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OSWALT v. GODINEZ

August 15, 1995

ALVIN OSWALT, Plaintiff,
v.
SALVADOR GODINEZ, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN

 Plaintiff, Alvin Oswalt, an inmate in the Illinois prison system, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint alleging officials *fn1" at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") violated his constitutional rights as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Specifically, plaintiff charges that defendant Godinez failed to protect his due process rights by illegally extending his period of confinement under investigative status and that defendant Schonauer violated his constitutional rights by delaying an investigation into plaintiff's role in a possible escape attempt. Plaintiff also alleges that defendant Johnson unlawfully barred certain witnesses and documents from consideration at a prison hearing. Plaintiff further claims that defendants DelPriore and King failed to participate in plaintiff's grievance hearings and that the hearing was conducted in a manner biased against plaintiff. Plaintiff finally claims that a prison hearing committee violated his due process rights by finding him guilty of offenses that it was impossible for him to have committed. *fn2"

 Plaintiff filed his complaint on April 7, 1994. Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (6). Plaintiff responded with a motion to dismiss defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants defendant's motion to dismiss in part and denies it in part.

 STANDARD OF REVIEW

 When considering a defendant's motion to dismiss, the court must view the plaintiff's allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 43, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). All well-pleaded facts and allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true. Ed Miniat, Inc. v. Globe Life Insurance Group, Inc., 805 F.2d 732, 733 (7th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 482 U.S. 915, 96 L. Ed. 2d 676, 107 S. Ct. 3188 (1987). The plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. Ellsworth v. Racine, 774 F.2d 182, 184 (7th Cir. 1985). Additionally, a court must construe pro se pleadings liberally. Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988). Mere vagueness or lack of detail does not constitute sufficient grounds for a motion to dismiss a pro se complaint. Strauss v. City of Chicago, 760 F.2d 765 (7th Cir. 1985).

 FACTS

 From September 29, 1992 until April 17, 1993, plaintiff occupied a cell at Stateville previously used to house transfer inmates. In April 1993 plaintiff shared the cell with four other inmates. On April 17, 1993, a "shakedown" inspection of plaintiff's cell revealed that a portion of a metal window frame had been sawed apart, creating an opening in the window of several inches. The frame had been glued back in place and repainted to camouflage any alterations. Paint matching that used on the window frame and glue were found in the cell.

 Immediately following the discovery, plaintiff was removed from the cell and placed in a prison segregated confinement facility known as I House. There plaintiff was informed by the prison superintendent that an investigative report (the "Investigative Report") had been written against him and that plaintiff had been placed into investigative confinement status pending an investigation into his involvement in an attempted escape. Plaintiff did not receive a copy of the Investigative Report until April 27, 1993.

 On April 24, 1993, plaintiff was moved from I House to an isolation room in the prison infirmary. On May 12, 1993, Stateville's warden, defendant Salvador Godinez, authorized a thirty-day continuation in plaintiff's confinement in investigative status, effective May 15, pursuant to Illinois Department of Corrections Rules 504A - Discipline and Grievances, Subsection 504.50 Part A, Subpart 7. On June 2, 1993, plaintiff was informed by a correctional officer that the pending investigation was complete, and he was moved to a general prison population room in the infirmary. The next day this fact was confirmed by the prison's chief investigator, defendant Thomas Schonauer.

 On June 9, 1993, plaintiff was moved out of the infirmary and into a general prison population cell. Soon thereafter plaintiff was summoned to defendant Godinez's office. There he was informed that the investigation was complete. On July 7, 1993, plaintiff approached his prison counselor regarding several grievances filed in relation to his incarceration and its effects. The counselor forwarded them to assistant warden Springborn that same day.

 The next day, plaintiff was served with a disciplinary report (the "Disciplinary Report") written by defendant Schonauer, dated July 7, 1993, charging him with three offenses: Escape; Conspiracy to Attempt Escape; and, Damage/Misuse of property. On July 9, 1993, plaintiff delivered a request to the prison Adjustment Committee (the "Adjustment Committee"), in accordance with prison regulations, for certain witnesses to be called at his disciplinary hearing.

 On July 14, 1993, the Adjustment Committee held a hearing on the Disciplinary Report. Defendant Adrienne Johnson presided and defendants Carol DelPriore and Mary King sat as members. Plaintiff pled not guilty to the charges against him. He was informed by defendant Johnson that the Adjustment Committee would hear only from witnesses who shared plaintiff's cell on the day of the shakedown inspection. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Johnson ignored his written statement regarding the charges against him and conducted the hearing in a biased manner. He further claims that defendants DelPriore and King remained silent throughout the hearing and did not participate in any meaningful way.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Extension of Investigative Confinement

 Plaintiff claims that defendant Godinez's extension of his confinement in investigative status violated his due process rights. The Supreme Court has recognized that prison officials are authorized to place prisoners suspected of wrongdoing in administrative segregation pending an investigation or until a hearing can be convened. Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983). The Court in Hewitt stressed that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, standing alone, confers no liberty interest on prisoners to remain in the general prison population. Id. at 468. The Court noted, however, that states could create liberty interests that would entitle prisoners to due process rights they otherwise might not enjoy. Id. at 471-72.

 Very recently in Sandin v. Conner, 132 L. Ed. 2d 418, 115 S. Ct. 2293, 63 U.S.L.W. 4601 (U.S. June 20, 1995) (No. 93-1911), the Court constricted its definition of state-created liberty interests for convicted prisoners. "These ... will be generally limited to freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection of the Due Process Clause of its own force ... nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Id. at 4605 (internal citations omitted).

 The Court concluded that disciplinary confinement, "though concededly punitive, does not present a dramatic departure from the basic conditions of [a prisoner's]... sentence." Id. at 4605. Disciplinary segregation does "not present the type of atypical, significant deprivation in which a state might conceivably create a liberty interest." Id.

 In Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1144 (7th Cir. 1988), the Seventh Circuit examined sections of the Illinois prison regulations -- provisions related to those at issue in the instant case -- authorizing prison officials to place prisoners in investigative segregation pending a misconduct inquiry. Conducting its examination according to Hewitt's more inclusive due process standards, the Seventh Circuit held that the regulations conferred no liberty interest upon prisoners to remain free of investigative segregation because the regulations did not employ language of a mandatory nature, such as "shall," "will," or "must." Cain, 857 F.2d at 1144. The Court's decision in Sandin eliminates the more extensive due process approach of Hewitt. It follows logically that if the Illinois regulations at issue in Cain did not create a liberty interest under Hewitt, they do not create a liberty interest under the more stringent guidelines outlined by the Supreme Court in Sandin.

 Institutional Directive 504A permits the warden to extend investigative confinement for an additional thirty days if an investigation cannot be completed in the original thirty-day period. The regulation states:

 
In the event that an investigation cannot be completed within 30 days due to an institutional emergency, the Chief Administrative Officer may personally authorize, in writing, an extension of up to 30 days placement in confinement pending investigation. As used in this Section, an institutional emergency included riots, strikes, lockdowns and natural disasters.
 
Ill. Dep't Corr. Rules 504A, 504.50 (c)(8), adopted at 8 Ill. Reg. 14427, effective Aug. 1, 1984, amended at 16 Ill. Reg. , effective July 1, 1992, implementing ...

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