The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marovitz, District Judge.
This is a civil rights action brought by a prisoner at the
Illinois State Penitentiary, Stateville Branch, against various
prison officials arising out of Defendants' failure to mail a
trial transcript to Plaintiff's attorney.
Plaintiff alleges that on August 31, 1970 he delivered the
trial transcript in his case to Defendant Meyers, a clerk in the
Record Office at Stateville to be mailed to his attorneys.
Plaintiff was subsequently informed by his counsel that the
transcript never arrived. Plaintiff's repeated inquiries to
prison officials as to the whereabouts of the transcript were
allegedly met with indifference. On February 9, 1971, Defendant
Meyers returned the transcript to Plaintiff but refused to inform
him as to where the transcript had been in the interim and
Plaintiff's request for an investigation was turned down.
As a result of these alleged acts Plaintiff contends that his
rights under the First, Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments
have been violated; that his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
have been violated; that he has lost a post conviction hearing
and that his direct appeal was delayed and denied. He seeks
injunctive relief and $10,000 in the actual and punitive damages.
In disposing of the issue of liability under Count I we must
first determine the factual setting and then decide whether the
acts involved are violations of the Civil Rights Act.
Defendants do not controvert the fact that the transcript was
indeed delivered to them for forwarding to Plaintiff's counsel;
that it was not forwarded as directed and that it did not again
turn up until February of 1971. The dispute centers around the
whereabouts of the transcript during that five-month period and
how it came to be lost.
This Court is convinced that Defendants' version of the facts
as substantiated by exhibits and other evidence is the true
course of events that led to the disappearance of the record. Due
to the large volume of mail handled by the prison record office,
the transcript was inadvertently placed in an envelope along
with some other papers addressed to Mrs. Rose Edmonds, the mother
of another prisoner. Mrs. Edmonds, unaware that the misplaced
documents were among the other papers correctly sent to her did
not send them back until she returned her son's entire file. It
was at this time that the error in regard to Plaintiff's
transcript was discovered. Our factual finding, therefore, is
that Defendants did not intend to deny or violate Plaintiff's
constitutional right of access to the courts.
This factual conclusion, however, in view of various
interpretations given the Civil Rights Act is not sufficient in
itself to dispose of the issue in this case.
Assuming as we have that the documents were negligently
handled, we must now decide whether mere negligence, such as the
mailing of Plaintiff's transcript, is not actionable under the
Civil Rights Act as Defendants argue or whether Plaintiff is
correct in his position that under the Civil Rights Act the fact
that the prison officials did not intend to deprive him of his
unimpeded access to the courts is irrelevant since "improper
motive" is not an element of a § 1983 suit.
Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492
(1961) determined that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "should be read against
the background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for
the natural consequences of his actions." 365 U.S. at 187, 81
S.Ct. at 484 and that specific intent to violate the rights
protected by the Act is not necessary for a cause of action.
Early cases took this to mean that a § 1983 cause of action was
possible for all torts so long as the tortious act was done by
individuals acting under color of state law. See Hardwick v.
Hurley, 289 F.2d 529 (7th Cir. 1961). The later trend was to move
away from this absolute position (see Cohen v. Norris,
300 F.2d 24 (9th Cir. 1962).
A great deal of debate centers on the question of whether
"improper motive" must accompany an invasion of constitutional
rights to make the violation actionable under § 1983.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Joseph v. Rowlen,
402 F.2d 367 (1968), relied on by Plaintiff, rejected the notion that
ulterior motive is a requisite of a § 1983 cause: