574 F.3d 443 (7th Cir. 2009), 08-2828, Dobbey v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections

Docket Nº:08-2828.
Citation:574 F.3d 443
Opinion Judge:POSNER, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Lester DOBBEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Arthur J. Rooney, Attorney (argued), Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Lester Dobbey, Joliet, IL, pro se.
Judge Panel:Before BAUER, POSNER, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 28, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 443

574 F.3d 443 (7th Cir. 2009)

Lester DOBBEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 08-2828.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

July 28, 2009

Argued June 9, 2009.

Page 444

Arthur J. Rooney, Attorney (argued), Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Lester Dobbey, Joliet, IL, pro se.

Before BAUER, POSNER, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

POSNER, Circuit Judge.

The district judge dismissed this prisoner's civil rights suit (42 U.S.C. § 1983), which names the Illinois Department of Corrections, along with prison personnel, as defendants. He dismissed the suit before service of process, on the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which so far as bears on this case directs dismissal then if the complaint fails to state a claim or if it seeks monetary relief from an immune defendant. § § 1915A(b)(1), (2). The Illinois Department of Corrections was properly dismissed on the authority of Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police , 491 U.S. 58, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989). Whether the complaint fails to state a claim against the individual defendants, as the judge also believed, is a more difficult question.

The complaint alleges the following facts, which in the procedural posture of the case we are required to assume are true. The plaintiff was an inmate of Menard, an Illinois state prison. He worked as a janitor, and had given the prison no trouble in the five years he had been there. One morning before dawn, he and three other inmates-two of them black, like himself-were preparing breakfast trays when they noticed five guards, all white, playing cards in the main control room (the " officers' cage," as it is known), the interior of which was visible to them. One of the guards got up from the card table and hung a noose from the ceiling of the room. He swatted at the noose to make it swing back and forth, then sat down in a chair and " crossed his arms looking crazy with evil eyes." Two other inmates, of whom at least one was black (the complaint does not mention the race of the

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other), chanced on the scene and saw the noose. The noose was taken down by another guard 20 minutes after it had been put up.

The plaintiff filed a grievance complaining of the guard's conduct. Two days later he was interviewed by an internal affairs officer who said to him: " What did [the officer who had hung the noose] tell you, he was going to hang you or something?.... Well, he won't have to worry about hanging nobody, because he just hung himself."

The next day the plaintiff sent letters describing the noose incident to news outlets, as well as to various state officials. A month later, however, a prison disciplinary charge was filed against him for allegedly disobeying a guard's order he scrape wax off a section of floor in the prison. According to the plaintiff, he was scraping diligently but the guard told him " you're on Bullshit around here!" A disciplinary committee upheld the charge and imposed various sanctions on the plaintiff, including the loss of his prison job. Later the plaintiff was told that his grievance arising out of the incident involving the noose had been denied because " there was no evidence of the noose." He then filed this...

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