United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY SCREENING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING FURTHER
William T. Lawrence, United States District Court Judge
plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Wabash
Valley Correctional Facility. 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).
complaint alleges that on June 18, 2017, defendant James
Johnson instructed defendant A. Clemons to write a fictitious
conduct report against Reaves because Reaves had previously
filed a civil case against Johnson. On June 28, 2017, Johnson
allegedly instructed A Tipton to run the disciplinary hearing
and convict Reaves of the false allegations without any
supporting evidence except the false testimony of Eric
Fonseca. Tipton found Reaves guilty and sentenced him to
segregation for 90 days and restricted certain privileges
including telephone use, visitation, and commissary and law
library access. Ultimately, the sanctions were dismissed, but
not before Reaves spent 90 days in segregation. Reaves now
seeks ninety thousand dollars in damages.
Discussion of Claims
the screening standard to the factual allegations in the
complaint certain claims are dismissed while other claims
shall proceed as submitted.
Reaves alleges that the defendants' actions violated his
First Amendment right to be free from retaliation. “An
act taken in retaliation for the exercise of a
constitutionally protected right violates the
Constitution.” DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607,
618 (7th Cir. 2000). Although only notice pleading is
required, it is helpful to understand that to prevail on a
First Amendment retaliation claim a plaintiff must show: (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)
(internal citations omitted). Reaves alleges that his filing
of a state court civil action against James Johnson was the
motivating factor in the alleged retaliatory conduct and that
the result of that conduct (90 days in segregation) would
likely deter First Amendment activity in the future.
Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1402 (7th Cir. 1994)
(falsifying a disciplinary charge may give rise to a claim
under § 1983 if the motive for the fabrication
was to retaliate for the exercise of a constitutional right).
Reaves' First Amendment retaliation claim shall proceed
as submitted against all four defendants in their individual
Due Process Claim
alleges that he was denied due process when he was wrongly
charged and convicted in his disciplinary action. But, the
due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies only
to deprivations of life, liberty, and property. See
Marion v. Radtke, 641 F.3d 874, 875 (7th Cir. 2011). In
this case, Reaves was placed in disciplinary segregation for
90 days. “[A]n inmate's liberty interest in
avoiding segregation is limited.” Hardaway v.
Meyerhoff, 734 F.3d 740, 743 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing
Marion v. Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 697 (7th
Cir. 2009)). A protected liberty interest arises only when
the plaintiff's confinement in segregation
“impose[s] an ‘atypical and significant hardship
on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison
life.'” Hardaway, 734 F.3d at 743
(quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484
(1995)). In order to determine if a plaintiff endured such a
hardship, the court must look to “the combined import
of the duration of the segregative confinement and the
conditions endured.” Hardaway, 734 F.3d at 743
(quoting Marion, 559 F.3d at 697-98). Reaves'
time in segregation was insufficient to deprive him of a
protected liberty interest. Ninety days in segregation-absent
any atypical conditions related to confinement-does not
violate the Fourteenth Amendment. See Beamon v.
Pollard, 711 F.App'x 794, 795 (7th Cir. 2018) (135
days in segregation-absent any atypical conditions related to
confinement-does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment);
Hardaway, 734 F.3d at, 745 (no liberty interest in
avoiding 182 days' segregation); Lekas v.
Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 612 (7th Cir. 2005) (noting that
90 days' segregation was “still not so long as to
work an atypical and significant hardship”).
Accordingly, Reaves' Fourteenth Amendment due process
claim is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted.
First Amendment retaliation claim is the only viable claim
identified by the Court. All ...