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BAPTIST v. O'LEARY

July 11, 1990

ELIJAH BAPTIST, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL O'LEARY, THOMAS ROTH and THOMAS MORRIS, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

 MILTON I. SHADUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Elijah Baptist ("Baptist") has sued Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") Warden Michael O'Leary ("O'Leary") and other officials of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("Department") under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 ("Section 1983"), seeking damages for alleged violations of Baptist's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process in connection with Baptist's reassignment from one prison job to another while an inmate in Stateville. Defendants have moved for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56, claiming:

 
1. their actions did not violate Baptist's due process rights and
 
2. they are immune from suit.

 For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, this Court rejects defendants' effort to dispose of the case as a matter of law on the first of those contentions, *fn1" but it grants defendants' motion on qualified immunity grounds.

 Facts2

 Before March 24, 1988 *fn3" Baptist was incarcerated in "the Farm," a Minimum Security Unit outside the main walls of Stateville, and held a manual labor job as an assistant to the prison's Chief of Engineering. That job was also located outside the main prison walls in Stateville's Administration Building, where prison officials employed about 21 minimum security inmates (including Baptist). Equipment used by inmates on the job was kept in the Inventory Control office in the Administration Building.

 On March 22 a Department employee discovered that the Inventory Control office was missing one of the two portable engravers that Department used to inscribe identifying numbers on any object worth more than $ 100 brought into Stateville. When the apparent theft was brought to the attention of Assistant Warden (and defendant here) Thomas Roth ("Roth"), he met with O'Leary and they agreed on a plan to flush out the culprit. Roth had Department employee (and third co-defendant) Thomas Morris ("Morris") call together all inmates working in the Administration Building for a talking-to. At that gathering Roth told the inmates that an engraver was missing and that Department wanted it back. He asked any inmate with information as to its whereabouts to share it with him or any other Department employee and said that if the engraver had not been recovered by a certain day *fn4" all the inmates in the room would be reassigned to jobs outside the Administration Building.

 No one snitched, and Department is looking for the elusive engraver to this day. After the deadline had passed without the engraver turning up, Roth and Morris consulted with other Department staff members and determined that the engraver would have been accessible to any inmate working in the Administration Building and that none of the inmates was beyond suspicion. Thereafter Roth, with O'Leary's approval, had Morris direct the MSU Assignment Committee to reassign all the inmates who had been working in the Administration Building to jobs outside the Administration Building.

 Baptist was never individually accused of stealing or having anything to do with the loss of the engraver. Nevertheless, on March 29 he was reassigned to D-line, a work group that was then performing construction and demolition work on structures in and around the prison grounds. All other inmates who had worked in the Administrative Building were similarly reassigned. *fn5"

 Shortly after being reassigned to D-line, Baptist filed an administrative grievance with the Stateville Institutional Inquiry Board, claiming the constitutional violations he asserts here. After his grievance was heard and rejected by that body, he appealed to the Administrative Review Board, which upheld that rejection. Baptist's administrative review opportunities were exhausted when Department Director Michael Lane signed the Board's letter to Baptist to indicate his concurrence with the Board's rejection of the grievance. Baptist now asks this Court to find that his reassignment to D-line violated his right to due process because made without the procedural safeguards normally attendant to disciplinary discharges from prison jobs. *fn6"

 Constitutional Violation

 Baptist's lawsuit invokes the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process of law before an individual is deprived of "life, liberty or property": He claims the deprivation without due process of a property or liberty interest in holding a job in the Administration Building while a Stateville inmate. Accordingly the first question is whether Baptist's reassignment violated any property or liberty interest protected by the Constitution.

 That of course calls for an initial definitional decision -- after all, the Constitution does not by its terms grant inmates a protectible interest in prison employment as such (see, e.g., Garza v. Miller, 688 F.2d 480, 485-86 (7th Cir. 1982)). In addition, not every violation of state law brings into play the panoply of constitutional protections. But inmates do not surrender all their liberty interests at the jailhouse door (see, e.g., Kentucky Department of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 109 S. Ct. 1904, 1908-09, 104 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1989)), and state statutes and regulations may create interests to which the constitutional protections attach. As the operative principles were recently summarized in Russ v. Young, 89 ...


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