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Knox v. Spencer

March 3, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge


This cause is before the court for consideration of the defendant's third motion for summary judgment. [d/e 57] The plaintiff, Christopher Knox, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging that officials at the Pontiac Correctional Center violated his constitutional rights. The court granted in part and denied in part the defendants' first two motions for summary judgment. See August 22, 2003 Text Order; March 16, 2004 Court Order; and July 26, 2005 Court Order.

The plaintiff has one surviving claim: that Defendant Mike Spencer violated the plaintiff's First Amendment rights when Spencer wrote a disciplinary ticket against the plaintiff in retaliation for a past grievance. This issue was not properly addressed in the defendants' second motion for summary judgment, so the court ordered the defendants to file a third motion for summary judgment on this issue. Defendant Spencer has complied with that court order and the plaintiff has filed a response.


The following facts are taken from the motion for summary judgment and the plaintiff's response. On February 25, 2002, plaintiff wrote a grievance about Correctional Officer Spencer. The grievance stated that Spencer was continuously harassing the plaintiff and making sexual comments to the plaintiff. The grievance was forwarded to Spencer for his response.

The plaintiff says that after he had filed a couple of grievances accusing the defendant of sexual harassment, he was called into the Internal Affairs office for an interview. (Plain. Depo, p. 40) The plaintiff estimates this occurred in May or June of 2002. An Internal Affairs investigator told the plaintiff they would interview Spencer. The plaintiff says he does not believe Spencer was ever punished as a result of the allegations.

On April 22, 2002, the defendant wrote a disciplinary ticket against the plaintiff. Spencer accused the plaintiff of violating Illinois Department of Corrections Rule 303: Giving False Information to an Employee. The report states that Spencer received a copy of plaintiff's grievance accusing him of sexual harassment. The defendant says he did not make any of the statements the plaintiff accuses him of making.

At the time of this disciplinary report, department rules also forbade any disciplinary action against an inmate solely for using the grievance procedure.Defendant Spencer says he did not write the disciplinary report because the plaintiff used the grievance process. "Instead, I wrote the Disciplinary Report because Mr. Knox made false statements against me in a grievance to correctional staff." Def. Resp, Spencer Depo, p. 2. The defendant further states that he believed the plaintiff "wrote the grievance at issue because I had written him previous disciplinary reports." Id.

Defendant Spencer says after he wrote the disciplinary report, he had no further involvement with it. The decision of whether the plaintiff had violated a department rule was up to the Adjustment Committee. The plaintiff says he was not involved in this hearing, nor was he asked his opinion about the outcome.

On April 30, 2002, the plaintiff was found guilty of the offense. The recommended discipline included demotion to C grade status for three months, placement in segregation for three months, loss of commissary for three months and loss of audio-visual privileges for three months.

The plaintiff wrote a grievance complaining about the findings of the Adjustment Committee. The recommended response was that the disciplinary report and resulting discipline be expunged from the plaintiff's record.

On November 27, 2002, another Adjustment Committee was convened and considered the recommendation. They voted to follow the recommendation and expunged the report and discipline. The warden at Pontiac Correctional Center also approved this action. The plaintiff debates that a hearing was held, but agrees that his ticket was expunged.

The defendant states that the plaintiff has been on C grade status since July 20, 1999 and is not expected to be released from C grade until November, 2042. The plaintiff has been in disciplinary segregation since February 21, 2001 and is not expected to be released until July 13, 2028. The same is true for plaintiff's commissary privileges and audio-visual privileges. He lost each before the April 2002 disciplinary report and is not expected to regain those privileges for some time.

An exhibit submitted by the plaintiff shows that he has received approximately 80 disciplinary tickets from February 3, 2001 to November 12, 2003 for a wide variety of violations including spitting on staff, kicking staff, insolence, throwing a liquid substance on staff, disobeying a direct order and excessive noise. The plaintiff also says he has regained some of these privileges. The plaintiff has presented documents showing ...

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