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Elliott v. Baker

July 28, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge


Pro se plaintiff Dennis Elliott is in the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) as a civil detainee under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act. Elliott filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the conditions of his confinement at the now-closed Joliet Treatment and Detention Facility violated his constitutional rights. He complains of overly restrictive and inhumane living conditions, arbitrary discipline, undue restrictions on his access to the courts, deliberate indifference to his medical needs, and lack of educational and rehabilitational programs.

Elliott filed this suit in January 2001. In June 2001, the case was transferred to another judge who was handling an earlier-filed case involving similar claims. The hope, consistent with this District's related-case rule, was that the cases (as well as some others filed around the same time) would be disposed of together. Things did not work out that way; the other case was disposed of on an individual basis. In June 2005, Elliott's case was reassigned to this Court's calendar. The Court dismissed the case in October 2006 because Elliott had not filed a status report as ordered. In July 2007, Elliott moved to reinstate the case, alleging that he had received neither the order requiring a status report nor the order of dismissal. The Court held an evidentiary hearing and, in September 2007, reinstated the case.

In October 2007, all of the defendants*fn1 moved to dismiss Elliott's amended complaint, and two of them moved for summary judgment. Elliott responded to the motion to dismiss in February 2008, and defendants filed their reply memoranda in April 2008. Unfortunately, the Court did a poor job in staying on top of things and is only now ruling on those motions, a delay for which the Court apologizes.


Elliott is a civil detainee held under the authority of the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (SVPCA), 725 ILCS 207/40. At the time he filed this suit, it appears, Elliott was still facing commitment proceedings; the Court does not know whether that is still the case. Defendant Linda Baker was, at the relevant time, the Secretary of DHS. The following officials were associated with the Joliet Treatment and Detention Facility (TDF), the DHS facility where Elliott was housed at the relevant time: Thomas McMahon was the Bureau Chief; Judy Burkowski was the Associate Director; Tom Monahan was the Assistant Bureau Chief; Timothy Budz was the Facility Director; Raymond Woods was the Clinical Director; Robert Glotz was the Security Director; and Revelee Steward, Max Marx and Tanya Clairmont were security aides. Defendant Nathan Maddox is alleged to have been the Illinois Secretary of State's Assistant General Counsel. Finally, defendant Roger Flahaven is alleged to have been Illinois' Deputy Attorney General.

Elliott alleges that while serving time in prison prior to his commitment to the TDF, he was able to attend educational and vocational classes, earned two associate's degrees, and was accepted to a four-year university program. He also had a prison job assignment. Once he was transferred to DHS custody at the Joliet TDF, however, Elliott had no work or educational opportunities. Instead, the DHS offers "status points" to encourage good behavior and participation in therapy.

While in prison, Elliott had access to a law library. The Joliet TDF, he alleges, had no law library.

At the Joliet TDF, Elliott says, he was double-celled in cells that were designed for single occupants. He alleges that only white detainees were double-celled and that black and Latino detainees were granted single-cell status. Elliott also alleges that DHS had no procedure for screening cellmates to ensure compatibility and that it housed persons already adjudicated as sexually violent with detainees who were still facing commitment proceedings.

On an unspecified date, Elliott alleges, Glotz, Marx, Steward and Clairmont revoked Elliott's "responsible living" status when he refused a double-cell assignment. He also claims those defendants locked him in his cell without due process.

Elliott also alleges that he is not confined in the least restrictive manner required by law. He contends that as a convicted prisoner, he enjoyed more rights, privileges and freedoms than he does as a civil detainee.


In assessing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court accepts the complaint's factual allegations as true. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007); Erickson v. Pardus, 550 U.S. 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007). A plaintiff is not required to allege specific facts; rather, he need only give the defendants fair notice of his claim and the grounds on which it rests. Erickson, 127 S.Ct. at 2200 (citing Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. 1964). In addition, a complaint like Elliott's that is filed pro se "'is to be liberally construed'" and is "'held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

1. Work and Educational Opportunities

Elliott was not constitutionally entitled either to a job assignment or to educational opportunities at the TDF. The federal Constitution does not require state authorities to provide convicted prisoners educational, rehabilitative, or vocational opportunities. See, e.g., Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000) (Eighth Amendment). The Court is unaware of any authority, nor does Elliott cite any, suggesting that the rules are different for civilly committed persons. In addition, Elliott does not contend that he has a liberty or property interest in such opportunities that has been created by Illinois law or otherwise. See Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, 809-10 (7th Cir. 1996) (due process - liberty interest).

Elliott also alleges that he and other persons committed under the SVPCA are treated differently from persons serving prison sentences with regard to these same opportunities. The Court dismisses that claim; Elliott does not allege that such ...

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