-JMS-WGH (S.D. Ind. March 11, 2014). Defendants removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, and moved the Court to screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and dismiss it. The Court announced it would treat the motion as a motion to dismiss and gave Mr. Echols an opportunity to be heard in opposition. Mr. Echols has responded, and defendants have replied.

         II. Request to Incorporate Documents

          Plaintiff's request to incorporate documents, dkt. [9], is granted. The Court has reviewed these submissions in the course of addressing the pending motions in this action.

         III. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint and not the merits of the suit. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Requirements for stating a claim under the federal pleading standards are straight forward. A pleading that states a claim for relief must set forth “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” and “a demand for relief sought.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). In considering motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court presumes all well-pleaded allegations to be true, views them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accepts as true all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the allegations. Whirlpool Fin. Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc., 67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 1995).

         Additionally, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. 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). Although the court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw all permissible inferences in plaintiff's favor, it need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Legal conclusions can provide a complaint's framework, but unless well-pleaded factual allegations move the claims from conceivable to plausible, they are insufficient to state a claim. Id. at 680. A plaintiff can also plead himself out of court if he pleads facts that preclude relief. See Atkins v. City of Chi., 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011); Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830 (7th Cir. 2007); McCready v. Ebay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2006). In reviewing pro se complaints, the Court employs a liberal construction and applies a less stringent standard than when it reviews pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).

         This is the same standard applied to screening in forma pauperis complaints pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006).

         IV. Plaintiff's Complaint

         Mr. Echols asserts that defendant Correctional Officer X. Roessler allows certain other offenders on Mr. Echols' pod to remain out of their cells with free movement, which Mr. Echols asserts is a risk to his safety. Defendant Sgt. Vrzina has been present on the unit when these offenders are out of their cells. Defendant B. Mifflin is a counselor who Mr. Echols asserts denied him a grievance form to complain about the other offenders being allowed out of their cells. Mr. Echols seeks better access to the grievance procedure and a stop to the practice of exposing some offenders to a safety risk from other offenders.

         The attachments to the complaint reflect that Mr. Echols has complained to prison officials that this is a continuing problem commencing on or about June 14, 2017.

         V. Discussion

         Defendants' motion for screening, treated as a motion to dismiss, argues that Mr. Echols fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because, to paraphrase their argument, he is complaining not about constitutional rights but about details of prison management and administration. Dkt. 5, pp. 3-4. They argue that Mr. Echols has only made a vague allegation about his safety and has not explained how his safety is in danger. They also argue that Mr. Echols brings his complaint against Counselor ...

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