United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
CHRISTOPHER L. SCRUGGS, Plaintiff,
SGT. MILLER, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
L. Scruggs, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against nine officials at the
Westville Correctional Facility (Westville). Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review a complaint filed
by a prisoner and dismiss it if 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. § 1915A(a), (b). The
Court must bear in mind, however, that “[a] document
filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a
pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must
be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
Scruggs alleges that on November 4, 2016, he observed Sgt.
Miller handling food in an unsanitary manner. Scruggs told
Lt. Creasy, Capt. Earheart, and Director Salery about Sgt.
Miller's actions, but nothing was done. Scruggs then
began telling visitors, filing grievances, and even went on a
hunger strike to protest Sgt. Miller's handling of food.
November 14, 2016, Scruggs was taken into a hallway where
Sgt. Miller and Sgt. SinClair were waiting for him. When
Scruggs entered the hallway, Sgt. Miller and Sgt. SinClair
told him that he “would learn to keep his mouth
closed.” ECF 2 at 3. Miller and SinClair then proceeded
to attack Scruggs. During this time, C.O. Washington, C.O.
Peterson and an unidentified officer were present, watched
the events unfold and did nothing to stop the attack. Then,
at the direction of Capt. Earheart, Complex Director Salery,
Superintendent Seiver, and Assistant Superintendent Payne,
Scruggs was placed into a filthy cell and denied his personal
effects, in retaliation for him speaking about Sgt.
Miller's actions. Scruggs sues Sgt. Miller, Sgt.
SinClair, C.O. Washington, C.O. Peterson, Capt. Earheart,
Director Salery, Superintendent Seiver, Assistant
Superintendent Payne, and the unidentified officer for money
start, Scruggs sues Sgt. Miller and Sgt. SinClair for using
excessive force when they attacked him on November 14, 2016.
Scruggs alleges that these officers assaulted him simply
because they were upset that he complained about Sgt.
Miller's handling of food ten days earlier. The
“core requirement” for an excessive force claim
is that the defendant “used force not in a good-faith
effort to maintain or restore discipline, but maliciously and
sadistically to cause harm.” Hendrickson v.
Cooper, 589 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. 2009) (quotation
marks omitted). Several factors guide the inquiry of whether
an officer's use of force was legitimate or malicious,
including the need for an application of force, the amount of
force used, and the extent of the injury suffered by the
giving Scruggs the inferences to which he is entitled at this
stage, he alleges a plausible claim that these defendants
used force maliciously and sadistically to cause him harm.
Thus, Scruggs has alleged enough to proceed on this claim
against Sgt. Miller and Sgt. SinClair.
Scruggs sues C.O. Washington C.O. Peterson and an
unidentified officer for failing to intervene in the
sergeants' use of excessive force. “Police officers
who have a realistic opportunity to step forward and prevent
a fellow officer from violating a plaintiff's right
through the use of excessive force but fail to do so”
may be held liable. Miller v. Smith, 220 F.3d 491,
495 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Yang v. Hardin, 37 F.3d
282, 285 (7th Cir.1994). This is what has become known as a
“failure to intervene” basis for a constitutional
violation under the Eighth Amendment, a principle that this
circuit has long recognized. Fillmore v. Page, 358
F.3d 496, 505-506 (7th Cir. 2004); Crowder v. Lash,
687 F.2d 996, 1005 (7th Cir. 1982).
Scruggs the inferences to which he is entitled at this stage,
he alleges a plausible claim that C.O. Washington and C.O.
Peterson knew that the other officers were engaging in
excessive force, had an opportunity to prevent them from
using more force than was necessary under the circumstances,
and nevertheless failed to intervene. Although further
factual development may show that these defendants acted
reasonably under the circumstances, or did not have a
realistic opportunity to intervene, Mr. Scruggs has alleged
enough to proceed on this claim against C.O. Washington and
C.O. Peterson. However, the unidentified officer must be
dismissed because “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). If at some point in
the future Scruggs can identify and name or identify this
defendant by some other means, then he can attempt to amend
his complaint at that time.
Scruggs sues Capt. Earheart, Director Salery, Superintendent
Seiver and Assistant Superintendent Payne, for ordering him
to be placed into a filthy cell and denied his personal
effects in retaliation for him speaking about Sgt.
Miller's handling of food.“To prevail on his First
Amendment retaliation claim, [Scruggs] must show that (1) he
engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment; (2) he
suffered a deprivation that would likely deter First
Amendment activity in the future; and (3) the First Amendment
activity was at least a motivating factor in the
Defendants' decision to take the retaliatory
action.” Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866
(7th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
Scruggs's complaints about food safety conditions at the
prison, if true, could constitute protected speech. Based on
the allegations contained in the complaint, these defendants
made the decision to place him in a filthy cell and deprive
him of his personal effects based on his protected speech.
Though further fact finding may reveal otherwise, Scruggs has
adequately plead his retaliation claim.
Scruggs is GRANTED leave to proceed on a
claim against Sgt. Miller and Sgt. SinClair in their
individual capacities for compensatory and punitive damages
for using excessive force against him on November 14, 2016,
under the Eighth Amendment;
Scruggs is GRANTED leave to proceed against
C.O. Washington and C.O. Peterson in their individual
capacities for monetary damages for failing to intervene in
Sgt. Miller and Sgt. SinClair's use of excessive force on
November 14, 2016, under the Eighth Amendment;
Scruggs is GRANTED leave to proceed against
Capt. Earheart, Director Salery, Superintendent Seiver and
Assistant Superintendent Payne in their individual capacities
for compensatory and punitive damages for retaliating against
him by having him placed in an unsanitary cell and depriving
him of his personal effects for his ...