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Cook v. Payne

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 29, 2019

DONNIE COOK, Plaintiff,
v.
STANLEY PAYNE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN M. BODENHAUSEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on review of a document filed by pro se plaintiff Donnie Cook titled “Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 91.” (Docket No. 1). For the reasons discussed below, the Court has determined that this document is properly construed as a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Accordingly, plaintiff will be given the opportunity, if he so chooses, to file a complaint on a Court-provided form setting forth his § 1983 claims. If plaintiff files a civil rights complaint, he must also provide the Court with a copy of his certified inmate account statement.

         Background

          Plaintiff is an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre, Missouri. (Docket No. 1 at 1). He brings this action against defendant Stanley Payne, who is the warden of ERDCC. The document is styled as a “Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 91.” Rule 91 refers to rules promulgated by the Missouri Supreme Court for the filing of a state petition for writ of habeas corpus.

         Plaintiff states that he, along with his cellmate, was issued a conduct violation after a homemade knife was found wrapped around the railing of his cellmate's bunk. (Docket No. 1 at 2). Following this incident, the disciplinary hearing officer assessed a punishment of thirty days disciplinary segregation, one year of non-contact visits, one year of restricted premium pay, and an “indefinite assignment to administrative segregation.” The matter was also referred for prosecution. However, plaintiff's cellmate was found not guilty and returned to general population, where his privileges and honor status were restored.

         During his disciplinary hearing, plaintiff states that he requested that surveillance footage be reviewed as evidence. (Docket No. 1 at 2-3). He claims that such footage would substantiate his proposition that the knife was planted by “another inmate” who accessed the cell while plaintiff and his cellmate were at work. (Docket No. 3). This request was denied. Plaintiff asserts that the denial violated his right to due process.

         Plaintiff further asserts a violation of his right to equal protection. Specifically, he notes that his cellmate's conduct violation was dismissed and expunged from his record, even though the knife was wrapped to the railing of his bunk. Thus, plaintiff concludes that he was treated differently from his cellmate, though they were similarly situated. He also states there was no rational basis for the difference in treatment between plaintiff and his cellmate. (Docket No. 1 at 4).

         Plaintiff also alleges that his punishment constitutes an atypical and significant hardship. He asserts that he is only allowed three hours of recreation a week, in a small outdoor cage shared with another prisoner. (Docket No. 1 at 5). During periods of inclement weather, he is unable to attend his recreation period, because winter coats are not “consistently available” and he is unable to access adequate winter clothing. Plaintiff states that this has caused his muscles to atrophy and his chronic knee problem to worsen.

         Plaintiff claims that he is experiencing “near total sensory deprivation in segregation, ” which has worsened his psychological problems, including hallucinations, sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, and a loss of appetite. He further complains that he is not allowed to participate in rehabilitation programs; that the showers are not consistently sanitized; that he is not provided adequate clothing; and that he is subjected to four-point restraints for several hours at a time without food or restroom breaks. (Docket No. 1 at 5-6).

         Plaintiff seeks an order directing defendant Payne to immediately release him back to general population, and to dismiss and expunge the conduct violation. (Docket No. 1 at 7).

         Discussion

          Plaintiff has filed a document that purports to be a writ of habeas corpus. However, for the reasons discussed below, the relief he seeks is not available under habeas review. Rather, plaintiff's allegations are more properly construed as claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court will therefore give plaintiff the opportunity to file a complaint pursuant to § 1983.

         A. Plaintiff's requested relief is not available under habeas review

         Plaintiff has clearly chosen a petition for writ of habeas corpus as his avenue of relief. Indeed his filing is titled “Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 91.” Shortly before bringing this action before the Court, he ...


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