Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 99MR322 Honorable Thomas R. Appleton, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Steigmann
In November 1994, plaintiff, David Alicea, brought a claim under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. §1983 (1994)) in federal district court, alleging that defendants, Donald Snyder, Rodney Ahitow, William Boyd, Johnny Compton, and Kent Janssen, on behalf of the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC), violated his constitutional rights during a September 1994 prison disciplinary hearing. In February 1998, the district court dismissed part of Alicea's complaint, holding that it did not state a section 1983 claim arising out of the prison disciplinary hearing absent a declaration that a state tribunal had invalidated the discipline imposed on Alicea by DOC (Alicea v. Ahitow, No. 94-1518, slip order at 3 (C.D. Ill., February 3, 1998)). In May 1998, Alicea voluntarily dismissed the remainder of his federal action.
In August 1999, Alicea filed this action, seeking a declaratory judgment that the discipline imposed on him in November 1994 was invalid. In May 2000, the trial court dismissed the complaint as untimely because (1) the action was one for common-law writ of certiorari to review an administrative proceeding, and (2) Alicea had filed the complaint more than six months after the administrative decision.
Alicea appeals, arguing only that the trial court erred by applying the six-month statute of limitations period applicable to actions for common-law writ of certiorari instead of the five-year statute of limitations applicable to civil lawsuits (735 ILCS 5/13-205 (West 1998)). We affirm.
On August 16, 1994, DOC employee Captain B. Ward stated in an investigative report that he had received information that Alicea, who is a DOC inmate at Illinois River Correctional Center (Illinois River), was involved in gang activity. Based on the report, DOC placed Alicea on investigative status. Janssen, a DOC captain, interviewed Alicea the following day, and Alicea denied being involved in gang activity. Janssen recommended further investigative status for Alicea.
On August 19, 1994, DOC served Alicea with an inmate disciplinary report (IDR). The IDR, which was written by DOC Officer Parks, charged Alicea with gang-related activity and specific violations of DOC rules. The IDR also charged that (1) Alicea was the leader of a gang known as the Spanish Cobras, (2) his behavior and attitude created conflicts with other prisoners, and (3) his activities jeopardized safety at Illinois River.
On August 24, 1994, an adjustment committee (committee), comprised of Compton and Janssen, met to hear the charges against Alicea. The committee continued the hearing until September 6, 1994, to allow time to review witness and internal affairs reports. On that date, the committee read the charges and Alicea pleaded not guilty. At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee found Alicea guilty of all charges and recommended revocation of one year of Alicea's good-time credit, imposition of one year of disciplinary segregation and one year's demotion to C-grade status, and transfer to a maximum-security prison. The chief administrative officer later imposed a punishment of three months' segregation, six months' demotion to C-grade status, and transfer to a maximum-security prison. Thereafter, Alicea filed a grievance and appeared before the administrative review board (board). On December 5, 1994, the board denied Alicea's grievance and concurred with the chief administrative officer.
On November 23, 1994, Alicea filed a section 1983 action (42 U.S.C. §1983 (1994)) in federal district court, alleging that DOC's conduct at the disciplinary hearing violated his (1) fourteenth amendment due process rights (U.S. Const., amend. XIV), (2) eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (U.S. Const., amend. VIII), and (3) right of access to the courts (see Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821-22, 52 L. Ed. 2d 72, 78-79, 97 S. Ct. 1491, 1494-95 (1977)). In February 1997, the district court dismissed Alicea's third claim and directed the parties to complete discovery and proceed to trial on the remaining claims.
In October 1997, defendants again filed a motion to dismiss the due process claim, arguing that pursuant to a recent line of cases, a prisoner cannot state a section 1983 claim arising out of a prison disciplinary hearing absent a declaration that the discipline had been invalidated. In February 1998, the district court agreed and stated the following:
"Because [Alicea's] discipline has not been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or called into question by the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, his due process claim is not ripe for adjudication in the context of a federal civil rights action." Alicea v. Ahitow, No. 94-1518, slip order at 3 (C.D. Ill., February 3, 1998).
In September 1998, the district court granted Alicea's motion to voluntarily dismiss the eighth amendment claim with prejudice. However, the court explained as follows:
"This order will be without prejudice to plaintiff's right to file in the Illinois state court his claim that his disciplinary hearing of September 6, 1994[,] was wrongful as alleged in his original complaint herein, which claim was dismissed without prejudice by this [c]court pursuant to its memorandum order entered February 3, 1998." Alicea v. Ahitow, No. 94-1518, slip order at 1 (C.D. Ill., September 24, 1998).
On August 23, 1999, Alicea filed this declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration that the committee's guilty finding was void and asking that defendants be directed to expunge the sanction and findings from DOC records. Alicea alleged that DOC violated his due process rights and its own rules in conducting his disciplinary hearing. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss (735 ILCS 5/2-615(a) (West 1998)), asserting that (1) the committee's decision was not subject to judicial review, (2) DOC did not ...