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Ford v. Wright

March 27, 2009

BOBBY FORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SCOTT R. WRIGHT, MICHAEL J. KABAT, AND WESLEY SHIRLEY, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

A. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Bobby Ford, a former inmate in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, filed this action on June 9, 2006, alleging deprivations of his constitutional rights by prison personnel in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court completed its threshold review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A on August 1, 2007, finding that Ford stated two claims: 1) against Defendants Shirley and Kabat for unconstitutional use of excessive force arising from an incident that occurred on October 7, 2005, and 2) against Defendant Wright for unconstitutional use of excessive force arising from an incident that occurred on October 28, 2005.

Claim 1

The filings in the case indicate two versions of the events of October 7, 2005. Plaintiff claims that on that day, Defendant Kabat arrived at his cell to escort him to the medical unit. He cuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back. Plaintiff complained that the handcuffs were too tight, and asked Defendant Kabat to loosen them. When Kabat did not loosen them, Plaintiff made a remark about the handcuffs. In response, Defendant Kabat ordered Plaintiff to return to his cell.

Plaintiff claims that he complied fully by returning to his cell, which Defendant Kabat closed and locked. Plaintiff claims he requested to see a sergeant or lieutenant because he still wanted to go to the medical unit. Shortly thereafter, Defendant Shirley entered Plaintiff's cell and attacked him while Plaintiff's hands were cuffed behind his back. Defendant Kabat also entered the cell and attacked Plaintiff with a lead chain (Doc. 1).

Defendant Kabat filed a disciplinary report against Plaintiff which indicates a different version of events. The report states that while en route to the medical unit, Ford made an expletive-laden inflammatory remark. In response, Kabat ordered Ford to return to his cell, but Ford refused to comply. The report states: "I/M Ford kept trying to resist by putting his foot against the bed and trying to come out of the cell. C/O Shirley came to assist in securing I/M" (Doc. 1-2, pp. 8-9). On October 13, 2005, after hearing testimony from two other guards, the Pinckneyville Adjustment Committee found Plaintiff guilty of the charges of disobeying a direct order and insolence. As the basis for the decision, the Committee reported: "Ford was given a direct order to get in the cell, he refused to comply. Ford kept trying to resist going into his cell by putting his foot against the bed" (Doc. 1-2, pp. 6-7). Plaintiff was disciplined with a three-month demotion to C-grade status, three months in segregation, and revocation of one month of good conduct credit. Plaintiff filed a grievance challenging the disciplinary action. That grievance was denied (Doc. 1-3, pp. 6).

Claim 2

Plaintiff claims that on October 28, 2005, Defendant Wright was loudly unlocking chuck hole doors on Ford's unit. When Wright arrived at Ford's cell, Ford placed his hand out to prevent the chuck hole door from bouncing. Defendant Wright then "slam[med]" his steel key onto Ford's hand, cutting a finger on his right hand.

Defendant Wright filed a disciplinary report alleging a different version of events: that Plaintiff Ford assaulted him. The report stated that when Wright arrived at Plaintiff's cell to unlock the food slot door, Plaintiff intentionally slammed the food slot door against Defendant Wright's wrist (Doc. 1-2, p. 12). On November 3, 2005, after hearing testimony from three inmate witnesses, the Pinckneyville Adjustment Committee found Plaintiff Ford guilty of assaulting Defendant Wright. As the basis for its decision, the committee stated:

Based on DR written by reporting employee who while feeding inmate Ford through the chuck hole, Ford slammed the chuck hole on officers wrist. In inmates written statement he stated the officer opened the chuck hole and reacted in shock or on guard of attack like he was being atttacked. Inmates witness stated Ford opened his chuck hole. Another inmate stated Ford put his hand out of the chuck hole. Another inmate stated he heard the officer say Ford shouldn't have his hands out of the chuck hole. One witness stated he heard the officers keys slam against the metal. Inmates witness's all stated they didn't see anything but they heard accounts of the incident. (Doc. 1-2, p. 15.) Plaintiff was disciplined with a six-month demotion to C-grade status, six months in segregation, revocation of six months good conduct credit, a six-month restriction on contact visits, and a transfer to a Level 1 institution (Doc. 1-3, p. 1). Plaintiff filed a grievance challenging the disciplinary action and accusing Defendant Wright of staff misconduct (Doc. 1-3, pp. 2-3). The institutional grievance officer denied the grievance (Doc. 1-3, pp. 4-5). The Administrative Review Board affirmed the denial (Doc. 1-3, p. 7).

B.PROCEDURAL HISTORY

After some discovery, the Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on July 3, 2008, in which he reiterates his version of the events of October 7 and 28, 2005 (Doc. 34). Regarding the October 7 incident, Plaintiff maintains that he complied fully with Defendant Kabat's order to return to his cell and that Defendants Shirley and Kabat attacked him without provocation and while his hands were cuffed behind his back (Doc. 34, p. 3). Regarding the October 28th incident, Plaintiff argues that all of the facts underlying the disciplinary action taken against him are false and that it was Defendant Wright who intentionally struck Plaintiff with his keys, cutting Plaintiff's hand.

Though Defendants opted not to file their own motion for summary judgment, they argue in their response (Doc. 35) that Ford's claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Because the Defendants raised the potentially case-dispositive Heck issue, to which Plaintiff had not fully responded,*fn1 the Court entered an Order to Show Cause directing Plaintiff to explain ...


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