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Richard M. Smego, Jeremy L. Schloss, Donnie v. Forest Ashby et al

December 9, 2011

RICHARD M. SMEGO, JEREMY L. SCHLOSS, DONNIE BARRETT, MICHAEL W. LEWIS, AND EUGENE BROWN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FOREST ASHBY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:

E-FILED Friday, 09 December, 2011 01:31:29 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

Five plaintiffs, Richard M. Smego, Jeremy L. Schloss, Donnie Barrett, Michael Lewis and Eugene Brown, detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center ("Rushville") have filed a Complaint

[1], pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants Larry J. Phillips, Eugene McAdory, Michelle R. B. Saddler, and any and all other unnamed and/or unknown persons discovered through the course of discovery. Plaintiffs are detained by the Illinois Department of Human Services, pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Act. A Merit Review Order was written in this case by the Honorable Harold A. Baker allowing Plaintiffs to proceed only on a claim that their First Amendment right was violated. However, Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Reconsideration [40] of that order. The Court will revisit Plaintiffs' Complaint.

ALLEGATIONS

In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that although all Illinois Department of Human Services state mental health facilities are subject to the rules of Title 59 of the Illinois Administrative Code governing mental health, the defendants do not fairly apply the rules of Title 59. Plaintiffs are not allowed the benefits and privileges granted to residents at all other state mental health facilities. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that residents at all other state owned and operated mental health facilities are allowed to own a personal computer, but Plaintiffs are not allowed this privilege. Plaintiffs claim Rushville is the only facility where residents are not allowed to own and purchase, with their own funds, a personal computer or laptop. Plaintiffs claim that safety and security concerns do not exist. They claim that the defendants' act of denying Plaintiffs' ability to own a computer does not allow them access to all media, restricts their ability to participate in vocational programs that require computer access, and hampers their efforts to obtain and store case law, legal work, and legal reference materials. Plaintiffs claim the Illinois Department of Human Service's policy to deny Plaintiffs the ability to own a personal computer violates their rights under the First Amendment. Plaintiffs also claim the defendants have also violated Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights of Equal Protection and Due Process.

ANALYSIS

State Law and Due Process First, a violation of state law is not, by itself, a violation of federal law. Guarjardo-Palma v. Martinson, 622 F.3d 801, 806 (7th Cir. 2010)("[A] violation of state law is not a ground for a federal civil rights suit."). "[T]his court has consistently held that '42 U.S.C. § 1983 protects plaintiffs from constitutional violations, not violations of state laws or . . . departmental regulations . . . ." Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 454 (7th Cir. 2006), quoting Scott v. Edinburg, 346 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir.2003).

Plaintiffs allege their rights to due process have been violated. They do not specifically state how their right to due process was allegedly violated. However, they claim that they have grieved not being allowed to own a computer and have addressed this issue with Rushville administration on several occasions. The Court notes that 59 Il ADC 109.20, par. 2, provides that the facility director may restrict the possession or use of computers, peripherals, modems, CDs, disks, software, or other equipment used with the computer for all individuals in a facility, when necessary to protect an individual or others from harm, provided that notice of such restriction shall be given to all individuals upon admission. Further, that statute provides that if it becomes necessary to restrict individuals who did not receive notice of the restriction upon admission, the professional responsible for overseeing implementation of an individual's services plan may, with the approval of the facility director, restrict the right to property when necessary to protect the individual or others from harm. Based on allegations made by Plaintiffs, they apparently have received notice of Rushville's restriction on computers. However, if not, a federal court is not an enforcer of state laws and regulations. Accordingly, Plaintiffs state no federal claim to the extent they allege that Defendants are violating the spirit or text of Title 59 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Access to Court

Plaintiffs' allegations regarding denial of access to the court do not state a claim. An access to the courts claim arises only when a plaintiff suffers an "actual injury" from the inability to pursue a non-frivolous claim. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996); May v. Sheahan, 226 F.3d 876, 883 (7th Cir. 2000). Plaintiffs identify no legal action in which they suffered any prejudice.

Equal Protection

As to the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim, Plaintiffs are not similarly situated to persons confined for treatment in other state mental health facilities. Plaintiffs are in Rushville because they have been "convicted of a sexually violent offense, . . .[and are] dangerous because [they] . . . suffer[] from a mental disorder that makes it substantially probable that . . . [they] will engage in acts of sexual violence." 725 ILCS 207/5(f). Persons confined in other state mental health facilities may also be dangerous to themselves or others, but they do not fit the statutory definition for sexually violent persons. If they did, they would be in Rushville. See Thielman v. Leean, 282 F.3d 478, 483 (7th Cir. 2002) ("facilities dealing with those who have been involuntarily committed for sexual disorders are 'volatile' environments whose day-to-day operations cannot be managed from on high."). In short, there is no equal protection claim because Plaintiffs are not similarly situated to mentally ill persons held in other mental facilities. Additionally, Plaintiffs' alleged differential treatment is rationally related to the fact that they are confined as sexually violent persons. See Thielman, 282 F.3d at 485 (upholding ...


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