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Ashley v. Pierson

June 17, 2003

HOWARD VINCENT ASHLEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MARK A. PIERSON, WARDEN, HENRY HILL CORRECTIONAL CENTER AND DONALD N. SNYDER, JR., DIRECTOR, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 01MR571 Honorable Donald M. Cadagin, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

PUBLISHED

In October 2001, plaintiff, Howard Vincent Ashley, filed a petition for writ of mandamus, alleging that defendants, Mark A. Pierson, warden of Henry Hill Correctional Center, and Donald N. Snyder, Jr., the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC), failed to perform certain ministerial duties during May 1998 and March 1999 disciplinary proceedings. In December 2001, Pierson and Snyder filed a motion to dismiss Ashley's petition, and the trial court later granted that motion. Ashley appeals, and we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 6, 1998, DOC cited Ashley, who was then an inmate at Danville Correctional Center (Danville), in an inmate disciplinary report (IDR). The IDR indicated that when two DOC officers interviewed Ashley regarding a report that he had threatened his cell mate, Ashley admitted making threatening comments while on his wing and in his cell but denied directing any comments toward his cell mate. Ashley also admitted that he told his cell mate "[g]o on and tell[,] they ain't going to do nothing but move your punk ass[.] I know how it go [sic] around here." The IDR charged Ashley with violating the DOC rule against intimidating or threatening other inmates (DOC Rule 206). Later that same day, a DOC officer served Ashley with the IDR.

On May 8, 1998, an adjustment committee (committee) conducted a disciplinary hearing on the charge alleged against Ashley. He appeared at the hearing, pleaded not guilty, and denied threatening his cell mate. However, Ashley admitted that (1) he and his cell mate had a history of arguing over religion; and (2) he had had seven different cell mates in the previous five months. The committee found Ashley guilty and recommended the following disciplinary action: (1) revocation of six months of Ashley's good-time credits; (2) imposition of six months of disciplinary segregation; and (3) six months' demotion to C-grade status. The committee also recommended that Ashley be trans-ferred to another correctional facility. The chief administrative officer later affirmed the committee's guilty finding but reduced the discipline to revocation of one month of good-time credits, imposition of two months of segregation, and six months' demotion to C-grade status.

Following his transfer to the Centralia Correctional Center, Ashley filed a grievance, alleging that (1) he did not admit threatening his cell mate; (2) a Danville correctional officer named Smalls had convinced Ashley's cell mate to fabricate a report of threats; and (3) an inmate named Titus McCaa could testify that he heard Smalls coaching Ashley's cell mate. (The record does not indicate the dates on which these events occurred.)

On September 9, 1998, the administrative review board (board) heard Ashley's grievance. The board recommended that (1) the IDR be remanded to Danville "to be rewritten to substantiate the charges, reserved[,] and reheard within the appropriate time frames"; and (2) "[t]he requested information *** be forwarded to the [DOC] Director's office within 20 days of the receipt of this report." The then DOC Director approved the board's recommendation.

On March 18, 1999, a DOC correctional officer served Ashley with a new IDR for the May 6, 1998, incident. The IDR was substantially the same as the original IDR in terms of the description of the May 6, 1998, incident. In addition, the new IDR indicated that (1) between late December 1997 and May 6, 1998, Ashley had seven different cell mates; and (2) a correctional officer assigned to Ashley's former wing stated that every inmate who had been placed with Ashley "ended up scared to cell with Ashley and in a hurry to move." The new IDR charged Ashley with violating the DOC rule against intimidating or threatening other inmates (DOC Rule 206). After being served with the new IDR, Ashley requested that the committee consider calling one witness, an inmate named Titus McCaa.

On March 22, 1999, the committee conducted a disciplinary hearing on the charge against Ashley, who appeared at the hearing, pleaded not guilty, and presented a written statement to the committee. Ashley also requested that the committee call McCaa and Smalls as witnesses. The committee summary indicates that Smalls was not called because he no longer worked for DOC and McCaa was not called because the committee was "unable to contact" him. The committee found Ashley guilty and recommended the following disciplinary action: (1) revocation of six months of Ashley's good-time credits; (2) imposition of six months of disciplinary segregation; and (3) six months' demotion to C-grade status. The committee also recommended that Ashley be trans-ferred to another correctional facility. The chief administrative officer later affirmed the committee's guilty finding but reduced the discipline to revocation of one month of good-time credits, imposition of two months of segregation, and six months' demotion to C-grade status.

In an August 17, 1999, letter to Ashley, the board indicated that it was satisfied with the committee's findings on remand and, thus, recommended denying Ashley's grievance regarding the May 6, 1998, incident. The letter also indicated that Snyder approved the board's recommendation.

On October 17, 2001, Ashley filed a petition for writ of mandamus, alleging that Pierson and Snyder had failed to perform the following ministerial duties: (1) adhere to the time frame for rehearings on remand from the board, as required by section 504.90(b)(2) of Title 20 of the Illinois Administrative Code (20 Ill. Adm. Code §504.90(b)(2) (Conway Greene CD-ROM April 2001)); (2) appropriately address Ashley's allegations of retaliation; and (3) interview his requested witnesses. Ashley sought a mandamus order (1) expunging the May 6, 1998, and March 18, 1999, IDRs, and (2) restoring his good-time credits.

In December 2001, Pierson and Snyder filed a motion to dismiss Ashley's petition under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2000)). In pertinent part, Pierson and Snyder sought dismissal under section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code on the ground that Ashley's October 17, 2001, petition for writ of mandamus was time barred because he filed it more than six months after the completion of the disciplinary proceedings.

In January 2002, Ashley filed a response to Pierson and Snyder's motion to dismiss, arguing, in pertinent part, that his petition for writ of mandamus was not time barred because he was pursuing federal litigation. (The record shows that in August 2000, Ashley filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal district court, complaining of DOC's conduct during the May 1998 and March 1999 disciplinary proceedings. Later that month, the district court dismissed Ashley's claims regarding the constitutionality of the disciplinary actions resulting in his demotion to C-grade status, his placement in segregation, and his transfer to a different facility, upon determining that those claims could not be challenged in a habeas corpus petition. In August 2001, the district court dismissed the remaining claim set forth in Ashley's petition, upon determining that he had failed to exhaust his state remedies.)

Following an April 2002 telephone hearing on Pierson and Snyder's motion to dismiss Ashley's petition, the trial court granted ...


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