The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge
A. Introduction and Background
On December 4, 2002, eleven inmates in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants subjected them to strip searches from August 2002 until April 2003 at the Lawrence Correctional Center while Plaintiffs were employed in the dietary department. Plaintiffs argued that the strip searches were degrading and humiliating, thereby violating the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution. Defendants argued that the strip searches were conducted in a reasonable manner due to legitimate prison management concerns, and were therefore not unconstitutional. Specifically, Defendants alleged that food had been stolen and that the searches were necessary to discover and stop thefts.
Prior to trial, the Court dismissed all Plaintiffs except Bourbeau, Allen, Myrick, and Freeman (See Docs. 34, 46, & 113) and dismissed all Defendants except Pierce and Blumenstock (Doc. 54). Additionally, the Court adopted the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation that Defendants be granted summary judgment on Plaintiff Freeman's § 1983 claims and that Defendant Pierce be granted summary judgment on the Eighth Amendment claims asserted by Plaintiffs (See Docs. 146 & 149).
Trial began on April 16, 2007.*fn1 At that time, Plaintiffs' surviving claims were: (1) Bourbeau, Allen, and Myrick's Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims against Blumenstock and Pierce, (2) Bourbeau, Allen, and Myrick's Eighth Amendment claims against Blumenstock, and (3) Bourbeau, Allen, Myrick, and Freeman's claims under Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution against Blumenstock and Pierce.
At the close of evidence on April 18, 2007, Defendants orally moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 50. At that time, the Court granted the motion in part and reserved its ruling on the balance of the motion (See Doc. 189). The Court granted judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiffs' Fifth Amendment claims on the grounds that none of the Defendants were federal officials. The Court also denied as untimely the Plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint so as to convert their Fifth Amendment claims to Fourteenth Amendment claims.
Additionally, the Court granted judgment as a matter of law as to Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois, finding that no private right of action exists under that section. Consequently, Plaintiff Freeman was dismissed as he no longer had any viable claims remaining against the Defendants.
The jury trial culminated in an April 18, 2007 verdict in favor of the Defendants (See Doc. 191). As a result, the Court denied as moot the balance of Defendants' Rule 50 motion (Doc. 196) and entered judgment in favor of Defendants (Doc. 197).
Plaintiffs timely moved for a new trial on April 30, 2007 (Doc. 198). The motion has been fully briefed. For the reasons described below, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion.
FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 59(a) provides that in any action where there has been a jury trial, a new trial may be granted "for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States."
That language has been interpreted to mean that a district court may grant a new trial only if the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, or a new trial is necessary to prevent a miscarriage of justice. See Romero v. Cincinnati, Inc., 171 F.3d 1091, 1096 (7th Cir. 1999); Lonsdorf v. Seefeldt, 47 F.3d 893, 897 (7th Cir. 1995); Sokol Crystal Products, Inc. v. DSC Communications Corp., 15 F.3d 1427, 1432 (7th Cir. 1994).
The law of this Circuit holds:
A new trial may be granted only if the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence.... "[W]e will not set aside a jury verdict if a reasonable basis exists in the record to support that verdict...." The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, and issues of credibility and weight of evidence are within the purview of the jury.
Carter v. Chicago Police Officers, 165 F.3d 1071, 1079 (7th Cir. 1998) (emphasis added). Accord Cefalu v. Village of Elk Grove, 211 F.3d 416, 424 (7th Cir. 2000).
Plaintiffs offer nine grounds in support of their new trial motion. First, Plaintiffs argue that the Court erred in giving various jury instructions over their objections. Second, Plaintiffs argue that the Court erred in directing the jurors to continue deliberating after the jurors sent a note to the Court indicating that they were deadlocked. Third, Plaintiffs argue that the dismissal of Plaintiff Freeman was error because Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution provides a private right of action. Fourth, Plaintiffs argue that the verdicts against Plaintiffs Bourbeau, Allen, and Myrick were against the manifest weight of the evidence. Fifth, Plaintiffs argue that they proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendants violated their federal rights under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments. Sixth, Plaintiffs argue that the dismissal of Plaintiff Freeman at the Rule 50 stage denied Plaintiffs a fair trial because the dismissal tended to indicate to the jury that they should find against the remaining Plaintiffs. Seventh, Plaintiffs argue that the Court erred in denying their motion to amend the complaint to convert the Fifth Amendment claims to Fourteenth Amendment claims. Finally, Plaintiffs argue that they were prejudiced when the Defendants gave testimony in direct contradiction of the uncontroverted and stipulated facts, thereby giving the jury the impression that the stipulated facts were subject to dispute.
As to the Plaintiffs' first argument, the Court did not err in giving Defendants' jury instructions 23, 31, 32, or 33. Plaintiffs argue that each of these instructions misstates the law and has the effect of slanting evidence in favor of the Defendants. At trial, Plaintiffs did not object to Defendants' jury instruction 23, but did object to instructions 31, 32, and 33.
Where a party did not object to an instruction at trial, the Court reviews the instruction for plain error affecting substantial rights. FED.R.CIV.P.51(d)(2); see Production Specialties Group, Inc. v. Minsor Systems, Inc., -- F.3d --, 2008 WL 151176, *3 (7th Cir. Jan. 17, 2008). As Plaintiffs did not object to Defendants' instruction 23, plain error review applies. Instruction 23 states:
Searches of an inmates (sic) body which are maliciously motivated with the intent to humiliate and inflict psychological pain, and are done without prison management justification, are unconstitutional. For a search of an inmate's body to be unconstitutional, the prison staff ordering or conducting the searches must want to humiliate and inflict psychological pain on the inmate.
Doc. 192. Defendant cited three cases in support of this instruction: Whitman v. Nesic, 368 F.3d 931, 934 (7th Cir. 2004), Johnson v. Phelen, 69 F.3d 144, 149 (7th Cir. 1996), and Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). In Whitman, which is the most recent and factually similar of the three cases cited by Defendants, the Seventh Circuit stated:
In the context of bodily searches performed upon those incarcerated in our prison system, only those searches that are "maliciously motivated, unrelated to institutional security, and hence 'totally without penological justification' are considered unconstitutional." In other words, the search must amount to "calculated harassment unrelated to prison needs," with the intent to humiliate and inflict psychological pain. 368 F.3d at 934 (internal citations omitted).
The language of Defendants' jury instruction 23 is consistent with the Seventh Circuit's statement of law in Whitman, and Plaintiffs provide absolutely no authority for the position that the instruction misstates the law. Consequently, the Court did not commit plain error affecting Plaintiffs' substantial rights in giving Defendants' instruction 23, and Plaintiffs were not prejudiced by the instruction.
As for Defendants' jury instructions 31, 32, and 33, Plaintiffs made timely objections on the record. Therefore, if any instruction was given in error, then a new trial is warranted if the error confused or misled the jury causing prejudice to Plaintiffs. See FED.R.CIV.P.51(d)(1)(A); ...