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WATSON v. CAIN

April 30, 1993

RAZZIE WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SHARON CAIN, et al., Defendants.



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

 Former Stateville Correctional Center inmate Razzie Watson has brought this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against several correctional officials. Watson claims defendants violated his constitutional rights by interfering with his incoming and outgoing mail during the time he spent incarcerated in Stateville. This matter is currently before the court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment.

 Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of submitting affidavits and other evidentiary material to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Once the moving party has sustained its initial burden, the opposing party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, but instead must come forward with specific evidence, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. The court must then view the entire record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988). *fn1"

 Facts

 During the time Watson spent as an inmate in the Stateville Correctional Center, he attempted to correspond with a vast number of individuals and organizations on the outside. Because Watson was a prisoner, he was not able to correspond as freely as he perhaps would have liked. The Illinois Department of Corrections has placed many restrictions on inmate correspondence with the outside world, and in the case of Gaines v. Lane, 790 F.2d 1299 (7th Cir. 1986), the Seventh Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Illinois Department of Corrections' regulations governing prisoner mail. This suit arises out of the application of those regulations to the specific items that Watson either attempted to send or receive through the mail.

 The Regulations

 Illinois Department of Corrections Rules ("IDOC Rules") Section 525.110 (d) defines "privileged mail" as all mail to or from the following:

 
(1) the Director [of the IDOC];
 
(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 of Illinois;
 
(7) federal, Illinois or local Illinois legislators;
 
(8) Chief Executive Officers of federal, state or local law enforcement agencies;
 
(9) officials of the U.S. Department of Justice; and
 
(10) legal mail.

 Section 525.110 (e) defines "legal mail" as all mail to or 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.

 Incoming mail is governed by Section 525.140, which provides, among other things, the following. Incoming privileged mail must be clearly marked as "privileged," and may be opened only in the presence of the inmate to whom it is addressed. All incoming non-privileged mail is opened and inspected for contraband.

 Watson's Mail

 At issue in this case is the defendants' handling of certain items of mail sent and received by Watson during his time at Stateville. Defendants contend all of Watson's mail was processed in accordance with IDOC Rules, and therefore Watson's rights were not violated. Watson, on the other hand, claims to have "a right to file whatever legal papers he chooses and to communicate freely about legal matters or other issues with the courts, news media (press), attorneys, and governmental offices . . . ." The following is a list of the mail Watson claims was interfered with by defendants.

 
(1) On August 22, 1991, Watson received a letter from the Federal Information Center, a U.S. governmental agency. The letter had been opened by mail room personnel.
 
(2) June 21, 1991, Watson received, unopened, a letter from the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The letter was mailed on June 14, 1991.
 
(3) March 22, 1991, Watson received a letter from the Secret Service (U.S. Treasury Department). The letter was mailed on March 13, and had been opened by mail room personnel.
 
(4) March 16, 1991, Watson received a letter from the Illinois State Bar Association. The letter was opened.
 
(5) On February 16, 1991, Watson sent a letter to David Anderson, an attorney with the Chicago Bar Association. The letter was returned to Watson opened on March 14, 1991. Although the letter was stamped "Return to Sender," Watson believes prison officials never mailed the letter because the stamp on the letter had not been cancelled by the sending and receiving post offices.
 
(6) On December 20, 1990, Watson received a letter from the State of Illinois legislative Information System. The letter was postmarked December 10, 1990, and had been opened by mail room personnel.
 
(7) December 19, 1990, Watson received a letter from the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Mail room personnel had opened the letter.
 
(8) December 17, 1990, Watson received a letter from U.S. Department of Education. The letter had been opened.
 
(9) November 20, 1990, Watson received a letter from U.S. Senator David Durenberger that had been opened by mail room personnel. When Watson asked the mail room officer (E. Shelton) why the letter was opened, Shelton told Watson he did not know.
 
(10) May 24, 1990, Watson received a letter from the Clerk of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The letter was marked "Legal Mail, open only in the presence of the prisoner," but mail room personnel had opened the letter.
 
(11) On December 26, 1990, Watson sent a letter to Rob Warden, Legal Counsel for the Chicago Lawyer. The letter was returned to Watson unopened and stamped "Return to Sender," but Watson believes it was never mailed because it the stamp was not cancelled.
 
(13) November 3, 1990, Watson sent a letter to the Executive Director of the National Veterans' Law Center. The letter was returned to Watson unopened, ...

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