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Madyun v. Thompson

decided: August 6, 1981.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Peoria Division. No. 79-C-1083 -- Robert D. Morgan, Judge .

Before Fairchild, Sprecher and Cudahy, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cudahy

Plaintiffs are Illinois prisoners who brought this class action for injunctive relief challenging various conditions at Pontiac State Prison. The suit was filed in 1977. The district court denied plaintiffs' motion to proceed in forma pauperis because the complaint was "frivolous". The district court did not pass on plaintiffs' motion for leave to appeal in forma pauperis. This court remanded the action and directed the district court to rule on plaintiffs' request for an indigent appeal.

The district court then granted plaintiffs' request to appeal in forma pauperis. On appeal, this court reversed from the bench the district court's denial of plaintiffs' original motion to file in forma pauperis and ordered that plaintiffs' action be allowed to proceed in the district court. Hammonds v. Thompson, No. 78-2153, Unpublished Order (7th Cir. April 12, 1979). The order specifically cited several of the allegations of the complaint as "clearly not frivolous."

Following this court's remand, the district court proceeded to rule on plaintiffs' claims. An unpublished order of August 2, 1979, dismissed two groups of allegations, one group for mootness and the second group for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). A third group of allegations was disposed of on summary judgment under what appears to be a collateral estoppel theory. The district court disposed of the final portion of the complaint in a published order, Madyun v. Thompson, 484 F. Supp. 619 (C.D.Ill.1980), by a combination of summary judgment and dismissal for failure to state a claim. All of the claims were eventually resolved adversely to plaintiffs and this appeal followed. We shall consider the disposition of each group of allegations separately.

I. Collateral Estoppel

The district court ruled that one set of allegations*fn1 duplicated questions resolved by a remedial order in Preston v. Thompson, No. 78-C-3512, pending at that time in the Northern District of Illinois. Accordingly, the district court granted judgment for the defendants on those allegations because the order in Preston, known as the "Pontiac Plan," amounted to an "adjudication" that conditions under the Plan are not violative of the Constitution. Because plaintiffs did not allege or offer evidence that conditions were other than as the Plan described, the court granted summary judgment*fn2 as to the above-noted matters supposedly common to both actions.

There are several flaws in this approach. First, the Pontiac Plan did not purport to mandate compliance with the Constitution. Rather, the Pontiac Plan attempted to restore conditions at the prison to those existing prior to the devastating riots of July 22, 1978. Nowhere in the Pontiac Plan is there any mention of the Constitution, nor is there any attempt to evaluate the constitutional dimensions of the rights asserted in the Preston litigation.

Second, the purported duplication between the claims resolved in Preston and those in the instant case is not nearly as complete as indicated by the district court. The general sort of kinship inherent in concerns respectively addressed to similar broad issues of prison management is not nearly close enough to have somehow adjudicated plaintiffs' challenges in the instant case.

Finally, and most importantly, every litigant is entitled to his or her day in court. The kind of issue preclusion applied by the district court in the instant case, normally described as collateral estoppel, is reserved for circumstances where a party to the present litigation has had a "full and fair opportunity" to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding. Blonder-Tongue Laboratories, Inc. v. University of Illinois Foundation, 402 U.S. 313, 329, 91 S. Ct. 1434, 1443, 28 L. Ed. 2d 788 (1971). The record in this case is silent as to who the parties to the Preston litigation are. Certainly, there is no showing that the plaintiffs in the instant case were represented or participated in Preston. Overall we think there is no basis for collateral estoppel. We therefore reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the allegations listed in footnote 1 of this opinion.*fn3

II. Mootness

The district court dismissed another group of allegations*fn4 as moot because they purportedly duplicated subjects encompassed in the consent decree in Stansbury v. Pinkney, Nos. 78-1051 through 78-1072 (C.D.Ill.1979) (consolidated), a separate suit before Judge Morgan also challenging prison conditions at Pontiac. Allegations are moot when a plaintiff "has already been made whole for damage it claims to have suffered...." Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 203 U.S. App. D.C. 220, 631 F.2d 802, 808 (D.C.Cir.1980). In the instant case, this definition of mootness would suggest an apparent belief by the district court that the Stansbury consent decree had already granted plaintiffs the relief that they seek in the pertinent allegations of their complaint.

A comparison of these allegations and the Stansbury consent decree reveals that the identity of content relied upon by the district court is simply not present. In the absence of a high degree of duplication, plaintiffs' claims cannot be moot because those claims seek relief beyond that granted in Stansbury. See Wiley v. NCAA, 612 F.2d 473, 476 (10th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 943, 100 S. Ct. 2168, 64 L. Ed. 2d 798 (1980). For example, the Stansbury consent decree forbids prison officials from placing more than two inmates in a cell. The complaint in the instant case challenges the practice of putting even two inmates in a given cell.*fn5 Complaint, P 12A.

Plaintiffs also challenge the adequacy of the food service at Pontiac on numerous grounds. Complaint, P 12B. The allegations focus on the quantity of food, unsanitary conditions, disparities among the food offerings to various cellhouses and inadequate substitutes for pork entrees for inmates unable to eat pork because of their religious beliefs. The Stansbury decree, on the other hand, addresses the food service in only the most general fashion by providing for semi-annual inspections by the Illinois Department of Health and an inspector appointed by the court. While such inspections could ...

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