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WHITLOCK v. JOHNSON

November 24, 1997

HERBERT WHITLOCK, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
ADRIENNE JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

 Herbert Whitlock ("Whitlock"), Stanley Wrice ("Wrice") and Bennie Lopez ("Lopez"), all of whom are currently in custody at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"), have recently become the name plaintiffs in this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 ("Section 1983") action. They seek declaratory and injunctive relief, both individually and on behalf of a class of Stateville inmates (the "Inmate Class"), against a group of present or former Stateville officials alleged to be members of, or to have supervisory control over, the Stateville Adjustment Committee ("Adjustment Committee"). *fn1" Like the earlier versions of the complaint, the current Second Amended Class Action Complaint charges defendants with having violated the Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights of each member of the Inmate Class by denying him the right to call witnesses during a disciplinary hearing before the Adjustment Committee.

 This Court's June 9, 1997 opinion (the "Opinion," 173 EF.R.D.F 494 *fn2" ) decided several then-pending motions:

 
2. It granted defendants' Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56 motion for summary judgment against the original name plaintiff, Fares Umar, on his individual Section 1983 claim.
 
3. It denied both sides' cross-motions for summary judgment as they pertained to the declaratory and injunctive claims of the Inmate Class, without prejudice to the reassertion of those claims at an appropriate future time.

 That appropriate future time has arrived. It has been stipulated by the litigants that newly-added name plaintiff Whitlock is a proper class representative, *fn3" thus curing the procedural infirmity that had earlier prevented this Court from addressing the merits of the cross-motions.

 It should be repeated at the outset that, as this Court has previously held (Opinion at 502), the remaining claims for prospective injunctive and declaratory relief are indeed actionable under Section 1983 (see Edwards v. Balisok, 137 L. Ed. 2d 906, 117 S. Ct. 1584, 1588-89 (1997)). Whitlock now moves for summary judgment as to both his individual claim and that of the Inmate Class. In turn, defendants have renewed their cross-motion for summary judgment on all claims. At this point the motions are fully briefed and ready for decision, and there is no need to restate the facts that apply to the motions, as they have been set out in Opinion at 496-99. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, the Inmate Class' motion for summary judgment is granted, Whitlock's summary judgment motion is also granted and defendants' summary judgment motion is correspondingly denied.

 Summary Judgment Standards

 Familiar Rule 56 principles impose on a party seeking summary judgment the burden of establishing the lack of a genuine issue of material fact ( Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)). For that purpose this Court must "read[ ] the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party," although it "is not required to draw unreasonable inferences from the evidence" ( St. Louis N. Joint Venture v. P & L Enters., Inc., 116 F.3d 262, 265 n.2 (7th Cir. 1997)). Where as here cross-motions for summary judgment are involved, it is necessary to adopt a dual perspective --one that this Court has often described as Janus-like--that sometimes involves the denial of both motions. That problem does not arise here because the underlying facts are not in dispute. Instead the parties are at odds about whether as a matter of law the Adjustment Committee's treatment of inmates' requests to call witnesses during disciplinary hearings at which good-time credits are at stake violates the Due Process Clause.

 Section 1983 Claim of the Inmate Class

 What is at issue here is the Adjustment Committee's practice of barring all in-person witness testimony sought to be adduced by prisoners at their disciplinary hearings, instead "calling" witnesses only via the presentation of their statements as filtered through ex parte interviews by an unsworn hearing investigator. There is a narrow exception to that uniform rule in the rare situation in which an inmate witness is "readily available" to the Adjustment Committee because he himself is being heard personally at the same time on a disciplinary matter of his own (Opinion at 498).

 Due process requires certain procedural protections before a prison inmate can be deprived of a constitutionally protected liberty interest in earned good-time credits ( Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556-58, 563-72, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974)). Illinois law creates just such a liberty interest (see Hamilton v. O'Leary, 976 F.2d 341, 344 (7th Cir. 1992)). Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 132 L. Ed. 2d 418, 115 S. Ct. 2293 (1995), though it rejected a broader approach to the "liberty interest" concept than had earlier been expressed in Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983), has essentially reconfirmed that a liberty interest is implicated (thus triggering an inmate's entitlement to due process protection) if "the State's action will inevitably affect the duration of his sentence" ( id. at 487). Accordingly the procedure used by the Adjustment Committee to revoke an inmate's good-time credits must at a minimum comport with the requirements of procedural due process.

 Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1402 n.9 (7th Cir. 1994), in reliance on Wolff, 418 U.S. at 563-67, outlines what the ...


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