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Powers v. Fredrickson

July 31, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


I. Introduction and Procedural Overview

Thomas Powers is an inmate of Dixon Correctional Center ("Dixon") who formerly was incarcerated at Hill Correctional Facility ("Hill") and Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"). At all times relevant, the Illinois Department of Corrections ("the IDOC") served as Powers's custodian.

In September or October, 2002, while incarcerated at Hill, Powers filed a lawsuit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against officers and staff members at Hill. Powers v. Snyder, Case No. 02-1372 (C.D.Ill.) ("the 1372 lawsuit"). Defendants in that action were Matthew Fredrickson, Randy Goodwin, Lois Mathes, Dr. Obasi, Mark Pierson and Lieutenant Smith. Powers alleges that the summonses were delivered to Defendants in that action on February 15, 2003. He further alleges that, immediately thereafter, Defendants in the instant action, Fredrickson, Turnquist, Goodwin, Kirklin and Anderson began to retaliate against him for filing the 1372 lawsuit. Subsequently, according to Powers, upon his being transferred to Pinckneyville, Defendant Bradley also retaliated against him for filing that action. Powers alleges, inter alia, the following acts of retaliation: numerous cell shake downs, which left his legal material and cell in disarray; writing non-substance inmate disciplinary reports; single cuffing him when he was medically required to be placed in two handcuffs; forcing him to sign away all of his property; and denying him needed medical equipment.

On August 10, 2007, Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson certified the case ready for trial. On March 17, 2008, a two-day bench trial commenced. Opening statements were made, witnesses called, and testimony adduced. Pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 52, having carefully reviewed the documents in issue and considered the evidence presented at trial, the Court now FINDS and CONCLUDES as follows.

II. Findings of Fact

1. Powers is an inmate incarcerated within the IDOC and is currently housed at Dixon.

2. From July, 1997, through July, 1998, Powers was incarcerated at Hill. Defendants, Fredrickson, Goodwin, Turnquist and Anderson were employed at Hill during part or all of this time period. In July, 1998, Powers was transferred to Dixon Correctional Center. In August, 2002, Powers was transferred from Dixon back to the Hill facility. In May, 2003, Powers was transferred to Pinckneyville Correctional Center.

3. While incarcerated at Hill, Powers filed the 1372 lawsuit in the Central District of Illinois against, inter alia, Defendants Fredrickson, Goodwin, Mathes, Obasi, Pierson and Smith.

4. In February, 2003, Fredrickson worked as a commissary officer.

5. The date on which Fredrickson became aware of the 1372 lawsuit is disputed. The IDOC sent Fredrickson a Memorandum dated February 11, 2003, advising him of the lawsuit and requiring him to complete and return his response to Powers's allegations no later than February 21, 2003. Plaintiff's Exhibit 2. No evidence was presented at trial showing that Fredrickson actually received the Memorandum on any specific date. Moreover, the Memorandum required Fredrickson to complete and return the enclosed waiver of service of summons to IDOC "immediately upon receipt." Plaintiff's Exhibit 3 (emphasis in original). Fredrickson did not sign and return the waiver until February 24, 2003. Defendant's Exhibit 8. Given the immediacy of this requirement and the singularly small amount of effort required in signing and dating the waiver, the Court finds that Fredrickson was not notified of the 1372 lawsuit until approximately February 24, 2003. See Tr. 151:10-14 (Trial, Day 1, March 17, 2008) ("3/17/08").

6. Inmates' cells must be in compliance with institutional regulations, and cells must be maintained contraband-free. Compliance checks were a regular part of Fredrickson's duties, and, if he found contraband, it was his job to remove it. Id. 117:6-8; 120:25.

7. On February 18, 2003, while collecting commissary slips from the inmates, Fredrickson observed that Powers's cell was out of compliance, with an unauthorized headphone hanging from the light and a paper spear in plain sight. A paper spear is "hardened rolled up papers with a pencil point." Id. 118:23-24. A spear is about 36 inches long. Tr. 65:4-9 (Trial, Day 2, March 18, 2008) ("3/18/08").

8. A paper spear is considered contraband and is routinely confiscated. Id. 120:25, 154:10-12 (3/17/08). A spear is confiscated because an inmate can hide things, such as drugs or knives, inside it and because it is not authorized. Tr. 65:20-21; 66:9-11 (3/18/08). Fredrickson confiscated Powers's spear because it was contraband, which Powers was not allowed to possess. Tr. 153:24-154:13 (3/17/08).

9. Fredrickson did not search Powers's cell but instructed Powers to bring his cell into compliance before leaving for commissary. Id . 121:5-22.

10. Fredrickson wrote Powers an Inmate Disciplinary Report ("IDR") for having contraband and turned the spear and the ticket in to the control unit. Id. 122:12-123:2. Processing the ticket and meting out any resulting discipline was not Fredrickson's responsibility. Id. 123:3-8. Powers received no discipline as a result of this incident. Id. 77:3-6.

11. IDOC rules prohibit inmates from displaying insolence towards officers by shouting at them. Id. 78:10-11.

12. Approximately two months after the original incident, on April 15, 2003, Fredrickson wrote Powers an IDR for insolence and damage to property. Id. 78:5-9. Powers had raised his voice to Fredrickson and had refused to allow a door to close that was supposed to lock. Id. 78:10-22. Fredrickson was found guilty on April 15, 2003, and lost commissary privileges for 14 days. Id. 78:25-26:2.

13. On April 16, 2003, Fredrickson wrote Powers an IDR for insolence for shouting at Fredrickson that the security door was closed. Id. 158:13-20. No discipline resulted from this IDR. Id. 33:10-21.

14. There is no evidence that Fredrickson discussed the 1372 lawsuit with other Defendants in this case and no evidence that he instructed other Defendants to retaliate against Powers.

15. Defendant Goodwin was a Correctional Captain at Hill in 2003 and was a shift commander on the 3:00-11:00 shift when the 1372 action was served. Id. 35:20-23.

16. Inmates' cells are routinely and randomly shaken down based on a sheet given to the count lieutenant by internal affairs rather than on order of the shift commander. Id. 193:12-16, 200:6-11 (3/17/08); 26:13-17 (3/18/08) . Inmates' cells must be shaken down at least once every 60 days. Tr. 26:4-6 (3/18/08).

17. Goodwin did not order shake downs of Powers's cell on February 18 or 19, 2003. Id. 14:4-13.

18. Inmates' cells are also shaken down when the presence of contraband is suspected. Correctional officers can conduct a security shake down without orders from the shift commander, but they report to him if they find any contraband. Id. 20:2-6.

19. About 4:00 P. M., on April 22, 2003, Powers returned a back brace to the healthcare unit. Id. 107:25-108:1; Defs' Exh. 7. Upon first examination, around 5:35 P. M., Nurse Miller*fn1 thought that two of four plastic staves were missing. Id. 108:9-14; Defs' Exh. 7. Because staves could easily be used as weapons, Nurse Miller contacted security. Id. 28:22-25; 108:10-19; Defs' Exh. 7.

20. Approximately 7:00 P. M. on April 22, 2003, Nurse Miller discovered that three staves were in one sleeve of the back brace and thus all staves were accounted for. Defs' Exh. 7. Nurse Miller and a correctional officer attempted to remove staves from a new back brace and were unable to do so because the staves are sewn in. Id. Nurse Miller wrote Powers an IDR for misuse/damage to property. Id. A correctional officer reported ...

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