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Bohler v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

May 11, 2007

JERRY M. BOHLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ROGER WALKER, JR., AND BARBARA A. HURT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge

OPINION and ORDER

Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants, Roger Walker, Jr. and Barbara A. Hurt, on January 25, 2007 [Doc. 17]. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Prior to August 1, 2003, Jerry M. Bohler, Plaintiff, was a correctional officer for the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). (Jerry Bohler Deposition 43.) On August 1, 2003, Plaintiff became a Clinical Service Supervisor. (Bohler Dep. 43.) From December 1, 2003 to February 13, 2005, Plaintiff was employed as the Assistant Warden of Operations ("AWO") at the Illinois River Correctional Center ("IRCC") and was assigned the duties of an Acting Warden. (Bohler Dep. 50.) Defendant Roger Walker, Jr. is the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections and Defendant Barbara A. Hurt was a Deputy Director during the relevant time period.

Plaintiff indicates that prior to taking the job as an AWO, he was promised pay that would equal ten percent more than a Correctional Captain's pay. (Bohler Dep. 69.) However, upon taking the job, Plaintiff did not receive that salary. (Bohler Dep. 69.) In light of this discrepancy, Plaintiff complained to the Governor's office, the Attorney General's office, Representative Mike Smith, and Jim Underwood and Jim Reinhart, who both work in IDOC's personnel department. (Bohler Dep. 73, 75, and 118.) Plaintiff's complaints to each of these persons were only regarding his "pay situation." (Bohler Dep. 71, 73, 75, and 77.) At some point in March, 2004, Plaintiff's pay was corrected. (Bohler Dep. 73.)

After becoming an AWO, Plaintiff was investigated by the Office of the Executive Inspector General for the improper use of an agency vehicle. The investigation culminated in a 20-day "working suspension" that was imposed on February 9, 2005 and served upon Plaintiff by Defendant Hurt. (Bohler Dep. 94.) Plaintiff states that he believes that the investigation and suspension were "[b]ecause I was making a lot of calls to the Governor's office on my money." (Bohler Dep. 84.) That is, Plaintiff believes that Defendants Walker and Hurt were acting at the behest of Julie Curry, who works in the Governor's office, when they suspended him in retaliation for calling the Governor's office regarding his salary. (Bohler Dep. 111.) Plaintiff also indicates that he was not afforded any process during the investigation and subsequent suspension.

The foregoing forms the basis of Plaintiff's First Amendment and Due Process claims. In his Complaint, filed on June 9, 2005, Plaintiff alleges that his due process rights were violated by Walker and Hurt when the suspension was instituted without using the procedures located in the Illinois Administrative Code (Count 1). Plaintiff further alleges that Walker and Hurt retaliated against him for exercising his free speech rights when they suspended him after he complained about his wages (Count 2). In the pending Motion Defendants Walker and Hurt seek summary judgment on these claims made against them in their individual capacities.*fn1

DISCUSSION

Standard

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the 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). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court as to portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Once the movant has met its burden, to survive summary judgment the "non-movant must show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which he bears the burden of proof at trial." Warsco v. Preferred Tech. Group, 258 F.3d 557, 563 (7th Cir. 2001); See also Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-24. "The non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; it must go beyond the pleadings and support its contentions with proper documentary evidence." Chemsource, Inc. v. Hub Group, Inc., 106 F.3d 1358, 1361 (7th Cir. 1997).

This Court must nonetheless "view the record and all inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to the [non-moving party]." Holland v. Jefferson Nat. Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). In doing so, this Court is not "required to draw every conceivable inference from the record -- only those inferences that are reasonable." Bank Leumi Le-Isreal, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991). Therefore, if the record before the court "could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party," then no genuine issue of material fact exists and, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. McClendon v. Indiana Sugars, Inc., 108 F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). However, in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court may not weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact; disputed facts must be left for resolution at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).

Qualified Immunity

Qualified immunity must be determined at the earliest possible time in a lawsuit because it is immunity from suit rather than a defense to liability. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200-201 (2001). At its core, qualified immunity shields "[g]overnment actors performing discretionary functions" from "liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Sallenger v. Oakes, 473 F.3d 731, 739 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). In order to determine whether Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, the Court must first ask: "Taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right?" Id. at 201. At the summary judgment stage, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in repeating this first question, held that: "First, the plaintiff must present evidence that, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, would allow a reasonable fact finder to determine that he has been deprived of a constitutional right." Washington v. Haupert, 481 F.3d 543, 547 (7th Cir. 2007); See also Mannoia v. Farrow, 476 F.3d 453, 457 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Although the privilege of qualified immunity is a defense, Plaintiff carries the burden of defeating it."). If the answer is yes, the Court must then ask whether the right was clearly established. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. Plaintiff does not dispute that Defendants are the type of officials who are entitled to assert a qualified immunity defense. See Moss v. ...


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