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Romeo Jackson v. Michael P. Randle

September 9, 2011

ROMEO JACKSON,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL P. RANDLE, DIRECTOR, THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS;
TONY SMALL, CHIEF FISCAL OFFICER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS;
ANTHONY RAMOS, WARDEN OF STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER;
AND THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF A DEFENDANT CLASS OF CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 10CH406 Honorable Leslie J. Graves,Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pope and Cook concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 In October 2009, plaintiff, Romeo Jackson, sued, among others, the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC), claiming that its commissary had been overcharging him and other inmates in violation of section 3-7-2a of the Unified Code of Corrections (Unified Code) (730 ILCS 5/3-7-2a (West 2008)).

¶ 2 In May 2010, defendants, Michael P. Randle, DOC Director; Tony Small, DOC chief fiscal officer; Anthony Ramos, Stateville Correctional Center warden; and DOC, filed a motion to dismiss Jackson's complaint. In August 2010, the trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that Jackson could not use the Unified Code to create a right upon which to establish standing to bring his claims.

¶ 3 Jackson appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by dismissing his complaint. We disagree and affirm.

¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 5 In October 2009, Jackson sued defendants, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages, as well as costs and attorney fees. Specifically, Jackson claimed that DOC, through its commissary, had been overcharging him and other inmates in violation of section 3-7-2a of the Unified Code (730 ILCS 5/3-7-2a (West 2008)), which outlines the additional percentage amount a prison may charge above its cost for items sold at its commissary. Jackson pointed out that a recent audit of the prison commissary revealed that DOC had been improperly implementing its authorized markup for at least two years, resulting in prices that exceeded the statutory limit.

¶ 6 In May 2010, defendants filed a motion to dismiss Jackson's complaint, pointing out that (1) the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, given that DOC had sovereign immunity and (2) Jackson lacked standing, given that the Unified Code does not create a private right of action.

¶ 7 In August 2010, the trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, finding as follows:

"[Jackson's] claims in [c]ounts I, III, IV, and V seeking money damages for past amounts charged at the inmate commissary are barred by the State's sovereign immunity. The State of Illinois--[DOC]--is the party vitally interested in this litigation because a judgment for [Jackson] would control the State's actions by requiring it to change its accounting practices and would subject the State to liability for past amounts. [Citations.] The appropriate forum for damage claims based [on] alleged commissary over-charges is the Illinois Court of Claims. 705 ILCS 505/8(a) (West 2008) (Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any claim against the State 'founded upon any law of the State of Illinois').

To the extent [Jackson] seeks to prospectively enjoin

[d]efendants from taking actions in excess of their delegated authority and in violation of [Jackson's] *** legal interests, [Jackson] lacks standing to enforce [s]section 3-7-2a of the Unified Code. The United States Constitution does not encompass any right enjoyed by inmates to *** commissary items at a certain price, and ...


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