The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge
The plaintiff, currently incarcerated in Pinckneyville Correctional Center, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 challenging incidents at Taylorville Correctional Center that culminated in an allegedly false disciplinary ticket, causing the plaintiff to lose good time, among other punishments.
The court is required by 28 U.S.C. §1915A to conduct a merit review of the Complaint, and through such process to dismiss any legally insufficient claims, or the entire action if warranted. A merit review hearing was scheduled to aid the court in this review (and then rescheduled at the plaintiff's request), but was ultimately cancelled as unnecessary. The court has carefully reviewed the complaint and exhibits, which already clearly set out the claims.
The merit review standard is the same as a motion to dismiss standard. Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), reh'g denied, 405 U.S. 948 (1972). The allegations are taken as true, and a claim can be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Haines, 404 U.S. at 521.
For the reasons below, the court concludes that the plaintiff's Section 1983 claim is barred at this time. The plaintiff's claims, if true, show that he was unconstitutionally disciplined and that his good time should be restored. However, according to Supreme Court case law, he cannot seek that restoration (or damages) under Section 1983 until he has otherwise invalidated the discipline. He must instead proceed through the habeas corpus route, if he can at all.
The events occurred during the plaintiff's incarceration at Taylorville Correctional Center in 2004.
On August 3, 2004, defendant Ellrick shook down the plaintiff's cell and confiscated a "black and mild" cigar. The plaintiff was escorted to segregation.
That day, defendants Huber and Squires questioned the plaintiff as part of an internal investigation into the trafficking of contraband (cigars, food, and drugs) between inmates at the carwash and IDOC employees. The plaintiff repeatedly denied any knowledge of such trafficking--he did not even work at the carwash. He had gotten the cigar for $2 from an inmate (who had properly bought it at another prison), not from illegal trading or trafficking.
Defendants Huber and Squires apparently did not believe the plaintiff. They threatened him with charges of interfering with the investigation. They also made thinly veiled threats about how difficult they could make life for the plaintiff: "I may think of opening a new chapter in your case--you might go to a max joint"; "How about I arrange where you don't see your wife for a whole year?" Through these threats, they tried to pressure him into becoming a confidential informant. The plaintiff resisted. At the end of the questioning, the plaintiff refused to sign any statements, for fear that the defendants would later doctor the statement to their ends. The plaintiff was taken back to segregation.
On August 16, 2004, the plaintiff was written a disciplinary report charging him with: 1) impeding or interfering with an investigation (#110) and 2) drugs and drug paraphernalia (#203). The first page of the report is largely illegible, but the second states that a "confidential source" reported overhearing the plaintiff tell another inmate (Johnson) that the plaintiff was getting marijuana from a female visitor. According to the disciplinary report, the confidential source reportedly witnessed the plaintiff and inmate Johnson removing tobacco from the cigars, and then later witnessed them smoking the altered cigars, which reportedly smelled like marijuana. The report accused the plaintiff of refusing to answer questions about where he obtained his cigar.
After learning that the plaintiff had not received visitors during the time in question, defendant Huber changed his story: instead of the confidential informant overhearing the plaintiff's statement, Huber said that he himself had overheard the plaintiff complain about not getting "his stuff" after his female visitor was placed on restriction. Though marijuana residue was found in a corn cob pipe of inmate Johnson, there is nothing in the record to show that any marijuana residue was found on any of the plaintiff's possessions.
The Adjustment Committee reduced the drug charge to contraband, but they did not identify the contraband, nor did the plaintiff have notice or an opportunity to defend himself against the contraband charge.
The Adjustment Committee found the plaintiff guilty on both counts, imposing one year across the board (1 year loss of good time credits, 1 year segregation, 1 year C grade). This was despite the fact that the plaintiff did not have any visitors during the time in question, and therefore could not have received marijuana from a visitor. He was not allowed to call witnesses, and his requests for the identity of the ...