United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
R. LEICHTY JUDGE
Karman Musa, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a complaint
regarding an incident at the Westville Correctional Facility.
“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) (citation omitted).
Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, this court
must review the complaint and dismiss it if the action is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. “In order to state a claim under [42 U.S.C.]
§ 1983 a plaintiff must allege: (1) that defendants
deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that
the defendants acted under color of state law.”
Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
complaint, Mr. Musa alleges that, on the morning of March 6,
2019, Caseworker Lori Pusz directed racially inappropriate
remarks at him during headcount. In response, he approached
Caseworker Pusz and began arguing with her, but Officer
Sommers intervened and instructed Mr. Musa to go to the
dayroom. When Caseworker Pusz told him to sit down in the
dayroom, Mr. Musa claims he refused, prompting Caseworker
Pusz to make additional racially and sexually inappropriate
remarks. When Mr. Musa asked her to stop and requested a
superior (captain), Officer Sommers stepped in and pushed Mr.
Musa multiple times. As a result of the pushing, Mr. Musa
alleges he suffered chest pain and a partially dislocated
shoulder. He seeks money damages.
Musa asserts an Eighth Amendment claim against Caseworker
Pusz for making racially and sexually inappropriate remarks.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits “the unnecessary and
wanton infliction of pain, ” which also includes
psychological pain. Calhoun v. DeTella, 319 F.3d
936, 939 (7th Cir. 2003). Consequently, a prisoner may assert
an Eighth Amendment claim if he is subjected to conduct that
is “intended to humiliate and inflict psychological
pain.” Id. The complaint suggests that the
manner in which Caseworker Pusz spoke with Mr. Musa was
intended to humiliate him. Therefore, at this stage, Mr. Musa
may proceed on an Eighth Amendment claim against Caseworker
Musa asserts an Eighth Amendment claim of excessive force
against Officer Sommers for pushing him in the dayroom. 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). 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
prisoner. Id. While Officer Sommers' use of
force may have been a good faith effort to maintain
discipline, the complaint states a plausible Eighth Amendment
claim of excessive force against her.
Musa also claims that Officer Sommers and Caseworker Pusz
violated his First Amendment rights by refusing his requests
to speak to a captain. “[A] prison inmate retains those
First Amendment rights that are not inconsistent with his
status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological
objectives of the corrections system.” Pell v.
Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822 (1974). “[W]hen a
prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional
rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related
to legitimate penological interests.” Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987); Kaufman v.
McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 682 (7th Cir. 2005). “A
prisoner has a First Amendment right to make grievances about
conditions of confinement.” Watkins v. Kasper,
599 F.3d 791, 798 (7th Cir. 2010). “Still, under the
legitimate penological interests test, the prisoner must
exercise that right in a manner consistent with his status as
a prisoner.” Id. (emphasis and quotations
omitted). The First Amendment does not entitle prisoners to
immediate in-person meetings with high-ranking correctional
officers under the circumstances alleged in full here; and,
while the defendants may have refused Mr. Musa's requests
that morning, there is nothing to suggest they otherwise
prevented him from conveying his concerns to superior
officers. Mr. Musa cannot then proceed on this claim.
these reasons, the court:
GRANTS Mr. Karman Musa leave to proceed on his Eighth
Amendment claim against Defendant Lori Pusz for money damages
for directing racially and sexually inappropriate remarks at
him on March 6, 2019;
GRANTS Mr. Karman Musa leave to proceed on an Eighth
Amendment claim against Officer K. Sommers for money damages
for allegedly using excessive force against him on March 6,
DISMISSES all other claims;
DIRECTS the clerk and the United States Marshals Service to
issue and serve process on Defendants K. Sommers and Lori
Pusz at the Indiana Department of Correction with a copy of
this order and the complaint (ECF 1) as required by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(d); and
ORDERS, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), Defendants
K. Sommers and Lori Pusz to respond, as provided for in the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind. L.R. 10-1(b),
only to the claims for which Mr. ...