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HARMS v. GODINEZ

July 28, 1993

MICHAEL HARMS, Plaintiff,
v.
SALVADOR GODINEZ, THEOPOLIS SMITH, CANDIS CROOK, and JANE DOE, Defendants.


PLUNKETT


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PAUL E. PLUNKETT

Following an incident on January 30, 1992, an Adjustment Committee of the Stateville Correctional Center found inmate Michael Harms guilty of violating Illinois Department of Corrections rules. Mr. Harms contests this finding on the grounds that there was no evidence that he violated the rules. For the reasons stated below, we grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss the Complaint with prejudice.

 Background

 On January 30, 1992, Harms and five other inmates were working at the commissary at the Stateville Correctional Facility. Early that afternoon, Officer Randall Allen and several other security officers conducted a routine "shake down" of the commissary work area and found $ 649.78 worth of cigarettes, coffee, and other items bagged with the trash. All six inmates, including Harms, received disciplinary tickets charging them with theft, abuse of privileges and violation of rules.

 On February 6, 1992, the Adjustment Committee convened a hearing to review the allegations stemming from this incident. This first hearing was continued to February 18, 1992, because Plaintiff's original disciplinary report lacked specificity. Officer Allen rewrote the report for the second hearing. In his report and in oral testimony, Allen stated that the stolen goods were found in the work area of the commissary. Harms asserted his innocence and claimed that he had been at the front desk handing out items during the theft. Plaintiff called no witnesses on his behalf.

 The Adjustment Committee found Harms and the five other inmate workers guilty of theft and abuse of privileges. Harms was placed in segregation for thirty days and was demoted to "C" grade status as a result of the disciplinary procedure. The Committee's rationale was that: (1) Harms was in the work area; (2) the contraband was found there; and (3) the report of the officer was true.

 Harms, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against four of the facility's officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the Adjustment Committee proceedings violated due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment and certain state regulations. *fn1" He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as money damages. The Defendants have now moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c).

 Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

 As an initial matter, we note that for defendants to prevail on a summary judgment motion, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, [must] show that there is 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). At this stage, we do not weigh evidence or determine the truth of asserted matters. We simply determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial, i.e., "whether a proper jury question was presented." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). When the nonmoving party is faced with a properly supported motion for summary judgment, it may not avoid judgment by resting on its pleadings. If the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, it is required to "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' [to] designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (e)). Pro Se litigants are, however, not held to the same stringent standards as formally trained attorneys, and their pleadings are to be liberally construed. Caldwell v. Miller, 790 F.2d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 1986).

 I. Due Process

 Harms claims that finding him of guilty of involvement in the attempted theft violated his due process rights because there simply was no evidence that he was involved. Defendants, of course, argue that Harms' due process rights were adequately protected. The basic constitutional requirements in this area are well-established. Where a prison disciplinary hearing results in the loss of some statutorily protected right, due process requires that the inmate receive: (1) advance notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to call witnesses and produce other evidence; and (3) a written statement of the evidence and reasoning relied on for punishment. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974).

 Plaintiff does not make any allegation with regard to the first two Wolff requirements, and we note that Defendants have satisfied them: Plaintiff received prior notice of the hearings and had an opportunity to present his case. Harms testified at both hearings and declined the opportunities to call other witnesses.

 The basis for the Committee's finding that Harms was guilty is an Illinois Department of Corrections Rule that states that "every committed person is assumed to be responsible for any contraband . . . which is located . . . within areas of his housing, work or educational or vocational assignment, which are under his control." 20 Ill. Admin. Code ch. 1 § 504.20 para. E. The issue before us is simply whether reliance on this rule, which essentially holds an ...


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