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Booker v. Cooper

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

March 12, 2018

WILLIE BOOKER, Plaintiff,
v.
AMBER COOPER, Supervisor, ARAMARK, Defendant.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING INSUFFICIENT CLAIMS AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, United States District Court Judge

         I.

         The plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, Dkt. No. 6, is granted. He is assessed an initial partial filing fee of Twenty-Five Dollars and Forty-Six Cents ($25.46). He shall have through April 10, 2018, to pay this sum to the Court.

         II. Screening

         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at the Putnamville Correctional Facility, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. § 1915A(b).

         A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302 F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002). The Court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); accord Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir. 2011).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts, and his statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); see Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that offers “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Id. “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.” Id. The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.

         In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first “identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court must then “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The Court is obliged to give the plaintiff's pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         Here, the plaintiff alleges that on September 18, 2017, defendant Amber Cooper threw a bread rack at him hitting him in the lower leg. Ms. Cooper is an Aramark employee. He filed an informal grievance and was allegedly fired from his job for no reason. He was also reclassified, losing his ability to earn good time credit or participate in programming.

         The plaintiff alleges that Aramark retaliated against him for engaging in conduct protected by the First Amendment. Specifically, he alleges Aramark fired him and had him reclassified for filing a grievance about Ms. Cooper throwing a bread rack at him.

         He also alleges an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim against Ms. Cooper.

         III. Insufficient Claims A. Retaliation.

         The plaintiff alleges that Aramark reclassified him after he filed a grievance. He alleges this occurred in retaliation for filing a grievance after Ms. Cooper threw a bread rack at him. Reclassification of inmates, such as the plaintiff alleges occurred here (loss of good time credit, inability to participate in programming) is a task reserved to the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”). Aramark is a private corporation contracted by the IDOC to provide food services. Aramark employees do not ...


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