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Lester Dobbey v. Illinois Department of Corrections

February 17, 2011

LESTER DOBBEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Lester Dobbey filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he suffered violations of his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (Menard). Specifically, Dobbey claims that Defendants Tyone Murray, a grievance officer at Menard, and Donald A. Hulick, Chief Administrative Officer (i.e., warden) at Menard, retaliated against him for filing grievances regarding staff conduct that occurred at Menard.*fn1

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the merits of Dobbey's claims and also on the basis that they are entitled to qualified immunity. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on February 7, 2011.*fn2 For the following reasons and for those discussed on the record during the hearing, the motion for summary judgment is granted, and this action is dismissed.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On January 24, 2007, Dobbey was working at his prison janitorial job when he and three other inmates witnessed a correctional officer hang a noose from the ceiling of the control room at Menard. Dobbey prepared an emergency grievance regarding the incident and submitted it to Warden Hulick for review that same day. In the emergency grievance, Dobbey stated, among other things: "I request for a thorough investigation and that which is deemed appropriate and necessary to ensure my [safety] and security from any Menard correctional staff." (See Doc. 76-2). On January 29, 2007, Defendant Hulick declined to expedite the emergency grievance, finding that it was not an emergency and directing Dobbey to submit the grievance in the normal manner. Above Hulick's signature is a handwritten note: "Issue already referred for investigation" (id.). Grievance Officer Murray returned the emergency grievance to Dobbey on January 31, 2007, and instructed him that his grievance was deemed a non-emergency by the Chief Administrative Officer, Warden Hulick, and that he should follow the proper grievance procedures for filing a non-emergency grievance.*fn3

On February 20, 2007, Dobbey was issued a disciplinary ticket by correctional officer Kenneth Huff for allegedly disobeying a direct order that he scrape wax off of a section of the floor in the prison. Dobbey filed an emergency grievance regarding the disciplinary report, alleging that he was issued a false disciplinary ticket in retaliation for filing the original grievance regarding staff conduct.*fn4 On February 23, 2007, Warden Hulick determined that Dobbey's grievance did not constitute an emergency and directed him to follow the normal grievance procedure. (See Doc. 76-2). On February 26, 2007, Grievance Officer Murray returned the emergency grievance to Dobbey and instructed him that his grievance was deemed a non-emergency by the Chief Administrative Officer, Warden Hulick, and that he should follow the proper grievance procedures for filing a non-emergency grievance (id.).

On March 1, 2007, Dobbey went before the Adjustment Committee for a hearing on the disciplinary ticket. The Adjustment Committee found Dobbey guilty of the offense of disobeying a direct order and recommended discipline of 1-month C grade, an assignment change, and 1-month commissary restriction. On March 2, 2007, the Chief Administrative Officer, Warden Hulick, concurred with the Adjustment Committee's recommendation. (See generally Doc. 75-2, p. 15).

Dobbey alleges that Warden Hulick retaliated against him by declining to treat his grievances as emergencies, by failing to conduct a proper investigation, and by condoning punishment for the false disciplinary report that was issued in retaliation for Dobbey filing the original grievance related to the noose. He contends that Grievance Officer Murray retaliated against him by failing to investigate and/or prevent the retaliation.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Any

discrepancies in the factual record should be evaluated in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment must show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

"The doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 actions; thus to be held individually liable, a defendant must be 'personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right.'" Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001), quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001). A defendant is personally responsible "if he directed the conduct causing the constitutional violation, or if it occurred with his knowledge or consent." Chavez, 251 F.3d at 652. Thus, liability can attach without the defendant directly participating in the constitutional deprivation. Sanville, 266 F.3d at 740. Supervisory liability may be found, however, only where the supervisor, "with knowledge of the subordinate's conduct, approves of the conduct and the basis for it." Chavez, 251 F.3d at 651. "Supervisors who are merely negligent in failing to detect and prevent subordinates' misconduct are not liable. . The supervisors must know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what they might see." Id., quoting Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 992-993 (7th Cir. 1988).

Dobbey's Claim against Defendant Murray

Dobbey argues that Murray failed to properly investigate the February 20, 2007, grievance regarding the disciplinary report, effectively retaliating against him by permitting and enforcing retaliatory discipline. But Murray's conduct, which simply involved processing the administrative grievance, is insufficient to create liability for the alleged constitutional violation. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007) (a defendant "who rejects an administrative complaint about a completed act of misconduct" does not violate the Constitution). As a grievance officer, Murray was involved in the alleged deprivation only through the grievance process. Under Illinois regulations, the Chief Administrative Officer determines whether a grievance constitutes an emergency by considering whether the offender faces a substantial risk of imminent personal injury or other ...


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