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Johnson v. Harrison

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

August 27, 2019




         The plaintiff Blake Alexander Johnson is a pre-trial detainee at the Jefferson County Jail (“JCJ”). Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen his complaint before service on the defendants. For the reasons explained below, certain claims are dismissed while other claims shall proceed as submitted.

         I. Screening Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion of 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 Cesal v. Moats, 851 F.3d 714, 720 (7th Cir. 2017). 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. Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation omitted).

         II. The Complaint

         The plaintiff brings this cause of action against (1) Sheila Harrison, jail commander; (2) Chyenne Jarrett, captain; (3) Andre Garcia, captain; (4) Dave Thomas, Jefferson County Sheriff; and (5) Jefferson County, Indiana. The plaintiff seeks money damages against each defendant and injunctive relief in the form of having Sheriff Dave Thomas resign and terminating the employment of all administrative staff at JCJ.

         The plaintiff asserts that on April 11, 2019, Sheriff Dave Thomas and his staff, Sheila Harrison, Chyenne Jarrett, and Andre Garcia, placed the plaintiff in administrative segregation without the plaintiff receiving a disciplinary write-up, conduct report, or otherwise acting in a manner that could be labeled a security threat.

         On April 11, 2019, the plaintiff's clothing, legal and personal mail, hygiene items, and religious effects were denied to him. In addition, all visits and phone calls were also denied to the plaintiff. The plaintiff's legal mail and hygiene items were denied until April 28, 2019. As a result, the plaintiff was denied his legal mail while his pre-trial process was proceeding and was denied soap, toothpaste, and other hygiene products for eighteen days.

         The plaintiff alleges that Andre Garcia and Chyenne Jarrett moved a known member of the Ku Klux Klan into a dorm with multiple inmates of color. “Something happen[ed]” to the inmate who is a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The plaintiff alleges that he was charged with battery by Sheila Harrison, Andre Garcia, Chyenne Jarrett, and Sheriff Dave Thomas due to the plaintiff's race. As a result, the plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation and labeled a threat to the security of the facility. This occurred without proof and without the plaintiff receiving a write-up or going in front of a disciplinary board.

         III. Discussion of Claims

         This action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. L.P. v. Marian Catholic High Sch., 852 F.3d 690, 696 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)). The threshold inquiry in a § 1983 suit, is to “identify the specific constitutional right” at issue. Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S.Ct. 911, 920 (2017) (quoting Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994)). Constitutional claims are to be addressed under the most applicable provision. See Conyers v. Abitz, 416 F.3d 580, 586 (7th Cir. 2005). After pinpointing that right, courts still must determine the elements of, and rules associated with, an action seeking damages for its violation. Manuel, 137 S.Ct. at 920.

         Because the plaintiff is a pre-trial detainee, his claims are understood to be ...

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