198 F.3d 626 (7th Cir. 1999), 98-2537, Sanders v. Sheahan

Docket Nº:98-2537
Citation:198 F.3d 626
Party Name:Dwayne Sanders, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Michael Sheahan, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 24, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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198 F.3d 626 (7th Cir. 1999)

Dwayne Sanders, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Michael Sheahan, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 98-2537

In the United States Court of Appeals, For the Seventh Circuit

November 24, 1999

Submitted October 13, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 97 C 8897--Wayne R. Andersen, Judge.

Dwayne Sanders (submitted), Pinckneyville, IL, Plaintiff-Appellant Pro Se.

Before Posner, Chief Judge, and Ripple and Kanne, Circuit Judges.

Posner, Chief Judge.

A provision added to the Judicial Code by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 requires the district judge to screen prisoner complaints at the earliest opportunity and dismiss the complaint, in whole or part, if (so far as bears directly on this case) it "fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." 28 U.S.C. sec. 1915A(b)(1). The question, unresolved in this circuit, see Mathis v. New York Life Ins. Co., 133 F.3d 546, 547 (7th Cir. 1998), is what the standard of appellate review of such a dismissal is. In the present case, the merits of which are being decided in an unpublished order entered today, the district judge held that the complaint indeed failed to state a claim.

It is plain that the review of such a determination should be plenary, that is, without according any deference to the district judge's determination. That is how an ordinary Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is reviewed, e.g., Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997), and we cannot think of any reason why the identical ground for dismissal under section 1915A(b)(2) should be treated differently. The other circuits to have addressed the question hold that review is indeed plenary, Liner v. Goord, 196 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. Sept. 22, 1999); Cooper v. Schiro, 189 F.3d 781, 783-84 (8th Cir. Sept. 9, 1999) (per curiam); Ruiz v. United States, 160 F.3d 273, 274 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam); Davis v. District of Columbia, 158 F.3d 1342, 1348 (D.C. Cir. 1998); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997).

We leave to future cases what the standard of review should be if the district judge bases dismissal on one of the other grounds in section 1915A--that the complaint is "frivolous" or "malicious" or (sec. 1915A(b)(2)) that it seeks monetary relief from someone who has immunity. Since the determination in any of these cases is based solely on what the complaint says, and thus involves no factfinding, and is thus a determination of whether the

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case has any possible merit, appellate review may also be plenary, as suggested in id. at 604. But that we need not decide, and Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384 (1990), and Mars Steel Corp. v. Continental Bank N.A., 880 F.2d 928 (7th Cir. 1989) (en banc), tug the other way.

For the reasons stated in the accompanying order, the judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded.


Not to be cited per Circuit Rule 53

No. 98-2537.


Submitted Oct. 13, 1999.[*]

Decided Nov. 24, 1999.

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Wayne R. Anersen, Judge.

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, RIPPLE and KANNE, Circuit Judges.


In January 1998, Dwayne Sanders, proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, complaining about treatment he received when he was a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail. The district court dismissed Sanders' complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1915A. Because some of the allegations in Sanders' complaint are sufficient to state a claim, we vacate and remand in part, and affirm in part.

Appellant Dwayne Sanders was arrested in December 1996 and charged with burglary. He was incarcerated at the Cook County Jail as a pretrial detainee from December 1996 to September 1997. Sanders alleges that he represented himself at his bond hearing shortly after his arrest, and that he was represented by a public defender at his subsequent probable cause hearing and at trial. Not until the day of the probable cause hearing or the day of trial did Sanders meet with his attorney. Sanders was subsequently convicted and transferred to the state penal system in September 1997.

In January 1998, Sanders filed this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Illinois; the Cook County Board of Commissioners; Michael Sheahan, Sheriff of Cook County; Ernesto Velasco, Director of Cook County Jail; and unknown "employees of Cook County Jail's Division 2 during December 1996 to September 1997." In Part One of the complaint, Sanders alleges a variety of constitutional deficiencies associated with the Illinois preliminary hearing statute. In Part Two, Sanders alleges that several conditions of his incarceration at the Cook County Jail violated his due process rights as a pretrial detainee. As a result of these deprivations, Sanders claimed that he became malnourished, that his physical health deteriorated, that he suffered excessive colds, that he was mentally traumatized, and that he was denied access to the courts. Sanders also alleged that the deprivations from which he suffered were caused by the policy or custom of the Jail and that the defendants knew or should have known about the substandard conditions of the Jail.

After granting Sanders permission to proceed in forma pauperis, the district court evaluated the legal sufficiency of

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Sander's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. First, as to Part One of the complaint, the court dismissed the State of Illinois as a defendant pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment. As to Part Two of the complaint, the court dismissed Sanders' denial-of-access-to-the-court claim with prejudice, noting that Sanders was not entitled to self-representation after rejecting the assistance of court-appointed counsel and that, in any event, he had not alleged prejudice or injury.

As for the remaining conditions-of-confinement claims in Part Two, the court dismissed those claims without prejudice because they were "vague," did not "sufficiently connect" the defendants to the alleged conditions, and did not show physical injury as required by 42 U.S.C. 1997e(e).


The Due Process Clause prohibits any kind of punishment of a pretrial detainee. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, 60 L.Ed. 2d 447, 99 S.Ct. 1861 (1979), Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1427 (7th Cir. 1996). The protections extended to pretrial detainees under the Due Process Clause are at least as extensive as the protections against cruel and unusual punishment extended to prisoners by the Eighth Amendment. See Collignon v. Milwaukee County, 163 F.3d 982, 987 (7th Cir 1998). The Eighth Amendment requires that inmates be furnished with basic human needs. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33, 125 L.Ed. 2d 22, 113 S.Ct. 2475 (1993). Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment in conditions of confinement cases where (1) the alleged deprivation is "sufficiently serious" (the objective standard) and (2) the officials act with deliberate indifference,"...

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