Damien G. Terry, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Mark Spencer, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Submitted April 12, 2018 [*]
from the United States District Court for the Central
District of Illinois. No. 17-CV-1079 - Harold A. Baker,
Flaum, Sykes, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Terry, an Illinois prisoner proceeding pro se, sued prison
officials and corrections administrators under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claiming that they were deliberately indifferent
to a painful tumor on his neck and prevented him from timely
filing suit on that claim. A district judge screened the
case, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, held a
"merit-review hearing, " see Hughes v.
Farris, 809 F.3d 330, 334- 35 (7th Cir. 2015), and
dismissed the complaint, ruling that it impermissibly joined
two unrelated sets of claims against different defendants.
The judge gave Terry 30 days to replead.
instead moved for reconsideration, citing Rule 59(e) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He explained that his
claims were not unrelated and his complaint should not have
been dismissed on that ground. The judge denied the motion,
observing that Rule 59(e) does not permit reconsideration of
a nonfinal order of dismissal. The judge then entered
judgment ending the case, and Terry appealed.
reverse. The judge misunderstood his discretion to entertain
Terry's reconsideration motion. Though Rule 59(e) did not
apply, a district judge may reconsider an interlocutory order
at any time before final judgment. And the judge should have
done so here; reading the complaint generously, Terry's
claims are related.
note an anomaly in this record and invoke our supervisory
authority to guard against its recurrence. We have upheld the
use of so-called merit-review hearings at § 1915A
screening, but we've cautioned that this unusual
procedure must be strictly limited to "enabling a
pro se plaintiff to clarify and amplify his
complaint." Id. at 335. We have also explained
that a transcript or other recording must be made.
Henderson v. Wilcoxen, 802 F.3d 930, 932-33 (7th
Cir. 2015). This record contains no transcript or digital
recording of the judge's merit-review hearing; indeed,
it's unclear from the docket whether it was recorded at
all. We now require district judges who use this procedure to
docket a transcript or a digital recording of the hearing.
complaint alleges two sets of facts, which we accept as true
at this stage. See Oakland Police & Fire Ret. Sys. v.
Mayer Brown, LLP, 861 F.3d 644, 649 (7th Cir. 2017).
Terry claims that officials at two Illinois prisons-the Tamms
Correctional Center and the Pontiac Correctional Center-were
deliberately indifferent to his requests for treatment of a
tennis ball-sized growth on the back of his neck and head.
The tumor, which he first noticed in 2006, caused "pain,
blurred vision, lack of sleep, and mania." He repeatedly
sought treatment for the tumor and in 2012 specifically asked
to be referred for surgery to remove it, but his requests
were denied or ignored.
waited until 2017 to file this suit seeking relief for the
failure to treat his tumor. The defendants are various prison
officials and corrections administrators, including an
unnamed Jane Doe. Terry alleges that some of the defendants
were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs
and others interfered with his right to file suit. Regarding
the latter set of claims, Terry alleges that he tried to file
suit in December 2015 and March 2016 to redress the failure
to treat his tumor but was stymied when prison staff
intentionally "lost" his legal mail.
judge screened the complaint and scheduled a merit-review
hearing. Terry appeared from prison by videoconference. After
the hearing the judge dismissed the complaint. As the judge
understood the case, Terry was asserting two unrelated sets
of claims-one for deliberate indifference to his serious
medical needs and one for interference with his right to
access the courts. The judge identified three deficiencies in
(1) it impermissibly "join[ed] unrelated defendants and
unrelated claims into a single complaint";
(2) the two-year statute of limitations for § 1983
claims in Illinois barred the deliberate-indifference claims
against some of the defendants, see ...