UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
decided: October 24, 1988.
LOKMAR YAZID ABDUL-WADOOD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
JACK DUCKWORTH AND EDWARD COHN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 83 C 372-Allen Sharp, Judge.
Walter J. Cummings, Richard D. Cudahy and John L. Coffey, Circuit Judges. Coffey, Circuit Judge, concurring in the result in part and dissenting in part.
CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.
Lokmar Yazid Abdul-Wadood, a state prisoner, brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against certain state prison officials. Abdul-Wadood claims that the prison officials violated his right to due process by holding his administrative classification hearing in the absence of his lay advocate and, later, by confining him to disciplinary segregation without charging him with a rule violation or providing him with a hearing. Abdul-Wadood appeals a grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on both issues. He contends also that the district court improperly dismissed his damage claim and that it abused its discretion in denying him court-appointed counsel.
We agree that the damage claim should not have been dismissed at this stage. We reverse the grant of summary judgment in part and vacate and remand with respect to the damage claim.
Abdul-Wadood, serving a sentence for murder and robbery, was transferred from the Indiana Reformatory to the Indiana State Prison on December 29, 1982, for classification reasons. Abdul-Wadood received notice stating that he had been placed in administrative segregation and that a hearing would follow. A classification hearing was held on January 7, 1983. Abdul-Wadood designated a lay advocate to represent him at the hearing. Abdul-Wadood appeared at the hearing, but his lay advocate allegedly did not. Despite his protests, the administrative segregation committee proceeded with the hearing and formally recommended that he be placed in administrative segregation in the New Service Building Segregation Unit (the "NSB Unit"), to which he already had been assigned.
On January 25, 1983, there was an attempted escape from the NSB Unit. Abdul-Wadood did not participate in the escape attempt. In response to the incident, the wardens imposed upon all inmates in the NSB Unit restrictions on visitation, reading material, clothing and use of the commissary and the telephone. Abdul-Wadood claims that these restrictions are the same as those imposed on inmates in disciplinary segregation.*fn1 He claims further that these restrictions continued until June. According to Duckworth, the prison superintendent, and Cohn, the assistant superintendent, the inmates were restored full visitation rights one week after the escape attempt.
In August 1983, Abdul-Wadood brought a pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Duckworth and Cohn, alleging that they violated his due process rights both by placing him in disciplinary segregation for several months without charging him as a rule violator and by conducting his administrative segregation reclassification hearing without the presence of his lay advocate. He sought damages for emotional distress and mental anguish.*fn2
Abdul-Wadood requested court-appointed counsel. The district court responded by giving him sixty days to demonstrate to the court that he had attempted to obtain counsel on his own. More than ten months later, the district court denied Abdul-Wadood's request for counsel.
Meanwhile, Abdul-Wadood was attempting to take discovery on his own. In October 1983, he wrote a letter to the court, requesting a copy of the guidelines that govern the handling by prison officials of disciplinary matters. The court did not respond. In January 1984, Abdul-Wadood filed a document request, seeking production of his central file, prison reports, internal memoranda relating to his status and copies of Indiana prison rules, regulations and policy statements. The defendants objected to producing the documents, claiming that Abdul-Wadood had access to his institutional packet via his prison counselor, a method less burdensome to the defendants, and that many of the documents in his institutional packet were unnecessary or irrelevant to his case.
Abdul-Wadood moved to compel production of the documents and later moved to depose Duckworth, Cohn and other prison officials. Three months later, the court denied his motion to depose, ruling that he had the "ability to utilize other discovery tools available to him." Abdul-Wadood v. Duckworth, No. S 83-0372, order at 1 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 6, 1984). The court apparently never ruled on the motion to compel. Abdul-Wadood's only successful attempt at discovery was Duckworth's response to the first set of interrogatories.
In May 1985, the district judge conducted a hearing during which he asked Abdul-Wadood several questions relating to his claims against Duckworth and Cohn. Concerning damages, the judge asked, "You do have claims for money damages against Jack Duckworth and Edward Cohen [sic] in their official capacities?" Abdul-Wadood answered, "Yes." Hearing Transcript at 18-19. The court then dismissed the damage claim against Duckworth and Cohn in their official capacities.
Abdul-Wadood moved to reconsider the dismissal of his damage claim, asking the court to consider his pro se complaint more liberally and again requesting appointment of counsel. The court denied the motion because Abdul-Wadood had not "indicated to [the] court nor has he served defendants with a complaint in any capacity other than their official capacity." Abdul-Wadood v. Duckworth, No. S 83-0372, order at 1 (N.D. Ind. June 22, 1985).
The court ultimately granted summary judgment for Duckworth and Cohn on all of Abdul-Wadood's claims, finding no basis for relief for Abdul-Wadood under section 1983.
To affirm the district court's summary disposition of the case, we must find that the pleadings, affidavits and answers to interrogatories reveal "no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Caldwell v. Miller, 790 F.2d 589, 597 (7th Cir. 1986). Any reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of Abdul-Wadood, the non-moving party. Id.
We consider first whether Abdul-Wadood was confined to administrative segregation in violation of the fourteenth amendment because his January 7, 1983 classification hearing was conducted in the absence of his lay advocate. To invoke the protections of procedural due process, Abdul-Wadood must demonstrate that he had at stake a protected liberty interest. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 481-82, 33 L. Ed. 2d 484, 92 S. Ct. 2593 (1972). Although the due process clause itself does not give rise to a liberty interest in remaining in the general prison population, Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466-67, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983); Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408, 414-15 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 935, 108 S. Ct. 311, 98 L. Ed. 2d 269 (1987), Indiana statutes and regulations may provide Abdul-Wadood with a protected liberty interest in remaining free from the restrictions of administrative segregation. Helms, 459 U.S. at 470-71.
It is not clear to us that Indiana has created for Abdul-Wadood the prerequisite liberty interest.*fn3 In any event, we need not decide this issue, for, even if triggered, the procedural guarantees of the due process clause, as interpreted in Helms, do not entitle him to a lay advocate at his classification hearing. Helms requires only "an informal, nonadversary evidentiary review," which includes advance notice of the reason for placement in administrative segregation and an opportunity for the prisoner to present his views to the decisionmaker. Id. at 476. The procedural safeguards required for confinement in administrative segregation were satisfied in the case before us.
Thus, we hold that Abdul-Wadood's assignment to administrative segregation, following a hearing in which the lay advocate was not present, did not violate his right to procedural due process.
We next examine whether, after the attempted prison escape by other prisoners in the NSB Unit on January 25, 1983, restrictions were imposed upon Abdul-Wadood in violation of the due process clause. Abdul-Wadood concedes that immediately following the incident, prison officials had the authority to take any necessary emergency action, "including temporarily restricting the rights of inmates like plaintiff who were not charged with disciplinary violations."*fn4 Plaintiff's Supplemental Brief at 19. Abdul-Wadood claims, however, that once the state of emergency ended, the conditions -- which were identical to those imposed upon prisoners relegated to disciplinary segregation -- could be continued in effect only if Abdul-Wadood were found guilty of a rule violation after notice and a hearing sufficient to satisfy the procedural due process requirements set forth in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974).*fn5
Duckworth and Cohn respond that the restrictions were placed on Abdul-Wadood pursuant to a "lockdown" of the entire unit following the attempted escape. As such, Abdul-Wadood's administrative segregation status remained unchanged, presumably until June. Because the removal of various privileges was not carried out as a punishment for misconduct on Abdul-Wadood's part, these deprivations cannot fairly be said to involve disciplinary segregation. Hence, according to the defendants, Abdul-Wadood was not entitled to the procedural safeguards associated with disciplinary action when restrictions were imposed at the time of the attempted prison escape. The district court, in granting summary judgment for Duckworth and Cohn, held simply that the due process requirements of McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963, and Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864, had been satisfied.*fn6
The parties do not dispute that, if Abdul-Wadood had been in fact subjected to disciplinary action, he would have had at stake a liberty interest sufficient to invoke the protection of the due process clause.*fn7 In that connection, we cannot accept the defendants' position that because Abdul-Wadood's segregation status was never officially changed in connection with the January through June restrictions, he could not have been deprived of a protected liberty interest during that long period. The label prison officials attach to their actions is not alone determinative of the nature of a prisoner's deprivation. See McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 938 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1087, 55 L. Ed. 2d 792, 98 S. Ct. 1282 (1978); Carlo v. Gunter, 520 F.2d 1293, 1295 (1st Cir. 1975).
On the other hand, merely because Abdul-Wadood's loss of privileges was qualitatively equivalent to that experienced by prisoners segregated for disciplinary reasons does not entitle him to the full range of procedural safeguards set forth in McDonnell, 418 U.S. at 563-72.*fn8 If the restrictions were imposed upon the unit as a whole, as a measured response to an emergency, and were continued in force until June to ensure the security of the unit, the restraints on Abdul-Wadood's liberty do not implicate due process guarantees. Cf. Caldwell, 790 F.2d at 602 (unless state statutes or regulations create liberty interest, lock-down restrictions do not trigger procedural safeguards of due process clause).
Thus, the issue becomes whether the restrictions placed on Abdul-Wadood were for the purpose of punishing him -- for being a troublemaker generally or for committing as yet unidentified bad acts -- or, alternatively, served to secure the NSB Unit from further escape attempts. If the former, Abdul-Wadood was presumably deprived of his right to notice and an opportunity to be heard. See supra note 5.
In support of their motion for summary judgment, Duckworth and Cohn contended (1) that privileges were limited for all prisoners on the NSB Unit, (2) that these unit restrictions were a necessary response to an emergency situation and (3) that visitation privileges were restored within a week. The court had before it, however, evidence from which it could reasonably have inferred that some type of disciplinary action had been taken against Abdul-Wadood. Abdul-Wadood submitted several affidavits. In the first, he stated that he "was reduced to disciplinary, punishment segregation and all the loss of liberty, privileges, and allowances characteristics [sic] of punishment segregation". Plaintiff's Supplemental Appendix at 18. In an affidavit filed in connection with his opposition to the defendants' summary judgment motion, Abdul-Wadood stated that he "was told by Sgt. Bachelor, who was the Officer in charge of the unit, that [he] had been reduced to disciplinary status." Id. at 136.
It is also relevant that, during the hearing before the district court, Abdul-Wadood testified as follows:
On January 25 on the unit that I was on some inmates allegedly attempted to escape. And from what I was told some bars were sawed and the administration had to come back in and secure it. And temporarily they told me they had to change the policy and I was reduced on January 25, 1983 from administrative segregation. That is a non-punishment segregation. I was put to disciplinary segregation.
Hearing Transcript at 14-18.
It is significant that, in his response to the interrogatories, Duckworth did not contradict Abdul-Wadood's assertions concerning his disciplinary status. In fact Duckworth intimated that Abdul-Wadood was legitimately serving disciplinary time, that had been suspended, for a previous violation.*fn9
In support of their motion for summary judgment, defendants submitted the affidavit of the prison's supervisor of classification, which explained:
That Mr. Love was also on the unit when the attempted escape and following disturbance occurred in January, 1983. Apparently no conduct reports or guilty findings are on record of Mr. Love for January, 1983. Any action taken against Mr. Love in terms of his privileges were authorized as unit sanctions, not individual sanctions or any changes in his A/S [Administrative Segregation] status.
Plaintiff's Supplemental Appendix at 99-100. The defendants also submitted copies of the memoranda, issued by Duckworth, setting forth the restrictions on visitation, legal documents and personal mail.
Perhaps, if Abdul-Wadood had been more successful in conducting discovery on this matter, we would have a clearer picture of the actions taken by the defendants, and of their purposes. Unfortunately, in major part because he had no counsel, he failed to uncover the significant documents in his file and to obtain the relevant prison regulations.
The evidence that was presented to the district court, however, raises a genuine issue as to whether restrictions were placed on Abdul-Wadood pursuant to disciplinary action, a fact material to his claim that the defendants violated his right to due process. Hence, we reverse the grant of summary judgment in favor of Duckworth and Cohn and remand for further proceedings.
Having concluded that Abdul-Wadood may have a cause of action under section 1983, we must consider the district court's sua sponte dismissal of the damage claim against Duckworth and Cohn.
Abdul-Wadood's pro se complaint does not indicate whether he is suing defendants in their official or in their individual capacities, a distinction of great importance, for to recover damages Abdul-Wadood must seek to impose personal liability upon Duckworth and Cohn by suing them in their individual capacities. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114, 105 S. Ct. 3099 (1985); Hadi v. Horn, 830 F.2d 779, 782-83 (7th Cir. 1987). That Abdul-Wadood was not cognizant of the ramifications of failing to allege that he was bringing an individual-capacity action is not surprising. " This distinction apparently continues to confuse lawyers and confound lower courts." Graham, 473 U.S. at 165.
In light of the fact that Abdul-Wadood was proceeding pro se, the district court was unduly summary in concluding that he had failed to state a valid claim for damages. "It is well settled that pro se litigants are not held to the stringent standards applied to formally trained members of the legal profession, and that, accordingly, we construe pro se complaints liberally." Caldwell, 790 F.2d at 595 (citing Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163, 101 S. Ct. 173 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594 (1972)); see also Sizemore v. Williford, 829 F.2d 608, 609-10 (7th Cir. 1987).
When the nature of a section 1983 suit is unclear from the face of the complaint, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances. Hadi, 830 F.2d at 783. In the present case, Abdul-Wadood's complaint clearly seeks monetary compensation from Duckworth and Cohn. Given that Abdul-Wadood drafted his complaint, his claim for damages is sufficient to alert the court and the defendants that he may be suing them in their individual capacities. The court therefore should have given Abdul-Wadood the opportunity to explain the nature of his claim. Instead, during the hearing that gave rise to the dismissal of the damage claim, the court asked Abdul-Wadood a single question, "You do have claims for money damages against Jack Duckworth and Edward Cohen [sic] in their official capacities?" To this, Abdul-Wadood responded, "Yes." Transcript at 18-19.
Although the court subsequently explained that the eleventh amendment bars Abdul-Wadood from recovering damages against state prison officials in their official capacities,*fn10 it is unlikely that Abdul-Wadood, unrepresented by counsel, understood the significance of his affirmative response to the court's question. The court did not invite him to explain the nature of his claim or to amend his complaint. The court later denied Abdul-Wadood's motion to reconsider the dismissal, stating, "Plaintiff to date has not indicated to this court nor has he served defendants with a complaint in any capacity other than their official capacity." Abdul-Wadood v. Duckworth, No. S 83-0372, order at 1 (N.D. Ind. June 22, 1985).
Under the circumstances of the case, the district court erroneously dismissed Abdul-Wadood's damage claim. Claims of a section 1983 litigant, proceeding pro se, should not be dismissed on the basis of an unclear complaint and the answer to a single, somewhat suggestive, question. Thus, we vacate the order dismissing Abdul-Wadood's damage claim.
The final issue we must address is whether the district court abused its discretion in denying Abdul-Wadood's repeated requests for the assistance of counsel. The record indicates that Abdul-Wadood asked for court-appointed counsel initially in the fall of 1983, because the legal issues were complicated and exceeded his ability and that he renewed his request three times. In May 1984, Abdul-Wadood explained that he had tried unsuccessfully to obtain an attorney. In September 1984, he requested appointed counsel to represent him at depositions. The court denied Abdul-Wadood's request for counsel for the first time in October 1984, because "the factual and legal issues involved [were] not complex and [were] limited to a single issue involving the denial of due process during a C.A.B. hearing." Abdul-Wadood v. Duckworth, No. S 83-0372, order at 2 (N.D. Ind. Oct. 29, 1984). Abdul-Wadood again unsuccessfully requested counsel when he asked the court to reconsider the dismissal of his damage claim.
Abdul-Wadood, of course, has no constitutional right to appointed counsel in this civil action. Caruth v. Pinkney, 683 F.2d 1044, 1048 (7th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1214, 75 L. Ed. 2d 451, 103 S. Ct. 1212 (1983). The district court has the discretion to decide whether to appoint counsel for a civil rights litigant, id., and the refusal to appoint counsel will be overturned only when it results in "fundamental unfairness impinging on due process rights." LaClair v. United States, 374 F.2d 486, 489 (7th Cir. 1967); see also McNeil v. Lowney, 831 F.2d 1368, 1371 (7th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 965, 108 S. Ct. 1236, 99 L. Ed. 2d 435 (1988). We must bear in mind, however, that although "the threshold for reversal of a district court's denial of a motion for the appointment of counsel is high," the district court's discretion is not unreviewable. Id. We have instructed courts to consider all the relevant circumstances in ruling on requests for counsel. Maclin v. Freake, 650 F.2d 885, 887 (7th Cir. 1981). Thus, in Maclin, we identified several factors that call for the appointment of counsel once the district court determines that the plaintiff's claim has some merit: (1) the plaintiff's ability to investigate the facts; (2) whether the only evidence consists of conflicting testimony, which would require effective cross-examination; (3) the ability of the plaintiff to present his case without counsel; and (4) the complexity of the legal issues involved in the case. Id. at 887-88.
Applying these factors to Abdul-Wadood's case, we conclude that at least now there is a real question whether or not counsel should be appointed. Although the legal and factual issues presented by this section 1983 claim, at first glance, do not seem particularly complex, they evidently exceeded Abdul-Wadood's ability. For example, Abdul-Wadood seemed not to understand that to obtain damages he must specifically allege in his complaint that he is suing Duckworth and Cohn in their individual capacities. In addition, Abdul-Wadood was unsuccessful in his attempts to discover the facts relevant to his segregation status.
Our conclusion that application of the Maclin factors may warrant the appointment of counsel depends, at least in part, upon our review of events that occurred after the district court denied Abdul-Wadood's request. The district court articulated the guidelines set forth in Maclin, and we cannot say that it abused its discretion at the time it denied counsel. At the present stage of the proceedings, however, the Maclin analysis suggests that the appointment of counsel be reconsidered. Thus, upon remand, the district court is instructed "to make a fresh determination" whether Abdul-Wadood is entitled to court-appointed counsel. See Hossman v. Blunk, 784 F.2d 793, 797 (7th Cir. 1986).
Abdul-Wadood's case, if any, seems to stand or fall on the nature and purpose of the segregation he underwent in 1983. Either he was subjected to punitive segregation or he was not. If he was, either he received due process, or he did not. The present record is indecipherable with respect to these issues, but a relatively small amount of effective discovery could prepare the case for prompt disposition.
For the reasons stated, the orders of the district court are
AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, VACATED IN PART, AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.
Affirmed in part, Reversed in part, Vacated in part, and Remanded with instructions.
COFFEY, Circuit Judge, concurring in the result in part and dissenting in part.
I concur in the majority's result that Abdul-Wadood was not entitled to a lay advocate at his classification hearing. However, I dissent from the majority's determinations (1) that Abdul-Wadood raised a genuine issue of material fact concerning the question of whether the restrictions placed upon him were disciplinary in nature, thereby precluding summary judgment in favor of defendants; (2) that the district court improperly dismissed Abdul-Wadood's damages claim; and (3) that the district court should reexamine its determination of whether Abdul-Wadood's request for counsel should be granted.
In addressing the summary judgment issue, the majority appropriately realizes that, in response to the January 1983, escape attempt, "prison officials had the authority to take any necessary emergency action, 'including temporarily restricting the rights of inmates like plaintiff who were not charged with disciplinary violations.'" Majority Opinion at 6-7 (footnote omitted). The conclusion that prison authorities have the right to respond decisively to this type of emergency is required under Caldwell v. Miller, 790 F.2d 589, 602 (7th Cir. 1986), in which we rejected a procedural due process attack upon a similar "lockdown" at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. We observed:
"We acknowledge that the lockdown restrictions significantly impair Caldwell's ability to associate with other inmates, to entertain outside visits, to move about within Marion, to exercise outside his cell, and possibly, to worship. Yet, that does not end the inquiry. The determinative factor in a Due Process Clause analysis is the nature of the interest involved, not its weight. Even assuming that the lockdown restrictions caused Caldwell to suffer a substantial personal deprivation, it in no way follows that these restrictions trigger the procedural protections of the Due Process Clause. This is so irrespective of whether that deprivation might be characterized as a 'grievous loss.' To hold otherwise 'would subject to judicial review a wide spectrum of discretionary actions that traditionally have been the business of prison administrators rather than that of the federal courts.'"
(Quoting Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225, 49 L. Ed. 2d 451, 96 S. Ct. 2532 (1976)) (citations omitted).
Caldwell is grounded upon the Supreme Court's recognition that prison confinement deprives an inmate of many of life's amenities. In Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545-46, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979), the Court observed: "'Lawful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system.'" (Quoting Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285, 92 L. Ed. 1356, 68 S. Ct. 1049 (1948)). Whether denominated as rights or privileges, these amenities of life may be rightfully restricted because: "Prison officials must be free to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of inmates and correctional personnel and to prevent escape or unauthorized entry." Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 547. In Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 547-48, the Court went on to explain:
"The problems that arise in the day-to-day operation of a corrections facility are not susceptible of easy solutions. Prison administrators therefore should be accorded wide range and deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security. 'Such considerations are peculiarly within the province and professional expertise of correction officials, and, in the absence of substantial evidence in the record to indicate that the officials have exaggerated their response to these considerations, courts should ordinarily defer to their expert judgment in such matters.' Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. [817, 827 94 S. Ct. 2800, 41 L. Ed. 2d 495 (1974)]. . . . Judicial deference is accorded not merely because the administrator ordinarily will, as a matter of fact in a particular case, have a better grasp of his domain than the reviewing judge, but also because the operation of our correctional facilities is peculiarly the province of the Legislative and Executive Branches of our Government, not the Judicial."
(Citations and footnotes omitted) (emphasis added).
Consistent with the Supreme Court's requirement that we accord deference to prison officials' responses to emergency situations, we also held in Caldwell that the indefinite continuation of "lockdown" conditions does not raise procedural due process problems:
"Even assuming that the lockdown restrictions are permanent, it cannot be said that they brought about conditions of confinement that are qualitatively different from the punishment characteristically suffered by a convict. These conditions in no way constitute an additional punishment. Nor can it be said that they intrude upon Caldwell's personal security in a way that would set them apart from normal confinement, unlike the action of prison officials challenged in Vitek [v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 100 S. Ct. 1254, 63 L. Ed. 2d 552 (1980)]. As such, the continuation of the lockdown restrictions does not implicate a protected liberty interest, and is hence not subject to judicial review under the Due Process Clause."
Caldwell, 790 F.2d at 604-605 (footnotes and citations omitted).*fn1
As the majority realizes, in a summary judgment posture, Caldwell requires that Abdul-Wadood "raise a genuine issue as to whether restrictions were placed on [him] pursuant to disciplinary action, a fact material to his claim that the defendants violated his right to due process." Majority Opinion at 287. As the majority also states: "the issue [is] whether the restrictions placed on Abdul-Wadood were for the purpose of punishing him -- for being a troublemaker generally or for committing as yet unidentified bad acts -- or, alternatively, served to secure the NSB Unit from further escape attempts." Id. at 285. If the restrictions were merely part of a general prison "lockdown" such limitations cannot raise due process questions.
However, I disagree with the majority's determination that Abdul-Wadood raised a genuine issue of material fact concerning the individual "disciplinary" nature of the involved restrictions. It is well settled that:
"When confronted with a motion for summary judgment, a party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleading, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The party must do more than simply 'show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.' Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986) (footnote omitted). 'Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party there is no "genuine issue for trial."' Id. at 587, 106 S. Ct. at 1356 (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89, 88 S. Ct. 1575, 1592, 20 L. Ed. 2d 569 (1968)). 'The court should neither "look the other way" to ignore genuine issues of material fact, nor "strain to find" material fact issues when there are none. . . .' Secretary of Labor v. Lauritzen, 835 F.2d 1529, 1534 (7th Cir. 1987) (quoting Mintz v. Mathers Fund, Inc., 463 F.2d 495, 498 (7th Cir. 1972))."
Beard v. Whitley County, REMC, 840 F.2d 405, 409-410 (7th Cir. 1988). The majority's decision ignores the "deference [prison administrators are to be accorded] in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security."*fn2 The majority erroneously "strain[s] to find" a genuine issue of material fact in concluding that Abdul-Wadood's proferred evidence met this standard. A rational trier of fact would not have been able to find in favor of Abdul upon the facts presented.
It is clear that the restrictions were placed on Abdul and the other inmates on January 25, 1983, immediately following an escape attempt. It is also apparent from the record that these were unit-wide sanctions, which were not limited to Abdul-Wadood.*fn3 The affidavits and statements Abdul presented cannot under any circumstances meet the standards required to permit a rational trier of fact to reach a conclusion that these sanctions were personalized discipline. His generalized statements in his affidavits and at the hearing that he "was reduced to disciplinary, punishment segregation," and that he "was forced to be upon disciplinary segregation for approximately six months without having violated or being found guilty of a rule [violation]" are classic examples of conclusory "self-interested assertions" which fail to provide a basis for finding the presence of a genuine issue of material fact. Dale v. Chicago Tribune Co., 797 F.2d 458, 464 (7th Cir. 1986). Failure to raise a genuine issue of material fact is especially clear because even certain of these "self-interested assertions" contained admissions that the challenged restrictions became effective on the very day of the escape attempt. Abdul's reliance on the alleged statement of the officer in charge of his unit that he was subject to "discipline" is also insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact in a case in which there is no showing that the officer had authority to speak for the prison on this issue and it is, at best, unclear that he understood the distinction between a "lockdown" and specific discipline of an individual prisoner. Cf. Hadley v. County of Du Page, 715 F.2d 1238, 1242 (7th Cir. 1983) ("No property interest can arise from the . . . assurances since the County Board is not bound by the unofficial acts and statements of its individual members, and therefore cannot be a party to any mutually explicit understanding"). Finally, the Duckworth interrogatory answers cited by the majority fail to raise a genuine issue of material fact. A fair reading of these answers indicates that Abdul-Wadood was subject to additional disciplinary time as the result of a Conduct Adjustment Board determination held pursuant to procedures consonant with due process. Because Abdul did not allege that he was deprived of procedural due process rights with respect to any disciplinary hearing actually held, no genuine issue of material fact has been raised. In sum, the entire record, including affidavits and hearing testimony, is devoid of evidence upon which a trier of fact could base a rational, well-reasoned decision that the restrictions placed on Abdul-Wadood were the results of disciplinary action lacking due process safeguards.
The majority also implies that additional discovery might have aided Abdul-Wadood's ability to present a genuine issue of material fact. I disagree, as the timing of the restrictions placed on Abdul-Wadood clearly establish that these limitations were part of the prison officials' immediate response to the other existing security problems in the population of Abdul-Wadood's area of the NSB segregation unit resulting from the contemporaneous escape attempt. The most ably conducted additional discovery would only confirm that conclusion.
In approaching the issue of whether the district court properly dismissed Abdul-Wadood's damages claim, it should be noted that a proper determination of the summary judgment issue would have resulted in a conclusion that this issue is moot. As I have just demonstrated, Abdul-Wadood failed to present an appropriate claim that he was deprived of due process of law as a result of defendants' unit-wide response to the escape attempt. Because he had no legitimate claim for relief, obviously he cannot be entitled to damages.
However, even if I agreed that the majority had reasoned properly in its summary judgment determination, I would be forced to disagree with its resolution of the damages issue. The majority does not and cannot dispute the fact that damages were unavailable against the defendants in their official capacities. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-166, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114, 105 S. Ct. 3099 (1985). Instead, the majority argues that the damage claims "of a section 1983 litigant, proceeding pro se, should not be dismissed on the basis of an unclear complaint and the answer to a single, somewhat suggestive, question." Majority Opinion at 288.
It is difficult for me to understand how the judge could have acted more carefully and appropriately in addressing this issue. The majority admits that the district court explained to plaintiff-appellant Abdul-Wadood on two occasions that the unavailability of damages claims against the defendants in their official capacities did not prevent claims against them in their personal or individual capacities. Majority Opinion at 287-88 n.10. The judge stated during hearing, "there is no doubt . . . [that] in [the defendant's] official capacities money damages cannot be secured against them under the Eleventh Amendment. Absolutely clear and unequivocal. That doesn't mean that there can't be some damages secured against them in their personal capacities. That point has been very well made also." Id. at 287-88 n.10. When dismissing the damages claim the court further explained "there is absolutely no way that any damage claim can be collected against either Duckworth of [sic] Cohen [sic] in their official capacities. I underline in their official capacities. And such damage claims are now dismissed. . . . I am not talking about in their individual capacities." Id. at 287-88 n.10. However, the majority, over-reaching again, feels that the explanations were inadequate because the district court "did not explain to Abdul-Wadood how properly to seek damages from Duckworth and Cohn." Id.
In the case of some pro se plaintiffs, it possibly might have been advisable for the court to explain in greater depth the distinction between personal and official capacity actions. However, such extended explanation was certainly unnecessary in this case. During the hearing the district court specifically mentioned the fact that Abdul-Wadood had previously been before the same judge in an action against one of the same defendants in the case of Love v. Duckworth, 554 F. Supp. 1067 (N.D. Ind. 1983).*fn4 In that case, decided on January 12, 1983, just seven months prior to the filing of the complaint in this case, the district court, in clear and unambiguous language, noted another closely related difficulty which would preclude recovery of damages even in an individual capacity action, a defendant's lack of personal involvement:
"The only defendant is the Superintendent, Jack R. Duckworth, against whom plaintiff seeks damages. Therefore, plaintiff must prove personal involvement, or at least a knowing disregard, on the part of the defendant concerning alleged deprivation of constitutionally protected rights. No evidence was proffered which would establish any personal involvement of Defendant Jack Duckworth. Therefore, even were there a violation of some constitutional right, the Defendant could not be found liable. It is axiomatic that merely being in a supervisory capacity does not render one liable for every action or incident at the institution. Plaintiff has offered no proof of personal involvement, and it would be inconsistent with the personal involvement requirement to hold the Superintendent liable for any act or omission of which he could possibly have been apprised at some time."
554 F. Supp. at 1069 (citations omitted). It is not clear that the majority has read and considered this earlier decision. Nonetheless, where a court's previously published decision has explained to the plaintiff the impropriety of a damages claim against a defendant and where two statements are made at a hearing to exactly the same effect, a court should not be found to have acted improperly in dismissing such a claim. While pro se plaintiffs are appropriately given some indulgence in review of their complaints, see, Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163, 101 S. Ct. 173 (1980), there is no requirement that a court actually aid a plaintiff in pursuing damages claims which have been explained in a previous case and twice in the current case as lacking legal warrant.
In addition, we have held that:
"Where a complaint alleges that the conduct of a public official acting under color of state law gives rise to liability under Section 1983, we will ordinarily assume that he has been sued in his official capacity and only in that capacity. . . . If a plaintiff intends to sue public officials in their individual capacities or in both their official and individual capacities, he should expressly state so in the complaint."
Kolar v. County of Sangamon, 756 F.2d 564, 568-69 (7th Cir. 1985) (citations and footnote omitted). I know of no case mandating, even in a pro se matter, that a court is required to strain to find a basis for an individual capacity action and a defendant's personal involvement when neither the allegations nor the facts presented on summary judgment materially support an individual capacity action and a defendant's involvement. Although a court would not be considered to act improperly if it explained that the plaintiff could amend his action to properly allege an individual capacity action and personal involvement, such action should not generally be required and certainly not in the case of this experienced pro se plaintiff who has had the distinction between individual and official capacity suits explained to him in this case and the necessity for allegations of a defendant's personal involvement in another. To require a court to take such measures before it can dismiss an improper damages claim might very well compromise the impartiality required of a tribunal and would place an extreme burden on district court judges who already face great pressures resulting from crowded dockets.
In its discussion of Abdul-Wadood's request for counsel, the majority appropriately holds that "we cannot say that [the district court] abused its discretion at the time it denied counsel." Majority Opinion at 289. However, the majority somehow reasons that it is necessary for the district court on remand "'to make a fresh determination' [of] whether Abdul-Wadood is entitled to court appointed counsel." Id. This action is wholly inappropriate. On remand the district court will consider the same factual situation with the same plaintiff and the same legal issues. As noted earlier, this case is a simple one in which either the strongest or weakest discovery will inevitably lead to the obvious conclusion that the restrictions placed on the plaintiff-appellant Abdul were the direct result of the escape attempt. Since the district court did not abuse its discretion in its initial rejection of counsel, and there are no changes in the relevant factors to be addressed on remand, it is improper and a waste of judicial resources to require the district court to make another determination of this issue.
With respect to the issue of whether Abdul-Wadood was entitled to a lay advocate in his administrative segregation hearing, I agree with the majority's determination that a lay advocate was not constitutionally required. However, I find its discussion of this issue gratuitous and, in effect, an attempt to alter prison regulations by judicial mandate. The majority correctly notes that "we need not decide [the issue of whether Indiana statutes and regulations have created a protected liberty interest in remaining free from the restrictions of administrative segregation], for, even if triggered, the procedural guarantees of the due process clause, as interpreted in Helms, do not entitle [Abdul-Wadood] to a lay advocate at his classification hearing." Majority Opinion at 284. However, prior to making this holding the majority indulges in a far-reaching and completely unnecessary discussion of whether the Indiana statutes and regulations, in fact, provide such an interest. Id. at 283 n.3. Essentially the discussion appears designed to cast some doubt on the validity of a prior district court decision that such an interest is not created by these statutes and regulations. In Shropshire v. Duckworth, 654 F. Supp. 369, 375 (N.D. Ind. 1987), the same district court judge involved in this case held that the Indiana "procedures and policies controlling administrative segregation do not create a liberty interest and do not contain the heavy mandatory language which existed in the Pennsylvania statutes which were reviewed in Hewitt [v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983)]." (Emphasis in original). I would remind the majority that:
"We have recognized that district court decisions construing the law of the state in which it sits are entitled to some deference. We give weight to these decisions because we presume that a district judge is likely to have a special familiarity with the law of the state in which he or she sits."
Beard v. J.I. Case Co., 823 F.2d 1095, 1097 (7th Cir. 1987) (citations and footnote omitted). Certainly this principle, along with the deference we accord to the decisions of prison administrators, requires us as appellate court judges to abstain from commentary which might be seen as casting doubt on the validity of a district court determination of an important state law issue not properly presented for our review.
The majority's wide-ranging attempt to second-guess actions of Indiana prison administrators is a classic example of why the United States Supreme Court was compelled to warn its subordinate members in the Judicial Branch that
"judicial deference is accorded [decisions of prison administrators] not merely because the administrator ordinarily will, as a matter of fact in a particular case, have a better grasp of his domain than the reviewing judge, but also because the operation of our correctional facilities is peculiarly the province of the Legislative and Executive Branches of our Government, not the Judicial."
Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 548. The majority ignores this directive, and I must dissent.