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Delgado-Brunet v. Clark

August 15, 1996




Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 91 CV 392 William D. Stiehl, Judge.

Before EASTERBROOK, RIPPLE, and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judge.



Felix Delgado-Brunet, an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, brought this action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and 28 U.S.C. sec. 1331, claiming that four prison officials violated his Eighth Amendment rights. On March 31, 1995, the district court entered judgment in favor of all defendants. We affirm.


Delgado-Brunet was housed in the control unit (or H-Unit) at USP-Marion. Inmates in the control unit are locked in their cells, except for an inmate orderly who is allowed to approach other inmates. The control unit, the most secure part of the prison, is reserved for prisoners who are unable to function in a less restrictive environment. Delgado-Brunet was there because he had a history of violent behavior. He was classified as a "CIM separation case," meaning that the prison officials had determined that he needed to be separated from certain other individuals. The record does not reflect who those persons were, but the magistrate judge speculated that one person might have been Randy Gometz, an inmate with ties to the Aryan Brotherhood gang. The CIM order did not indicate that Delgado-Brunet (a Cuban-American) needed to be separated from everyone associated with the Aryan Brotherhood or any other particular gang.

Defendant Wayne Hilliard was the manager of the control unit at all times pertinent to this case. In Hilliard's opinion, Delgado-Brunet was a person who needed to be moved frequently. Accordingly, in late September 1989, he moved Delgado-Brunet from the B-range to the C-range in the control unit and placed him in a cell at the end of the unit, with no inmates on either side. Inmate Theodore Patterson was housed in a cell across from Delgado-Brunet. Patterson worked as an orderly for C-range and thus was released from his cell from time to time to perform his duties. On October 6, 1989, Patterson was out of his cell. (The government asserts that the true date was October 5, 1989, but the one-day difference is immaterial to the issues before us.) Rather than sweeping or mopping, he approached Delgado-Brunet and threw a "zip gun" explosive device in Delgado-Brunet's face. Immediately afterward, control unit staff locked Patterson up and took Delgado-Brunet to an outside hospital. Delgado-Brunet suffered serious injuries from the attack, including the complete loss of vision in one eye and a forty-five percent loss of vision in the other eye.


On May 21, 1991, Delgado-Brunet filed his initial pro se complaint, naming as defendants John L. Clark, the warden of USP-Marion, Wayne Hilliard, and unknown members of the H-Unit staff. On February 28, 1992, the district court issued an order finding the action frivolous, denying leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and dismissing the action. Delgado-Brunet responded on March 19, 1992, with a "motion for reconsideration," which the district court construed as a motion under Rule 60(b). In an order dated March 30, the district court stated that it would consider the request to reopen the case after it reviewed the proposed amended complaint, and it gave Delgado-Brunet 21 days in which to file the amended complaint. Instead of filing, he asked for permission to dismiss his case without prejudice. The court denied that motion in an order of April 20, 1992, but gave Delgado-Brunet another 75 days in which to file the proposed amended complaint.

On June 26, 1992, Delgado-Brunet finally submitted his first amended complaint, which the district court ordered the clerk to file on July 2, 1992. The amended complaint again named Warden Clark and Hilliard, and it named for the first time Officers Roger Baxter and Roland Beckman as defendants. (It also named "three unknown unit officers," but Delgado-Brunet does not pursue this part of the suit on appeal, and thus neither do we.) Count I alleged that Hilliard, Clark, and Baxter were aware of Delgado-Brunet's problems with the Aryan Brotherhood gang and his need for protection from its members. It claimed that the defendants knew that Delgado-Brunet could not safely be housed on C-range but that they placed him there anyway, with deliberate indifference to his safety. Count II alleged that Officer Beckman and the three unknown officers were also responsible for the assault, because they failed to search and to supervise Patterson when he was released from his cell on the day in question. He claimed this was a willful violation of standard operating procedures and that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his safety. On both counts, Delgado-Brunet sued defendants in their official and individual capacities and asked for compensatory and punitive damages.

The disposition of the case varied by the defendant, although the bottom line was the rejection of Delgado-Brunet's suit. Clark moved for summary judgment on the ground that he did not become the warden at USP-Marion until months after the incident in question. The district court granted Clark's motion on July 26, 1993, and Delgado-Brunet does not contest that ruling here. Baxter and Beckman moved to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds, arguing that they were first sued in the amended complaint, which was filed more than two years after the incident in question. Again, the district court agreed and on July 26, 1993, granted their motion to dismiss. Finally, Hilliard moved for summary judgment on grounds of qualified immunity and the lack of any facts tending to show deliberate indifference for purposes of the Eighth Amendment. The court concluded that the key facts were not in dispute, and it granted summary judgment for Hilliard. It entered its final judgment on March 31, 1995 (including the dismissal of the action against the "three unknown unit officers"), and this appeal followed.


Two questions remain before us, after all the proceedings below: was the district court correct in dismissing the claims against Baxter and Beckman as time-barred, and was Hilliard entitled to summary judgment? The first of these requires us to consider the length of time Delgado-Brunet had to sue the two officers, in light of the governing Illinois statute of limitations and the effect of Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) on his claims. The second requires consideration of the standards for Eighth Amendment claims and for assertions of qualified immunity. Our review of both questions is de novo. Farmer v. Brennan, 81 F.3d 1444, 1449 (7th ...

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