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McCutcheon v. Young

September 10, 2009

JOHN VIRGIL MCCUTCHEON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DONALD YOUNG, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Proud, Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is plaintiff McCutcheon's pro se motion for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50 and 59. (Doc. 99). Defendant Young's response (Doc. 106) and plaintiff's reply (Doc. 109) are also before the Court. Plaintiff argues that his court-appointed counsel was ineffective, thereby causing the jury to find in favor of the defendant in the above-captioned civil rights action.

Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff McCutcheon, who is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, sued defendant Warden Donald Young, alleging that:

1. Defendant violated plaintiff's First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and to seek redress of grievances, by having plaintiff sent to segregation on August 12, 2002, and causing a false disciplinary ticket to be issued on August 29, 2002-- all in retaliation for filing grievances and writing government officials and the media about prison conditions;

2. Defendant violated plaintiff's right under the Illinois constitution to speak, write, publish and seek redress of grievances by disciplining plaintiff for filing grievances and writing government officials and the media about prison conditions; and

3. Defendant violated plaintiff's rights under 730 ILCS 5/3-8-8(e) by disciplining plaintiff for filing grievances and writing government officials and the media about prison conditions.

(Docs. 24 and 72).

Plaintiff proceeded pro se during the pretrial phase of the case, but at the final pretrial conference the Court granted plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel, appointing Laura K. Beasley, of the law firm Donovan, Rose, Nester & Joley, P.C., to represent plaintiff for trial only. (Docs. 71 and 73). The Court appointed counsel, not because plaintiff was unable to proceed through trial pro se, but for the benefit of the Court and jury. (Doc. 73). The Court denied plaintiff's counsel's motion to reopen discovery, noting that plaintiff had opted not to conduct any meaningful discovery during the nearly four years the case had been pending, and observing that plaintiff appeared to have lost focus of what was actually at issue in the case. (Docs. 80 and 81). Plaintiff's focus was on the issues raised in his grievances and communications with government officials and the media- the food at the prison.

Defendant provided plaintiff's newly appointed counsel with documentary materials, so as to avoid surprise at trial. (Doc. 81). However, plaintiff's counsel's request to depose defense witnesses, and to conduct additional discovery was denied. Id. As previously indicated, the Court perceived that plaintiff had squandered his opportunity to conduct discovery and counsel had been appointed for the convenience of the Court and the jury. Plaintiff's counsel was permitted to amend the final pretrial order to add three additional witnesses. (Docs. 82 and 83). The Court assumed responsibility for the appearance of plaintiff's inmate witnesses listed in the final pretrial order, which included: "Inmate Lambert," and "Bernard Foster, B19093, Stateville Correctional Center." (Doc. 72, p. 4). The Court arranged for "Robert Lambert, B26022" and "Bernard Foster B-19093"(among other inmate witnesses not relevant to plaintiff's motion) to appear at trial via video conferencing technology. (Docs. 85, 86 and 90). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), plaintiff bore responsibility for securing the appearance of all other witnesses, including inmates who had been released from custody and prison personnel or former personnel. For example, plaintiff's witness list included "Supervisor Hamilton. " (Doc. 72, p. 4).

The morning of trial, the Court granted plaintiff's motion in limine, explaining to counsel that the fact of plaintiff's underlying convictions for attempted murder, rape, burglary and aggravated kidnaping would be admissible, but the details of the crimes, including that the crimes involved two minor girls, would be barred.*fn1 (Doc. 88).

The case proceeded to trial, and a jury found in favor of defendant Young and against plaintiff in all respects. (Docs. 90, 94 and 95). Judgment was entered and mailed to the parties on September 23, 2008. (Doc. 96). The subject motion was filed October 10, 2009.*fn2 (Doc. 99).

Issues Raised by Plaintiff

Plaintiff contends ...


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