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VEGA v. DEROBERTIS

September 10, 1984

CARLOS VEGA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHARD W. DEROBERTIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Carlos Vega ("Vega"), an inmate confined at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") in Joliet, Illinois, has sued several defendants in their official capacities as officers of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). Vega claims defendants, acting under color of state law, violated his rights under the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.*fn1 Accordingly he sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") for declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Though his complaint is in two counts, Vega actually asserts three kinds of injury:

    1. Allegedly as a result of defendants' conduct
  in connection with three separate disciplinary
  proceedings, Vega was found guilty and punished
  on at least some of the charges brought despite
  the insufficiency of the evidence adduced against
  him to establish guilt. That assertedly violated
  his due process right to be found guilty only on
  the basis of sufficient evidence.*fn2
    2. Other alleged facts suggest the disciplinary
  proceedings were initiated in retaliation against
  Vega for his efforts as a law clerk on behalf of
  inmates prosecuting claims before administrative
  bodies and the courts. Such claimed
  discriminatory treatment invokes the Equal
  Protection Clause.
    3. Vega's punishment, and the maintenance of
  records falsely showing he had violated
  institutional rules, under the circumstances
  described in the two preceding paragraphs are
  said to violate his Eighth Amendment guaranty
  against cruel and unusual punishment.

Defendants have now moved for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, their motion is granted.

Facts

Vega complains of three separate incidents within the space of five months (one on May 17, one on August 4 and one on September 11, 1983*fn3), each resulting in disciplinary proceedings against him. When those incidents occurred Vega worked in the Stateville law library as a law clerk (a position he continues to hold). In that capacity he has assisted Stateville inmates in prosecuting claims before administrative agencies and the courts. Vega Aff. ¶ 2.

On May 17 Vega was ordered by defendant Officer Victor Stone ("Stone") to stand for the morning count. Established procedure, until recently not vigorously enforced by Stateville officials, requires "all inmates . . . to get out of bed and stand near the front of the cell until the gallery is counted." Pl. Ex. A. Even though neither of Vega's cellmates was standing at the time, Vega says he alone was ordered to his feet.*fn4 After Vega had refused two orders to stand, Stone ordered him to surrender his identification card. Again Vega refused. After further orders and refusals, Vega finally remarked:

  I am tired of this fucking bullshit, that is the
  way fucking riots start, you fucking people with
  your fucking bullshit.

At that point Vega surrendered his identification card. See Pl. Exs. B, D.

As a result of the confrontation Stone issued an Inmate Disciplinary Report ("IDR") charging Vega with several violations, including intimidation or threats, insolence and disobedience of a direct order. Pl. Ex. B. When he appeared before the Adjustment Committee ("AC") on the charges, Vega admitted both his refusal to stand and his quoted statement. Instead he argued his conduct had not risen to the level of intimidation or threats as defined in the disciplinary regulations.

On August 4 defendant Officer Roger Davis ("Davis") discovered a pair of boxing gloves and a piece of metal measuring 16" X 1/8" X 1" in Vega's cell. Davis issued an IDR charging Vega with possession of dangerous contraband and unauthorized property. Pl.Ex. G. Before the AC Vega admitted the gloves and metal had been found in his cell, but he denied ownership of the gloves and the fashioning of the metal into a weapon (as Davis testified). Pl.Ex. H. Moreover Vega says although he asked the members of the AC to examine the piece of metal themselves, they refused to do so. Rather it found him guilty on the basis of his admission the objects had been found in his cell, coupled with Davis' report. Vega Aff. ¶ 9, Pl.Ex. H. It ordered Vega (1) transferred to segregation and (2) demoted to "C" grade (both for 180 days) and also (3) deprived of 180 days of statutory good conduct credit. Pl.Ex. H. Upon reviewing Davis' report and examining the piece of metal, defendant Stateville Warden*fn5 Richard DeRobertis ("DeRobertis") reduced the penalty imposed by the AC to 15 days of segregation and demotion to "C" grade for 30 days. Pl.Ex. I.

Finally, on September 11 defendant Officer James Carver ("Carver") ordered Vega to lock up. Vega (who later claimed he did not hear the order) failed to respond. Once Vega had returned to his cell, Carver ordered him to surrender his identification card, whereupon Vega told Carver (as paraphrased by Carver) "he was not giving me anything and that I had better get out of his face." Pl.Ex. J. Carver issued an IDR charging Vega with various violations, including intimidation or threats, insolence and disobedience of a direct order. Pl.Ex. J. Based on Carver's statement and Vega's admission that a confrontation had occurred, the AC found Vega guilty of all charges except that of intimidation or threats and ordered him transferred to segregation for a period of 15 days. Pl.Ex. K.

Bases for Summary Judgment

Defendants' motion focuses primarily on Vega's claim of guilty findings — at least on certain charges in the IDRs — based on insufficient evidence. As Def.Mem. 1-2 puts it:

  Simply stated, plaintiff's basic claims [sic] is
  that on three ocassions [sic] he was punished by
  the Defendants without ...

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