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Ford v. Clark

April 18, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber


The Plaintiff, a state prisoner (hereinafter, "Plaintiff"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Plaintiff claims that the Defendants, officials and health care providers at the Stateville Correctional Center, violated the Plaintiff's constitutional rights by conducting abusive strip searches, by using excessive force against him (or by failing to intervene when a fellow officer used unjustified force), by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, and by subjecting him to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement. This matter is before the court for consideration of the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated herein, both parties' respective motions are denied.


Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56 (c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Prime Northgate Plaza Ltd. Partnership v. Lifecare Acquisitions Corp., 985 F.Supp. 815, 817 (N.D. Ill. 1997). In determining whether factual issues exist, the court must view all the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Walker v. Northeast Regional Commuter Railroad Corp., 225 F.3d 895, 897 (7th Cir. 2000).

However, Rule 56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Group, Inc. a Div. of Leggett & Platt, Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, at 523 U.S. 1118 (1998).


Because material facts are in dispute, both parties' motions for summary judgment must be denied. "At summary judgment, 'a court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts; these are jobs for a fact finder.'" Paz v. Wauconda Healthcare and Rehabilitation Centre, LLC, 464 F.3d 659, 664 (7th Cir. 2006), quoting Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 771-73 (7th Cir. 2003). A trier of fact must resolve the parties' conflicting accounts. As the sequence of events giving rise to this lawsuit are almost entirely in dispute, the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment must be denied in all respects.

A. Count I

According to the Plaintiff, on July 19, 2004, Defendant Muys ("Muys"), an officer at the Stateville Correctional Center: (1) handcuffed the Plaintiff and told him to strip naked; (2) ordered him to bend over for a visual inspection of his rectum three times; (3) viciously attacked the Plaintiff when he asked to speak to a lieutenant about the successive and degrading searches; and (4) ignored the Plaintiff's requests for medical attention following the assault.

Muys has filed a counter-affidavit stating that he conducted the strip search "per protocol" and that the search was performed without incident. Muys denies ever touching the Plaintiff, let alone using unjustified force, and maintains that there was a single visual inspection of the Plaintiff's rectum. The Court cannot decide these factual issues on summary judgment.

As discussed in prior orders, although prison strip searches are generally permissible, see, e.g., Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979); Del Raine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024 (7th Cir. 1994), they must be performed in a "reasonable," non-abusive manner. Bell, 441 U.S. at 560, Del Raine, 17 F.3d at 1040. In this case, if a jury believes that the Plaintiff was required to submit to an inspection of his anus three times, and/or that a non-medical professional inserted his finger into the Plaintiff's rectum, the jury would most likely conclude that the strip search violated the Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

The Plaintiff may also be able to recover against Muys if it is to be believed that Muys attacked the Plaintiff for protesting the allegedly invasive strip search(es). Correctional officers have the right to use reasonable force against a prison inmate to enforce discipline and to maintain institutional security. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). However, it is well settled that the intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification constitutes cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment. Id.; Knox v. Wainscott, No. 03 C 1429, 2003 WL 21148973, at *6 (N.D. Ill. May 14, 2003 (Manning, J.). Whenever correctional officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Constitution, "the core judicial inquiry is whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000), quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7 (internal quotations omitted). In this case, the trier of fact will have to assess whether Muys resorted to gratuitous violence, in violation of the Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

Defendant Robinson ("Robinson") likewise denies that he was aware of anyone using excessive force against the Plaintiff, denies that the Plaintiff ever requested medical attention, and denies that he ever threatened to mace the Plaintiff if he continued to kick his cell door. Summary judgment is denied as to these contested issues.

The Plaintiff may also proceed against Defendants Robinson and Muys on his claim that they ignored his purported requests for needed medical attention. Correctional officials and health care providers may not act with deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Walker v. Benjamin, 293 F.3d 1030, 1037 (7th Cir. 2002). Again, accepting the Plaintiff's account of his injuries as true, he may be able to obtain damages for the denial of necessary ...

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