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Edwards v. Illinois Department of Corrections

decided: April 8, 1975.


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division - Nos. 72 C 1560, 72 C 2188 Frank J. McGarr, Judge.

Cummings and Sprecher, Circuit Judges, and Markey, Chief Judge of the U.s. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.*fn*

Author: Cummings

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

These consolidated actions were brought under the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983) and complain principally that the four named Illinois prison inmates and their class*fn1 had their good time revoked without due process of law by the prison Disciplinary Committee and Merit Staff at Statesville, Illinois. In particular, the complaints challenged the constitutionality of the Illinois Department of Corrections' procedures on the loss of good time embodied in Sections 804 and 812 of the then departmental regulations.*fn2

In an unreported memorandum opinion and order in Edwards, the district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. Noting that the "central thrust" of plaintiffs' complaint was for deprivation of good time without due process, Judge McGarr held that under Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 36 L. Ed. 2d 439, 93 S. Ct. 1827, habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for claims seeking the restoration of good time. Apparently treating plaintiffs' civil rights action as a petition for habeas corpus (see United States ex rel. Miller v. Twomey, supra, at 703), the district court further held that the plaintiffs had failed to allege adequately their exhaustion of state remedies as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and therefore dismissed the Edwards complaint in toto without ruling separately on the claims for damages or for declaratory and injunctive relief.

After its decision in Edwards, the district court issued a short order dismissing Coleman sua sponte, relying upon the same analysis that it had used in Edwards. In this Court, plaintiffs argue that the district court should have granted their claims for restoration of good time as if made under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, because the Illinois remedies assertedly open to them do not provide for a realistic possibility for relief. They also contend that even if the district court properly dismissed the claims for restoration of good time for failure to exhaust, it was error to dismiss plaintiffs' claims for compensatory injunctive and declaratory relief under Section 1983.*fn3

In Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963, the Supreme Court made it clear that "the question of retroactivity of new procedural rules affecting inquiries into infractions of prison discipline is effectively foreclosed by this Court's ruling in [Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 33 L. Ed. 2d 484, 92 S. Ct. 2593]." 418 U.S. at 573. Thus in order to state a cause of action for violation of constitutional rights upon which relief can be granted, persons seeking redress for procedural due process violations in prison disciplinary procedures must allege facts showing that the due process requirements applicable at the time of the alleged violations were not met. Plaintiffs in these cases fail to allege such facts.

In late 1971 and early 1972, when the events of which plaintiffs complain took place,*fn4 the applicable standard for prison disciplinary hearings had been set forth in Adams v. Pate, 445 F.2d 105 (7th Cir. 1971). There a panel of this Court said of a prison disciplinary proceeding:

"It thus appears that the prisoner is confronted with the accusation against him and afforded a reasonable opportunity to deny the accusation or explain his actions. In the context of the nature of the administrative action here involved, this would appear to fairly and rationally satisfy the concept of procedural due process." 445 F.2d at 108.

While it may not have been immediately clear that in Adams we were announcing a standard by which prison disciplinary hearings would be judged, subsequent decisions have shown it to be such. Chapman v. Kleindienst, 507 F.2d 1246, 1252 (7th Cir. 1974); Aikens v. Lash, 514 F.2d 55 (7th Cir. 1975), slip opinion at 13; Thomas v. Pate, 516 F.2d 889 (7th Cir. 1975), slip opinion at 2-3. In Aikens, which was argued before this Court on the same day as the instant appeal, Judge Sprecher noted that "at most Adams provided prisoners with an opportunity to deny the accusations against them and explain their actions to prison officials." 514 F.2d at 62.

While the present complaints ask the courts to require some procedures which go beyond even those mandated in Wolff and Miller, it is apparent from the allegations that the four plaintiffs were afforded the opportunity to deny the accusations against them or explain their conduct, as due process under Adams required.*fn5 Thus the complaints fail to state a cause of action for deprivation of procedural due process. See Chapman v. Kleindienst, supra, at 1252; Black v. Brown, 513 F.2d 652 (7th Cir. 1975), slip opinion at 7.

Because plaintiffs allege no cause of action upon which relief may be granted for denial of due process with respect to the various deprivations of good time, habeas corpus relief is inappropriate, regardless of the claimed non-availability of state remedies. Similarly, since no constitutional rights were abridged, plaintiffs have failed to make a case for declaratory, injunctive or monetary relief under Section 1983 for the deprivation of good time. Consequently, the district court's dismissal of the complaints was proper.*fn6 Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).


Disposit ...

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