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Goka v. Bobbitt

decided: November 21, 1988.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 84 C 1011--Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.

Cummings and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges, and Honorable Robert A. Grant, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Grant

GRANT, Senior District Judge.

Vincent Goka, a former inmate at the Stateville Correctional Center, brought suit against several guards and two prison officials under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 after he was assaulted by another inmate. Goka alleges a violation of his rights, under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, to be secure from assault by other inmates. Goka also raises two pendent state negligence claims.

On defendants' motion, the district court granted summary judgment with respect to Goka's Section 1983 claim, and dismissed the pendent state claims for lack of jurisdiction. Goka appeals the entry of summary judgment. For the following reasons, we now reverse the judgment of the district court.


In 1983, Goka was an inmate at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. Gregory Williams, a member of the notorious "Vice Lords" gang, was also incarcerated at Stateville and resided in the cell next to Goka's. Defendants Paul Bobbitt, Carl Jordan, Bobby Parker and Travis Wheaton were all prison guards of various rank assigned to the unit in which Goka and Williams resided. Defendants Michael O'Leary and Richard DeRobertis were assistant warden and warden respectively at the time.

Several times throughout the summer of 1983, Williams purportedly harassed, threatened and assaulted Goka. Goka maintains that he reported these incidents both orally and in writing to defendants Bobbitt and Jordan and requested their protection. The parties now dispute however whether any measures were actually taken to protect Goka.

On September 23, 1983, Williams left his unlocked cell and struck Goka in the eye with the handle of a broom which he had been allowed to keep in his cell.

Under a "tool control policy" in effect at the prison, all tools, defined as "any instrument of manual operation, minor equipment or implements," were to be controlled by prison staff when not in use. The policy specifically provided that maintenance tools that were used on a daily basis were to be locked in a storage chest at the end of each day and stored when not in use.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS: Goka was proceeding pro se when he filed his original complaint. His request for appointed counsel, however, was subsequently granted, and an amended complaint was filed. The amended complaint alleges that defendants Bobbitt and Jordan knew that Goka was in immediate and substantial danger of assault by Williams and yet failed to take appropriate action to protect him; that they failed to enforce the tool control policy and allowed Williams to keep a broom in his cell; and that their actions demonstrated a deliberate indifference to, and callous disregard of, Goka's constitutional right to be protected from assault by other inmates. With respect to the remaining defendants, Goka alleges that they either knew, or "recklessly failed to learn," that the tool control policy was not being enforced; and, that their failure to enforce the policy demonstrated deliberate indifference and callous disregard for Goka's safety. Goka further alleges that the conduct of each of the defendants constitutes negligence.

The defendants opposed the amended complaint in what the district court (J. Aspen) referred to as a " de facto motion to dismiss" arguing that Goka had failed to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment; and, that the pendent state claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. On December 5, 1985, the district court (J. Aspen) denied the motion to dismiss and granted Goka leave to file the amended complaint. Goka v. Bobbitt, 625 F. Supp. 319 (N.D. Ill. 1985).

Shortly thereafter, the cause was transferred to Judge Leinenweber, and the matter was set for trial. One week prior to trial, however, Goka became dissatisfied with his appointed counsel and fired him. The district court granted counsel leave to withdraw and gave Goka until November 7, 1986 to retain new counsel.

Discovery, including the depositions of defendants Bobbitt and Jordan and the production of incident reports from the prison for the period beginning January 1982 and ending September 1983, had all been completed when counsel was given leave to withdraw. During the course of their depositions, both Bobbitt and Jordan denied any knowledge of prior assaults by Williams upon Goka, and that they had taken any action against Williams prior to the incident of September 23. While the incident reports were apparently lost, it appears from the record that ...

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