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STONE-EL v. FAIRMAN

December 17, 1991

JOHN R. STONE-EL, Plaintiff,
v.
J. W. FAIRMAN, SAMATHA FORSEE, PEGGY KOBEL, NANCY WRIGHT, MICHAEL V. NEAL, and GENE WILLIAMS, Defendants.


Aspen


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN E. ASPEN

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff John R. Stone-El, a ward of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC" or the "Department"), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against six correctional officials, seeking both injunctive relief and $ 7,500 in compensatory and punitive damages from each defendant individually and in their official capacities. Presently before the court is Stone-El's amended motion for summary judgment. *fn1" For the reasons as set forth below, we deny the motion and sua sponte dismiss his amended complaint. *fn2"

 I. Summary Judgment Standard

 Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). This standard places the initial burden on the moving party to identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986) (quoting Rule 56(c)). Once the moving party has done this, the non-moving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must read all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986); Griffin v. Thomas, 929 F.2d 1210, 1212 (7th Cir. 1991).

 II. Background

 As an inmate committed to the custody of the IDOC, Stone-El is subject to Department regulations regarding the handling of incoming and outgoing mail. These regulations distinguish between privileged and non-privileged mail, providing that outgoing mail that is non-privileged shall be unsealed when delivered to the mail room. Sealed mail that is non-privileged is opened and returned to the sender, provided the sender's identity can be determined. Rule 525.110(d) defines privileged mail as mail to and from the following: (1) the Director; (2) Deputy Directors of the Department; (3) members of the Office of Advocacy Services; (4) members of the Administrative Review Board; (5) members of the Prisoner Review Board; (6) the Governor; (7) federal, Illinois or local Illinois legislators; (8) Chief Executive Officers of federal, state or local law enforcement agencies; and (9) officials of the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, Rule 525.110(d)(10) explicitly includes "legal mail" within the scope of privileged mail. The definition of "legal mail" is found in Rule 525.110(e), providing:

 
"Legal mail" means mail to and from the following:
 
(1) Registered Attorneys;
 
(2) The Illinois Attorney General;
 
(3) Judges or magistrates of any court or the Illinois Court of Claims; and
 
(4) Any organization which provides legal representation and services to committed persons.

 Applying the liberal standards mandated by Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S. Ct. 594, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1972), we construe Stone-El's claims as presenting the following issue: Did the prison officials' interpretations of what constitutes privileged "legal mail," violate his constitutional rights of free speech and of access to the courts? *fn3" In support of his claim, Stone-El points to instances of interference with alleged privileged mail occurring at two separate institutions. First, Stone-El contends that, while incarcerated at the Joliet Correctional Center, Nancy Wright, mailroom supervisor, intentionally opened and refused to mail letters from the plaintiff (1) to R. E. Williams, Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; (2) to Hon. Judge Fred G. Suria of the Circuit Court of Cook County; (3) to the National Archives and Records Services; and (4) to the Illinois Secretary of State's Office. Stone-El further asserts that James W. Fairman, Warden of the Joliet Correctional Center, and his administrative assistant, Samatha Forsee, "stood idly by" after being advised by plaintiff that his civil rights were being violated. Stone-El's second encounter with improper treatment of his mail allegedly occurred at the Danville Correctional Center. According to Stone-El, Peggy Kobel, administrative assistant to the warden, and Gene Williams, mailroom supervisor, opened, or caused to be opened, legal mail that was sent to the plaintiff by the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Michael V. Neal, Warden of the Danville Correctional Center, is named as a defendant by virtue of his "concurrance with the actions of his administrative assistant, Peggy Kobel."

 III. Discussion

 In order to sustain a claim for a violation of § 1983, a plaintiff must prove two things: (1) that the defendants were acting under the color of state law, and (2) that their conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 101 S. Ct. 1908, 1913, 68 L. Ed. 2d 420 (1981) (overruled in part, not relevant here, by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31, 106 S. Ct. 662, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662 (1986)). Regarding the first element, there is no dispute that each defendant acted under the color of state law by means of the authority given to them by the State of Illinois as employees of ...


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