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Shatner v. Page

February 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction and Procedural Background

On April 3, 2000, Darrin Shatner, an inmate formerly housed in the condemned unit at the Menard Correctional Center, pro se, filed suit against Donald Snyder, Warden Thomas Page, Warden Roger Cowan, Warden Ian Oliver, Warden MacAdory, Supt. Frentzel, Supt. Terry, Capt. Young, Capt. Pierce, Lt. Westerman, Lt. Gilbert, Lt. Taylor, Capt. Harvey, C/O Dobbs, C/O Dixon, Lt. Gales, C/O Benefield, C/o Stewart, Deputy Director Clark and "two John Does" pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Thereafter, on November 13, 2002, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court conducted a threshold review of Shatner's Amended Complaint and designated it into 7 separate counts (Doc. 10). The Court dismissed Counts 1, 3, 4 and 7 for failure to state a claim and Defendants Captain Young, Lt. Gilbert, Lt. Taylor, Capt. Harvey, "two John Does," Supt. Terry, C/O Dixon and Warden MacAdory. Counts 2, 5 and 6 survived threshold review. In Counts 2, 5 and 6, Shatner maintains that Defendants have violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, Shatner claims that Defendants have impermissibly limited his First Amendment ability to freely worship by refusing to allow him to possess Tarot cards, a penticle ring and a medallion and by confiscating his religious books (Count 2); that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs as to his broken finger, dental cavities and back pain (Count 5); and that Defendants tampered with his legal mail by opening it outside his presence (Count 6).*fn1

On May 1, 2006, Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson held a Final Pretrial Conference in this matter and certified the case ready for trial (Docs. 110 & 111). Subsequently, on May 12, 2006, Magistrate Judge Wilkerson entered the Final Pretrial Order ("FPTO")(Doc. 112).*fn2 On January 17, 2007, the Court entered an Order allowing Shatner's request to pursue punitive damages and to add Defendant Gilbert as a Defendant pursuant to Rule 60(a) (Doc. 126). Thereafter, on November 8, 2007, the Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the issue of injunctive relief as to Shatner's claims in Counts 2, 5 and 6 of the Amended Complaint (Doc. 145). The Court held another Final Pretrial Conference by telephone on April 22, 2008 (Doc. 146) and entered the new Final Pretrial Order on April 28, 2008 (Doc. 148).

The case proceeded to bench trial on Shatner's religious claims, Count 2, and his legal mail claim, Count 6, in this Court on May 12, 2008.*fn3 At the close of trial, the Court took the matter under advisement and directed the parties to file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Those findings/conclusions have now been filed. Having heard the evidence in the case, having reviewed the parties' submissions, and in accord with FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 52, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

II. Findings of Fact

A. Parties

1. Plaintiff, Darrin Shatner, is an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was housed in the Condemned Unit at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard") from May 1997 until he was transferred to Stateville Correctional Center after the events at issue in this case.

2. Shatner is a member of the Church of Light and the Rosicrucians. He has regularly practiced these faiths since at least 1998 to the present and is a true believer.

3. According to Defendant Gilbert, Shatner was a good inmate and was no problem for the guards.

4. Thomas Page was the Warden of Menard from January 1994 until April 1999. After January 1, 1999, he served as a Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections and had no further direct contact with Menard. As the warden, he had responsibility for the entire institution.

5. Ian Oliver was the Assistant Warden of Programs for Menard from October 1997 to September 1999, when he was transferred to another institution.

6. As an assistant warden of programs, Oliver had responsibility for program services for the inmates. He was involved in the denial of Shatner's religious medallion.

7. Alan Frentzel was employed at Menard from August 16, 1986 to July 31, 2002. He was the Superintendent of the Condemned Unit from July 1, 1997 to July 31, 2001. He was an Assistant Warden from July 31, 2001 until his retirement.

8. As a superintendent, Frentzel had responsibility for managing the Condemned Unit and North 1 for protective custody inmates. He was involved in the denial of Shatner's religious medallion.

9. Roger Cowan was the Warden of Menard, either acting or officially, from January 1999 until he retired on July 31, 2001. As assistant warden of operations, he had the responsibility for the security at Menard, and as acting warden and warden, he had responsibility for the entire institution. Cowan was involved in the denial of Shatner's religious medallion and the confiscation of his religious books.

10. William Pierce was a Captain in the Condemned Unit from October or November 1998 until his retirement in December 2001.

11. As captain of the Condemned Unit, Captain Pierce was responsible for all the correctional officers, sergeants and lieutenants who worked on the Condemned Unit, and if any of them had a question about how to proceed, they were to consult Captain Pierce as their captain. Captain Pierce confiscated Shatner's religious materials and supervised correctional officers and lieutenants, who confiscated Shatner's religious materials.

12. Darryl Westerman was a Correctional Lieutenant in the Condemned Unit at Menard at all times relevant in this case.

13. In 1998 and 1999, Lieutenant Westerman worked on the Condemned Unit. As a lieutenant, he was responsible for all the correctional officers and sergeants who worked on the Condemned Unit, and if any one of them had a question about how to proceed, they were to consult Lieutenant Westerman. Lieutenant Westerman reviewed Shatner's outgoing legal mail.

14. David Dobbs was a Correctional Officer at Menard at all times relevant in this case. He was a Correctional Officer on the Condemned Unit from 1998 to 2000.

15. Correctional Officer Dobbs was also the records retention coordinator at Menard from approximately 2003 through 2006. He participated in shakedowns of Shatner's cell and confiscated religious books.

16. Robert Gales was a Correctional Lieutenant at Menard from 1986 to 2000. He was a Correctional Captain at Menard from 2000 until he retired in 2002. He served on the Adjustment Committee while at Menard. He worked at Menard for twenty-eight years.

17. Lieutenant Gales, was responsible for property boxes and served as the chairman for the Adjustment Committee, a prison committee that hears disciplinary tickets and imposes a punishment. As the lieutenant responsible for the Adjustment Committee, Gales reviewed and approved tickets Shatner received.

18. Keith Benefield was a Correctional Officer at Menard from October 1997 until he transferred to Tamms Correctional Center on July 1, 2001. He was a correctional officer on the Condemned Unit from 1998 to 2000.

19. Officer Benefield participated in the shakedowns of Shatner's cell and confiscated religious books and Tarot cards.

20. Lamont Gilbert was a Correctional Lieutenant at Menard from November 1994 to the present.

21. As a lieutenant, Gilbert was responsible for all the correctional officers and sergeants who worked on the Condemned Unit, and if any one of them had a question about how to proceed, they were to consult Gilbert as their lieutenant. Gilbert supervised the correctional officers, who shook down Shatner's cell and he personally confiscated the Sacred Tarot.

22. Dennis Stewart was a Correctional Officer at Menard at all times relevant to this case.

23. During 1998, Stewart was a Correctional Officer on the Condemned Unit. He collected Shatner's outgoing legal mail and brought it to Lieutenant Westerman.

B. Shatner's Legal Mail Claim

24. In December 1998, Shatner's criminal case was pending appeal. Terri Marroquin and John Greenlease were attorneys from the Illinois Office of the Appellate Defender, Capital Litigation Division representing Shatner during his criminal case. Ms. Marroquin is admitted to the bars of Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois and Mississippi.

25. As an inmate on the Condemned Unit, Shatner regularly communicated with his attorneys through correspondence, visitation and rarely, by phone.

26. There were approximately 20 cells in the Condemned Unit's segregation area, which were separated from the general Condemned Unit cells by a Plexiglas barrier. Shatner's cell in segregation had a solid door. It did not have bars like the non-segregation cells. None of the inmates on the Condemned Unit had cell mates, regardless of whether or not the inmate was in segregation.

27. None of the Condemned Unit inmates interacted with the general population inmates at Menard. Further, when Shatner was on segregation, he received yard privileges only one day per week.

28. Upon returning to his cell on or about December 28, 1998, Shatner found a woman's skirt that did not belong to him.

29. Shatner believed that Lieutenant Westerman had planted the skirt in his cell in order to shake him down and then punish him for possessing contraband.

30. Shatner was very upset by this discovery and felt that he should send the skirt to his attorneys as proof of the harassment he felt he was suffering at the hands of Lieutenant Westerman.

31. Shatner had already prepared a letter to his attorney John Greenlease concerning a time-sensitive investigation related to his death penalty case. After finding the skirt in his cell, he wrote a second letter to attorney Terri Marroquin concerning the skirt, which he believed had been planted by Lieutenant Westerman. These two letters were prepared by Shatner so he could communicate information related to his criminal case and request legal assistance and intervention related to his incarceration at Menard and his treatment by IDOC staff.

32. Shatner placed the two letters to his attorneys and the skirt in a legal-sized envelope and sealed it with tape. He addressed the envelope to the Capital Litigation Division (where both attorneys worked) and marked the envelope "Legal Mail." Nothing was "hanging out" of the envelope when Shatner sealed it.

33. Shatner was extremely familiar with outgoing legal mail policy and procedure. As of December 1998, he had been sending privileged communications to his attorneys for nearly six years - since May 1993.

34. After preparing the legal mail envelope containing the skirt and letters to his attorneys, Shatner placed it in the "chuckhole" of his cell door so it could be picked up by IDOC staff and sent by U.S. Mail. Shatner believed the envelope was collected by IDOC staff and placed in the U.S. Mail. He later received a disciplinary ticket prepared by Westerman based on that mailing.

35. Officer Stewart was the IDOC staff member who collected the legal mail envelope from Shatner so it could be mailed. Both Lieutenant Westerman and Officer Stewart testified that the envelope Shatner tried to send to his attorneys on December 28, 1998 was clearly marked as legal mail. Lieutenant Westerman acknowledges that the envelope was sealed, and Officer Stewart testified that it was a normal sized legal manila envelope.

36. Lieutenant Westerman was notified by Officer Stewart (either directly or through Sergeant Keeton) about Shatner's legal mail. Upon arriving at the Condemned Unit, Lieutenant Westerman took Shatner's envelope from the armory.

37. Lieutenant Westerman admits that the envelope was marked legal mail and contained a letter to Shatner's attorney. He opened Shatner's legal mail and read the letter; he also admits that he wrote Shatner a disciplinary ticket based on the contents of that letter.

38. The disciplinary ticket is dated December 28, 1998 and was signed by Lieutenant Westerman at 8:00 a.m. The ticket states that Officer Stewart and Sergeant Keeton were witnesses to this incident. Officer Stewart testified that he was present when Lieutenant Westerman opened Shatner's legal mail.

39. Shatner never gave Lieutenant Westerman permission to read the letter. Nonetheless, Lieutenant Westerman did read Shatner's legal mail. The disciplinary ticket itself further confirms that Lieutenant Westerman read Shatner's legal mail. Under the Observation section of the disciplinary ticket, Lieutenant Westerman wrote:

On the above date and time, this Lt. was notified by c/o Stewart that the above inmate had sent out a package that he had wrote legal mail on the envelope. Upon searching this package this Lt. found a black mini skirt. Along with this package was a letter to a attorney stating that Lt. Westerman put the woman's skirt in his cell. The above inmate told his attorney to take care of it the legal way or he would deal with it the convict way. This woman's skirt is unauthorized property. ID by sight and OTS.

Lieutenant Westerman's observations in the disciplinary ticket came from statements Shatner wrote in his legal mail to his attorney, as confirmed by Shatner.

C. Menard Legal Mail Policies

40. At the time that Lieutenant Westerman read Shatner's legal mail, there were at least three documents containing legal mail policies that explained how IDOC staff at Menard should handle outgoing legal mail.

41. Most broadly, Section 525.130 of Title 20 of the Illinois Administration Code, in effect on December 28, 1998, states: "Outgoing privileged mail must be clearly marked as 'privileged' and sealed by the committed person. Outgoing mail which is clearly marked as privileged and addressed to a privileged party may not be opened for inspection."

42. Specific to Menard, Institutional Directive 04.20.102, in effect in December 1998, and signed by Warden Page, "establish[ed] a written procedure governing the processing, handling and distribution of incoming and outgoing mail." The policy concerning outgoing privileged mail states: "Outgoing privileged mail (no larger than a legal size manila mailing envelope) must clearly be marked a 'privileged' and sealed by the inmate. Such mail properly marked and addressed shall be X-rayed by Mail Office staff and/or examined by Internal Affairs in the presence of the inmate. A stamp with the date and initials of the person X-raying/examining the privileged mail will be placed on the outside of the package." The policy further states that outgoing privileged mail is "legal mail."

43. Finally, discussing outgoing legal mail, the Condemned Unit Operations Manual in effect in December 1998 states: "Mail procedures as outlined by I.D. 04.20.102 shall be followed." The Manual further states that "Legal or privileged packages which are properly marked, addressed, and sealed shall by X-rayed by the Personal Property Officer and/or examined by Internal Affairs in the presence of the inmate. A stamp with the date and initials of the person X-raying/examining the packages will be placed on the outside of the package."

44. Lieutenant Westerman received training on the IDOC legal mail policy when he first became a corrections officer. He also received annual training each of the 24 years of his employment with the IDOC, which included a review of all policies and procedures. Additionally, if Lieutenant Westerman had any questions about the legal mail policy at Menard, he had access to the policies to review them himself or he could ask a supervisor to clarify the policy for him.

D. Legal Mail Policies Were Not Followed

45. The envelope that Shatner tried to send to his attorneys on December 28, 1998 was sealed and clearly marked as legal mail. Shatner's mail was search by Lieutenant Westerman in Officer Stewart's presence at 7:00 a.m. on December 28, 1998. The disciplinary ticket does not indicate that an envelope was opened and searched in Shatner's presence. The envelope was not opened in Shatner's presence. Shatner never gave Lieutenant Westerman permission to read the letter to his attorney.

46. Lieutenant Westerman did not X-ray Shatner's legal mail. He was not a member of Internal Affairs. No one from Internal Affairs opened Shatner's mail in his presence.

47. It was a violation of the written prison policy for any officer not a member of Internal Affairs to open an inmate's outgoing legal mail - even if done in the inmate's presence. There is no document that supports Lieutenant Westerman and Officer Stewart's handling of Shatner's legal mail as being in compliance with Menard or IDOC policy. Warden Page, the presiding warden in December 1998, expected every prison policy would be followed including the legal mail policy. Warden Pierce also testified that officers were not allowed to open outgoing legal mail - whether in the inmate's presence or not. Similarly, Superintendent Frentzel testified that it would not have been acceptable procedure for an officer to open an inmate's outgoing legal mail without Internal Affairs present. Lieutenant Gales further confirmed that prison procedure required a review by Internal Affairs using an X-Ray if there was a concern about contraband in outgoing legal mail; only if Internal Affairs "found something in there" would the mail be opened and searched in the inmate's presence.

48. Lieutenant Westerman did nothing to ensure that Shatner's legal communications were sent to his attorney. Shatner was an inmate on death row and was not able to go to a post office or otherwise mail the letter himself. He was fully dependent on IDOC staff to ensure his legal communications were delivered to U.S. Postal Service for mailing.

49. Shatner's attorney, Ms. Marroquin, never received the letter he sent on December 28, 1998. The time-sensitive investigation, which was the subject of Shatner's letter to his attorney Mr. Greenlease and related to his death row case, never occurred.

50. Shatner sent his inmate copy of the December 28, 1998 disciplinary ticket to Ms. Marroquin. Marroquin testified at her deposition that the ticket became a "joke that many of us have retold" because "what kind of person would not only just write you up for sending, you know - for threats but quote something that they're not allowed to read."

51. Lieutenant Westerman's disciplinary ticket indicates that it was to be distributed to the inmate's Master File and to the Committed Person (inmate). However, the ticket was not located in Shatner's Master File, despite the fact that all tickets should have been maintained there, even those that are expunged. Neither the December 28, 1998 disciplinary ticket nor the prison's expungement file were never produced by Defendants during the course of this litigation.

52. On December 31, 1998, an Adjustment Committee hearing was held to review the disciplinary ticket that Lieutenant Westerman issued to Shatner. The Adjustment Committee is a prison committee that hears disciplinary tickets and imposes punishment. The proceedings of the Adjustment Committee are recorded in a summary document. The record of the proceedings and the committee's decision and disciplinary recommendations for Shatner's December 28, 1998 ticket were memorialized in an Adjustment Committee Summary.

53. The Adjustment Committee (and Lieutenant Gales, as a member of that committee) supported Lieutenant Westerman's disciplinary ticket and found Shatner guilty of all charges. The Committee recommended that Shatner be punished with three months of segregation, three months of demotion to C grade, and one month of privilege restrictions.

54. Shatner did not attend the Adjustment Committee hearing of the December 28, 1998 disciplinary ticket because he was concerned that "something else would happen" if he left his cell. Using an IDOC form, Shatner filed an official grievance on December 30, 1998 complaining that Lieutenant Westerman had opened and read the letter to his attorney.

55. The Adjustment Committee Summary was expunged by Warden Page on January 6, 1999. It was very rare for these summaries and their recommendations to be expunged by the warden. Warden Page acknowledged that he must have thought some wrong had been committed for him to expunge an Adjustment Committee Summary. Since he was "not the type of warden to expunge a lot of tickets," Warden Page said he must have thought something happened to Shatner that should have not happened.

E. Shatner's Religious Beliefs

i. The Church Of Light: A Hermetic And Stellar Based Faith

56. The Church of Light is a religious non-profit organization that is a stellar-based, hermetic faith. There are currently 800 to 900 active members worldwide.

57. Its chief tenet is to contribute to the utmost to universal welfare, with the goals that every individual should have freedom of religion, worship, expression, as well as freedom from want and fear. In order to achieve the goals, Church of Light members become familiar with the three branches: (1) astrology, (2) alchemy and (3) extrasensory perception (which includes directed thinking, and induced emotion (learning how to cultivate positive feelings)). Within these three branches are the two keys of the Church of Light: the gold key being astrology and the silver key being the Tarot.

58. Astrology represents a map of consciousness or a map of one's character, and is thus utilized by Church of Light members to improve and refine their character and find their role within God's plan for them.

59. Alchemy is an allegorical language in which the metals of alchemy correspond to the planets of astrology and is used for character development.

60. Extrasensory perception is used to allow Church of Light members to develop a personal relationship with God without using intermediaries, such as priests, ministers or interpreters.

61. There are 21 lessons used in the Church of Light for members to learn its teachings. The lessons are divided into three categories based on astrology, alchemy and extrasensory perception, with seven lessons for each category.

62. There is a book for each course with the exception of courses 10 and 12, which have two books; thus there is a total of 23 Church of Light lesson books. The smallest book is 116 pages, and the largest is approximately 440 pages. The books range in price from $16.95 for the bookstore format, $19.95 for the hardbound books, and $22.95 to $24.95 for the student format.

63. The 23 lesson books are important to the Church of Light - without them, a member would not be able to follow the Church of Light's traditions as it is a faith based in study.

64. It is impossible to complete or pass one of the 21 lessons without the corresponding lesson book(s).

65. It takes an "enormous commitment" by a member to complete even one of the courses. Many of the courses, as described below, are difficult, and the lesson books are not written in contemporary language.

66. Only approximately 40 members have completed all 21 lessons. One who passes all 21 courses receives the title "Hermetician."

67. Course 1 is the Laws of Occultism, describing hidden natural forces that impact others.

68. Course 2 is Astrological Signatures, teaching the basic tenets of astrology, the planets, signs, houses and aspects.

69. Course 3 is Spiritual Alchemy, whereby the student learns to look at their life from the perspective of the impact of events upon their soul.

70. Course 4 is Ancient Masonry, which traces the origins of Freemasonry to the Hermetic past and stellar faith.

71. Course 5 is Esoteric Psychology, which teaches the metaphysical side of psychology.

72. Course 6 is the Sacred Tarot, one of the core lessons, that teaches the meaning and use of Tarot cards and the universal symbols therein.

73. Course 7 is Spiritual Astrology, which relates contemporary religious holidays to their origins in ancient stellar religion.

74. Course 8 is Horary Astrology, a branch of astrology that is used for answering specific questions.

75. Course 9 is Mental Alchemy, which trains the devotee how to think constructively.

76. Course 10 is Natal Astrology, which is broken into two lessons, Delineating the Horoscope, which teaches how to determine character, temperament, and disposition from an astrological chart, and Progressing the Horoscope, which teaches the predisposition toward events in one's life.

77. Course 11 is Divination and Character Reading, which trains the member regarding how divination works and the techniques involved in divination.

78. Course 12 is Natural Alchemy, which is broken into two lessons, Evolution of Life, describing life from its origins evolving towards even more complex forms, and Evolution of Religion, tracing the origins of religions from primitive societies through the contemporary world religions of today.

79. Course 13 is Mundane Astrology, teaching the astrology of politics and world events.

80. Course 14 is Occultism Applied, training members how to live a happier and more successful life.

81. Course 15 is Weather Predicting, teaching the astrological technique of using different planetary cycles to determine temperature, wind speed and moisture.

82. Course 16 is Stellar Healing, teaching basis stellar diagnosis and type of laying on hands of healing.

83. Course 17 is Cosmic Alchemy, teaching a devotee of the Church of Light how they ...

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