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Williams v. Albert

September 22, 2006

CLIFTON WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SGT. ALBERT, C/O HOLDER, AND C/O HALL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Proud, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

At the close of the plaintiff's case, defendants Cynthia Albert, David Holder, and Mark Hall orally moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a).*fn2 The Court heard oral argument on the motion, and granted same on the record. (Tr. 59-63). In doing so, the Court indicated that it would issue a written order setting forth the reasons for its decision.

Rule 50(a)(1) provides that the Court may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law where "a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue."

"Judgment as a matter of law is proper only if a reasonable person could not find that the evidence supports a decision for a party on each essential element of the case, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant."Mutual Service Casualty Insurance Company v. Elizabeth State Bank, 265 F.3d 601, 612 (7th Cir. 2001), citing Campbell v. Peters, 256 F.3d 695, 699 (7th Cir. 2001). In determining a motion under Rule 50(a), the Court does not weigh the evidence or determine credibility. Harper v. Albert, 400 F.3d 1052, 1067 (7th Cir. 2005). The Court must consider whether there was substantial evidence in favor of the non-movant; a "mere scintilla" does not suffice. Mutual Service Casualty Insurance Company, supra..

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections, sued a number of prison employees for retaliating against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. The case went to trial on two claims. In the claim designated as Count 1, plaintiff alleged that defendant Holder retaliated against him by threatening him. In the claim designated as Count 3, plaintiff alleged that all defendants retaliated against him by placing him in a stripped-out cell for over 15 days.

Evidence as to Count 1

There was no evidence at all with regard to Count 1. Neither plaintiff nor any of his witnesses testified that Holder threatened plaintiff in any manner. Holder is obviously entitled to judgment on Count 1.

Evidence as to Count 3

The Court first notes that there was some confusion in the evidence as to what constitutes a "stripped cell." Plaintiff referred to being placed in a strip or stripped cell. Defendant Hall, who was an officer at Menard Correctional Center from November, 2000, to December, 2004, testified that the phrase "strip cell" technically refers to a cell in the healthcare unit commonly used to house suicidal inmates. The situation to which plaintiff referred, in which some or all of the inmate's property is removed because for disciplinary reasons, such as the property is contraband, unauthorized, or is being misused by the inmate, is called a "restricted property cell." (Tr. 34). As plaintiff and the witnesses referred to the cell of which plaintiff complains as a "strip cell," the Court will do the same, with the understanding that the designation is evidently not technically correct.

The evidence was unclear as to the exact date on which plaintiff claims he was put in the strip cell. The only evidence about the date came from plaintiff's witness Vinning, another inmate. Plaintiff asked whether Vinning witnessed Williams "be stripped of his property" in September, 2002. Vinning answered in the affirmative. (Tr. 25).

Plaintiff presented no details about the incident in question. Crucially, he offered no evidence that any individual defendant was involved in the decision to place him in a strip cell, or that any individual defendant actually placed him in the cell.

Plaintiff testified as follows:

What I want to go into is saying that upon me filing numerous grievances about misconduct being done to me while in Menard Correctional Facility, I was retaliated against by the defendants by being stripped out of my property, and also on numerous occasions denied my breakfast tray. (Tr. 52).

The Court then sustained an objection because the claim for denial of breakfast had previously been dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See, ...


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