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COOPER v. ELROD

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D


July 17, 1985

GERARD COOPER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHARD ELROD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee in the State of Illinois, claims that defendants unlawfully transferred him from the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center ("Audy Home") to the Cook County Jail after he turned seventeen years old because they did not grant him a prior hearing. Plaintiff bases his claim on an Illinois statute which provides that when a convicted person originally committed to the Juvenile Division of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") reaches the age of seventeen, there shall be a hearing to determine whether or not that person shall be transferred to the Adult Division. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶ 1005-8-6(c), 1003-10-7(a), (c) (1983). Plaintiff claims that defendants, in effecting his automatic transfer, acted under color of state law to deprive him of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 This Court has proper subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1343.

Prior to transfer, plaintiff Gerard Cooper filed in Cook County Circuit Court a motion to prevent transfer, which was denied on Friday, January 11, 1985. On Monday, January 14, 1985, after the transfer had occurred, plaintiff argued a motion for a temporary restraining order before this Court, which motion also was denied. Plaintiff now requests that this Court grant him the following relief: (a) a holding that the policy resulting in plaintiff's automatic transfer is unconstitutional; and (b) entry of an order directing defendants to transfer plaintiff Cooper back to the Audy Home until he is afforded a judicial hearing to determine whether he should be transferred to the Cook County Jail.

Presently before this Court are cross-motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons given below, defendants' motion for summary judgment in their favor is granted, and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied.

Facts*fn2

Plaintiff, Gerard Cooper, was born on January 12, 1968. On August 31, 1984, an indictment charging Cooper with murder was filed. Because he was unable to meet the $250,000 bond and because he was sixteen years old at the time, he was placed in the Audy Home pending trial.

The Audy Home is a detention center for juveniles, established by the County Board of Cook County, pursuant to Chapter 23 of the Illinois Revised Statutes, "Charities and Public Welfare." Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 23, ¶ 2681 (1983). The Cook County Jail houses inmates aged seventeen and over. Inmates of the Cook County Jail are under the custody of the Cook County Sheriff, and within the Cook County Department of Corrections. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 125, ¶¶ 201-216 (1983).*fn3 It is the policy of the Cook County Corrections Department, the Cook County Jail, and the Audy Home to transfer Audy Home inmates to the Cook County Jail when they turn seventeen years old. The transfer is automatic: there is no prior hearing.

On Saturday, January 12, 1985, Cooper turned seventeen years old. On Monday, January 14, 1985, pursuant to the aforesaid county policy, defendants caused plaintiff Cooper to be transferred from the Audy Home to Cook County Jail without a hearing. Cooper is currently incarcerated at the Cook County Jail, housed in a school tier for 17 to 20 year olds. Under the Illinois Code of Corrections, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶¶ 1003-1-1 to 1008-6-1, however, when a convicted person who is originally housed in the Juvenile Division of the IDOC turns seventeen years old, the sentencing court must conduct a hearing to determine whether that person should remain under the auspices of the Juvenile Division or be transferred to the Adult Division. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶¶ 1005-8-6(c), 1003-10-7(a) (1983). These hearings are conducted by the sentencing court and the court is to consider all relevant matter, including, inter alia, the seriousness of the offense, "whether the protection of the community requires transfer," and "the sophistication and maturity of the juvenile." Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶ 1003-10-7(c).*fn4

Only persons who have been convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a felony are committed to the IDOC and thus are within the purview of the Illinois Corrections Code. All pretrial detainees in Illinois, all those convicted persons awaiting sentencing, and all convicted persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment for less than one year, are under the custody of the Sheriff in the various county corrections systems. See Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶¶ 1003-1-2(b), 1005-8-6(b) (1983).*fn5

Substantive Due Process Claim

Plaintiff Cooper claims first that defendants have violated his substantive due process rights. According to Cooper, Illinois law creates a constitutionally protected liberty interest for convicted persons in remaining in the Juvenile Division of the IDOC if they were originally housed there. Plaintiff argues that because pretrial detainees retain at least those constitutional rights enjoyed by convicted persons, Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1877, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), he had a substantive due process right to a hearing before transfer to Cook County Jail.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits any State from depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Supreme Court has established that the Due Process Clause in and of itself does not protect a convicted prisoner from arbitrary transfer from one institution to another within the state prison system. Indeed, that an inmate is transferred to a much more disagreeable institution does not implicate a Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest. Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225, 96 S.Ct. 2532, 2538, 49 L.Ed.2d 451 (1976); Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 242, 96 S.Ct. 2543, 2547, 49 L.Ed.2d 466 (1976).*fn6

It is true that "state statutes may create liberty interests that are entitled to the procedural protections of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 488, 100 S.Ct. 1254, 1261, 63 L.Ed.2d 552 (1980). In the context of intrastate prison transfers, a state statute creates a liberty interest in remaining in a particular penal institution only when that statute places a "substantive limitation on the prison officials' exercise of discretion" to transfer an inmate. Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091, 1101 (7th Cir. 1982). See also Harris v. McDonald, 737 F.2d 662 (7th Cir. 1984).

Under Illinois law, prison officials have no discretion to transfer convicted 17 year olds from the Juvenile Division of the IDOC to its Adult Division.*fn7 Rather, Section 3-10-7 of the Illinois Code of Corrections provides that the sentencing court shall determine whether or not a juvenile under 17 years of age when sentenced shall remain under the auspices of the Juvenile Division when he turns 17 years old. Further, a convicted person originally committed to the Juvenile Division is not required by law to be transferred to the Adult Division until he turns 21 years old; until that time, the sentencing court retains jurisdiction over such persons. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶¶ 1005-8-6(c), 1003-10-7(a), (c). Thus, the Illinois statute creates a liberty interest for convicted persons aged 17 to 21 in remaining in the Juvenile Division of the IDOC if they were originally committed there.

In this case, plaintiff Cooper is a pretrial detainee, and thus is outside the scope of the Illinois Code of Corrections, and within the jurisdiction of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Plaintiff argues that nonetheless he has a substantive due process right to a judicial hearing before transfer to Cook County Jail. To establish this claim, plaintiff relies solely on Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), where the Supreme Court noted: "pretrial detainees, who have not been convicted of any crimes, retain at least those constitutional rights that we have held are enjoyed by convicted persons." Id. at 545, 99 S.Ct. at 1877.

Plaintiff's reliance is misplaced. In Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 545, 99 S.Ct. at 1877, the Supreme Court first reviewed some of the constitutional protections retained by convicted persons despite their conviction and confinement in prison: freedom of speech and religion under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, protection against invidious discrimination on the basis of race under the Equal Protection Clause, and the protection of the Due Process Clause to prevent additional deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. A fortiori, the Court reasoned, pretrial detainees retain at least those constitutional protections. Id. As reviewed above, however, the Due Process Clause in and of itself does not give convicted persons any constitutional protection from intra-state prison transfer, for whatever reason. Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. at 225, 96 S.Ct. at 2538; Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. at 242, 96 S.Ct. at 2547. Because the right to a pre-transfer hearing is not among those constitutional protections which convicted persons retain, Bell v. Wolfish does nothing to establish such a constitutional right for pretrial detainees such as Cooper.*fn8

Of course, where the state statutorily creates a liberty interest for a certain group of state prisoners, procedural due process is required to insure that the state-created right is not arbitrarily abrogated. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. at 226, 96 S.Ct. 2539 (and cases cited therein). However, Section 3-10-7 of the Illinois Code of Corrections creates no liberty interest for plaintiff Cooper. Cooper has not yet been, and under Illinois law will never be, committed to the Juvenile Division of the IDOC. (See discussion infra.)*fn9

In sum, defendants' refusal to give plaintiff Cooper a hearing prior to transfer to the Cook County Jail did not deprive Cooper of any substantive or procedural due process rights.

Equal Protection Claim

Plaintiff also claims that defendants have deprived him of his right to equal protection of the laws. Because Illinois law provides convicted persons originally committed to the Juvenile Division of the IDOC with a judicial hearing prior to transfer to the Adult Division, plaintiff argues that the State's denial of a similar hearing to pretrial detainees prior to transfer from the Audy Home to Cook County Jail violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn10

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees all persons the equal protection of the laws. U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The State is required to govern impartially and may not draw distinctions between individuals based solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective. Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248, 103 S.Ct. 2985, 77 L.Ed.2d 614 (1983). In applying the Equal Protection Clause, however, the Supreme Court has recognized consistently that the Fourteenth Amendment does not deny to States the power to treat different classes of persons differently. Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 75, 92 S.Ct. 251, 253, 30 L.Ed.2d 225 (1971) (and cases cited therein). Thus, a preliminary step in equal protection analysis is to determine whether the persons who are subject to disparate treatment are similarly situated. Johnson v. Smith, 696 F.2d 1334 (11th Cir. 1983).

Plaintiff claims that the State discriminates between pretrial detainees and convicted persons in Illinois. An examination of the statutory scheme, however, reveals that the distinction is not between pretrial detainees and convicted persons, but rather between short-term and long-term inmates. Offenders sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a felony are committed to the penitentiary system of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Offenders sentenced to a term of imprisonment of less than one year, however, are committed to the custody of the Sheriff. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶ 1005-8-6 (1983). Also in county custody are pretrial detainees and convicted persons awaiting sentencing. See Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 125, ¶ 203(b); ch. 38, ¶¶ 1003-1-2, 1005-8-7. Thus, all inmates who are imprisoned on a temporary or short-term basis are in the custody of the Sheriff, in the various county corrections systems, while all long-term prisoners are committed to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Several courts have held that the Equal Protection Clause is not implicated where county authorities treat their prisoners differently than the state Department of Corrections treats its prisoners. Dawson v. Kendrick, 527 F. Supp. 1252 (S.D.W. Va. 1981); Kersh v. Bounds, 501 F.2d 585 (4th Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 420 U.S. 925, 95 S.Ct. 1120, 43 L.Ed.2d 394 (1975). Plaintiff does not challenge the State's authority to delegate the responsibility for one class of prisoners to the county governments and for another to the state Department of Corrections. According to Dawson and Kersh, while this division of authority may never justify subjecting county prisoners to unconstitutional conditions or practices, it does not, as a matter of equal protection, require that the conditions, practices and, especially, the rules at the various institutions of the two governmental entities be identical. Dawson, 527 F. Supp. at 1287.

As the court stated in Dawson: "Thus, where a practice or policy in the . . . County Jail is constitutionally sound, this court must defer to the informed judgment of the parties charged with the jail's management even though a seemingly more enlighted approach has been adopted for the State Prison." In an earlier opinion, the Fourth Circuit had held that where "the county prisoners are treated alike and the Department prisoners are treated alike, . . . there is no Equal Protection violation." Kersh v. Bounds, 501 F.2d at 588.

There are certainly many obvious differences in the situations of short-term versus long-term inmates. The very fact that a prisoner will remain in the system longer creates a need for more rules and procedures to cover the greater varieties of situations and problems that will occur. Further, when an inmate remains in the prison system longer, the authorities have a greater interest in and control over that inmate's development over time, including his placement within the system and his rehabilitation. Of course, whether two groups are similarly situated for purposes of challenged disparate treatment depends upon the nature of the distinction. Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 77, 92 S.Ct. 251, 254, 30 L.Ed.2d 225 (1971).

Where courts have found equal protection violations involving two groups of prisoners, the circumstances were distinguishable from those in the instant case. For example, in Hill v. Hutto, 537 F. Supp. 1185 (E.D.Va. 1982), long-term felons housed in a city jail awaiting transfer to overcrowded state prisons were not afforded the programs and rehabilitation opportunities that were available in the state system. The court found that this difference in the treatment of similarly situated convicted persons based on their location violated the Equal Protection Clause. Id. at 1189. The court was careful to limit its holding to substantive rules because requiring the city jail to adopt the Virginia Department of Correction's procedural regulations would be an undue intrusion into the jail's administration. Id. at 1190.*fn11

Also relevant is Lock v. Jenkins, 641 F.2d 488 (7th Cir. 1981), where pretrial detainees being housed in a state prison for safekeeping were subjected to significantly more burdensome conditions than were convicted persons in the same institution. The court held that absent a rational justification of the different treatment, this was a violation of equal protection. Id. at 497. It is helpful to compare Lock with Kersh v. Bounds, 501 F.2d at 588-89, where the Fourth Circuit found no equal protection problem where county prisoners temporarily housed in state prison were denied elective medical treatment.

These cases illustrate that the nature of the disparate treatment is significant in determining whether an equal protection problem exists. The court in Hutto found that for purposes of rehabilitation, a long-term felon could not be treated like the pretrial detainees with whom he was housed in the city jail; equal protection required that he be given the same opportunities as similarly situated convicted persons. Similarly, in Kersh, the state system was not required to pay for the elective medical treatment of temporary detainees simply because it provided such treatment to its long-term inmates. On the other hand, unlike benefits such as rehabilitation programs and elective medical treatment which are specifically intended for the long-term prisoner, decent conditions of confinement are not related to that distinction between county and state inmates.*fn12 Thus, in Lock, the court held that all inmates of the defendant state prison must be treated similarly for that purpose.*fn13

Swansey v. Elrod, 386 F. Supp. 1138 (N.D.Ill. 1975), is the only case cited by plaintiff or uncovered by this Court which found that a county corrections system was required by the Equal Protection Clause to give pretrial detainees in its custody treatment similar to that given convicted persons in the State Department of Corrections in compliance with the State Code of Corrections. Id. at 1143-44.

In Swansey, plaintiffs protested the Cook County Sheriff's policy regarding pretrial detainees between the ages of 13 and 17 who were to be tried as adults. These detainees were automatically housed at the Cook County Jail and commingled with adults. Plaintiffs claimed that the Sheriff's policy deprived them of equal protection of the laws because the Illinois Code of Corrections prohibits housing a minor under 17 years old with adults in the Adult Division, even if the minor was convicted in the adult criminal justice system.

The court in Swansey held that plaintiffs had demonstrated a likelihood of success on their equal protection claim, entitling them to a preliminary injunction. Where the State provided rehabilitation services to convicted juvenile felons because of their age, the court held it was irrational to deny unconvicted detainees the same services under similar conditions. Id. at 1144. Because the only reason advanced for the allegedly discriminatory treatment was the slight administrative inconvenience involved in transporting the juveniles to court once a month, the court found that Cook County's action was not rationally related to a legitimate government purpose and, hence, violated the Equal Protection Clause. Id.

In its equal protection analysis, the Swansey court did not consider whether the two groups of inmates were similarly situated for equal protection purposes.*fn14 Furthermore, in Swansey there was a direct dichotomy between the treatment of pretrial detainees and convicted persons of the same age group: all the 13 to 16 year olds to be tried as adults were pretrial detainees; none of the plaintiff class were convicted persons with short sentences. In the instant case, however, it is not true that plaintiff Cooper is treated differently than all convicted persons of his age solely because he is a pretrial detainee.

Pretrial detainees such as plaintiff Cooper are in a different situation than the convicted persons granted a pre-transfer hearing in Section 3-10-7. Section 3-10-7 provides that when a juvenile originally committed to the Juvenile Division of the IDOC turns 17 years old, he shall receive a judicial hearing to determine whether he should be transferred to the Adult Division. Thus, the class of persons afforded this special protection includes only those offenders who were sentenced when they were under 17 years old to a term of imprisonment of one year or more.

In contrast, convicted felons who are 17 years old at the time of sentencing are automatically committed to the Adult Division: those 17 year olds are not given a judicial hearing to determine whether they are better suited to the Juvenile Division or the Adult Division. Under Illinois law, it is the minor's age at the time of sentencing, rather than at the time of the offense, which determines where he is originally committed. People v. Green, 104 Ill. App.3d 278, 60 Ill.Dec. 38, 432 N.E.2d 937 (1982); People v. Costello, 95 Ill. App.3d 680, 51 Ill.Dec. 178, 420 N.E.2d 592 (1981).

The legislative scheme, then, distinguishes between those who are given a long-term sentence when they are under age 17, and all others who are sentenced at age 17 or older. The statute gives special protections to the younger group: they are originally committed to the Juvenile Division; they cannot be transferred to the Adult Division without a prior judicial hearing; and the sentencing court retains jurisdiction over them until they reach age 21.

Plaintiff Cooper, if he is ever convicted, will be sentenced at age 17 or older.*fn15 If Cooper is convicted, then, he will be committed automatically to the Adult Division of the IDOC: there will be no individualized determination made.

The statutory scheme thus classifies convicted persons by their age group, with the relevant age being the offender's age at the time of sentencing. Plaintiff Cooper is in the age group which does not receive a judicial hearing prior to commitment to the Adult Division. Given these circumstances, defendants, by sending 17 year old Cooper to the 17 to 20 year old section of the Cook County Jail, have not denied him a right accorded similarly situated convicted persons.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this Court finds that defendants have not deprived plaintiff Cooper of the equal protection of the laws. Further, Cooper had no substantive due process right, based on either the Due Process Clause or an Illinois statute, to a judicial hearing prior to transfer to Cook County Jail. For these reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted and plaintiffs' motion correspondingly is denied.

Appendix

Paragraph 1005-8-6 provides in pertinent part:

  (c) All offenders under 17 years of age when
  sentenced to imprisonment shall be committed to
  the Juvenile Division of the Department of
  Corrections. . . . The committing court shall
  retain jurisdiction of the subject matter and the
  person until he or she reaches the age of 21
  unless earlier discharged. However, the Juvenile
  Division of the Department of Corrections shall
  after a juvenile has reached 17 years of age,
  petition the court to conduct a hearing pursuant
  to subsection (c) of Section 3-10-7 of this Code.

Paragraph 1003-10-7 provides in pertinent part:

  § 3-10-7. Interdivisional Transfers. (a) In any
  case where a juvenile was originally committed to
  the Juvenile Division under Section 5-8-6, the
  Department of Corrections shall, within 30 days of
  the date that the juvenile reaches the age of 17,
  send formal notification to the sentencing court
  and the State's Attorney of the county from which
  the juvenile was sentenced indicating the day upon
  which the juvenile offender will achieve the age of
  17. Within 90 days of receipt of that notice, the
  sentencing court shall conduct a hearing, pursuant
  to the provisions of subsection (c) of this
  Section, to determine whether or not the juvenile
  shall continue to remain under the auspices of the
  Juvenile Division or be transferred to the Adult
  Division of the Department of Corrections.

  (c) Any interdivisional transfer hearing
  conducted pursuant to subsection (a) of this
  Section shall consider all available information
  which may bear upon the issue of transfer. All
  evidence helpful to the court in determining the
  question of transfer, including oral and written
  reports containing hearsay, may be relied upon to
  the extent of its probative value, even though
  not competent for the purposes of an adjudicatory
  hearing.

  The court shall consider, along with any other
  relevant matter, the following:

    1. The seriousness of the offense to the
  community and whether the protection of the
  community requires transfer.

    2. Whether the offense was committed in an
  aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful
  manner.

    3. Whether the offense was against persons or
  against property, greater weight being given to
  offenses against persons especially if personal
  injury resulted.

    4. The sophistication and maturity of the
  juvenile as determined by consideration of his
  home, environmental situation, emotional attitude
  and pattern of living.

    5. The record and previous history of the
  juvenile, including previous contacts with the
  Juvenile Division, other law enforcement
  agencies, juvenile courts and other
  jurisdictions, prior periods of probation to the
  Juvenile Court, or prior committments to juvenile
  institutions.

    6. The prospects for adequate protection of the
  public and the likelihood of reasonable
  rehabilitation of the juvenile by the use of
  procedures, services and facilities currently
  available to the Juvenile Division.


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