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B. Michael Schneider v. County of Will; Paul J. Kaupas

March 20, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiff filed a pro se nine-count third amended complaint based on his contention that, when serving a twenty-day criminal contempt sentence, he should have been required to serve only half of that, under the Illinois County Jail Good Behavior Allowance Act.*fn1 Plaintiff has brought several claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: individual capacity claims against Sheriff Paul Kaupas and Warden O'Leary for "deprivation of liberty without due process of law" (Counts I and II, respectively); and a request for a permanent injunction, as a result of those defendants' alleged failure to supervise and train staff (Count IV). Among other things, plaintiff's proposed injunction would direct defendant Kaupas to establish a training program and require the Northern District of Illinois to "institute a monitoring program" to ensure that defendants are complying with (and training their employees to comply with) the County Jail Good Behavior Act. Plaintiff has also alleged several state-law claims: indemnification against Will County pursuant to 745 Ill. Comp. Stat. 10/9-102 (Count III); and individual capacity claims against defendants Kaupas and O'Leary for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the conditions of his confinement (Counts VI and VII, respectively).*fn2 The three named defendants-Will County, Kaupas, and O'Leary-have filed the instant motion for summary judgment, which for the following reasons the court grants.*fn3


The following facts are undisputed. On May 25, 2007, plaintiff was present in Will County Circuit Court for a hearing in a foreclosure action against his fiancee. Plaintiff acknowledges that "[a]t some point" during the hearing, he "stood from [his] seat and asked the Judge why he was trying to intimidate" plaintiff and his fiancee. Plaintiff also admits that he repeatedly refused to identify himself to Judge Garrison, who responded by holding plaintiff in criminal contempt, sentencing plaintiff to twenty days in the county jail. The contempt order states: "The court sentences contemnor to 20 days in the Will County Jail beginning May 25, 2007," and the mittimus directed the sheriff to hold plaintiff "until Wed. June 13, 2007, or until released by process of law, pursuant to the order of this court entered 5/25, 2007." Correctly claiming that the Illinois County Jail Good Behavior Allowance Act entitled him to a day-for- day reduction in his sentence, see 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3--6--3(a)(2.1); Schneider v. County of Will, Fed. App'x 683, 685 (7th Cir. 2010) (collecting cases for the proposition that plaintiff "was correct" that he was entitled to be released after ten days),*fn4 plaintiff dictated a letter to his fiancee, who then sent the letter to defendant Kaupas. Defendant Kaupas instructed his assistant to fax the letter to defendant O'Leary who, as the warden, oversaw all of Will County's jail operations.

Defendant O'Leary received the letter. Mistakenly thinking that "the best way to determine the correct release date for Plaintiff was to contact the court . . . because he believed the key was the judge's intent," he asked the records supervisor to call Judge Garrison for clarification. The records supervisor does not recall whether she in fact contacted the judge, but regardless, she informed O'Leary that she had done so. The commonly accepted practice in the Will County Adult Detention Facility was that when nothing affirmatively indicates that a prisoner is entitled to good time, that meant that the judge was ordering that the prisoner serve the full sentence. Whether or not the records supervisor indeed confirmed with the judge, her advice to defendant O'Leary was based on her understanding of the judge's unambiguous directions on the face of the documents. O'Leary's understanding was that the records supervisor had confirmed with the judge that plaintiff was not to receive good-time credit.

O'Leary then wrote to plaintiff, explaining that "[i]n examining the very detailed court orders involving your cases, it is overwhelmingly apparent that Judge Garrison's intent is to hold you in custody at the Will County Adult Detention Facility until Wednesday, June 13th, 2007. If Judge Garrison's [sic] had intended to allow for 'good time/behavior' the court documents would have clearly indicated such, which they did not." His request thus denied, plaintiff was released after twenty days in custody.


I. Legal Standard

A movant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56 when the moving papers and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of pointing out the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Once the moving party has met that burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and present specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986) ("In our view, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial."). The court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Fisher v. Transco Services-Milwaukee, Inc., 979 F.2d 1239, 1242 (7th Cir. 1992).

II. Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion

A. Due Process (Counts I and II)

There is substantial confusion over what plaintiff's due process claims are. Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court will give him the benefit of the doubt and consider the various permutations that the parties and courts have proposed. The Seventh Circuit assumed that plaintiff was alleging Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims premised on prison officials' failure "to give proper credit for time served," with the result that plaintiff spent "too long" in jail. See Schneider, 366 Fed. App'x at 685 ("The Eighth Amendment is violated if, through deliberate indifference, prison officials hold a prisoner too long.") (citing Burke v. Johnson, 452 F.3d 665, 669 (7th Cir. 2006), and Campbell v. Peters, 256 F.3d 695, 700 (7th Cir. 2001)). But it is unclear whether this is a situation in which a prisoner was held "too long" for purposes of deliberate indifference, and thus whether plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995) (holding that while a state may create a liberty interest protected by the due process clause, such an interest is "generally limited to freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force, nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.") (citations omitted).

Even assuming, however, that depriving plaintiff of his good-time credit was a constitutional violation, defendants Kaupas and O'Leary are entitled to summary judgment. Defendants previously contended that they were entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity for the actions they undertook at the judge's direction. In reversing the district court's finding that defendants were entitled to such immunity, the Seventh Circuit explained that because determining whether defendants acted at the judge's behest is necessarily a fact-intensive inquiry, defendants could not be entitled to quasi-judicial immunity "without any competent evidence that they were acting at the direction of a judge." Id. at p. 4. Thus, according to the Seventh Circuit's analysis, defendants are now entitled to summary judgment if the uncontroverted evidence shows that they were following the judge's instructions to hold plaintiff for all twenty days.

The undisputed evidence indeed shows that O'Leary was following the judge's orders. It is uncontested that he "believed the best way to determine the correct release date for Plaintiff was to contact the court . . . because he believed the key was the judge's intent," that he asked the records supervisor to call the judge and request clarification, and that the records supervisor informed defendant O'Leary that plaintiff was not entitled to good time. The records supervisor testified that she does not recall whether she in fact contacted the judge. Regardless, that would have been unnecessary, because the records supervisor also testified that the commonly accepted practice is that when nothing affirmatively indicates that a prisoner is entitled to good time, the judge's intention was that the prisoner serve the full sentence. Further, O'Leary testified that after he instructed the records supervisor to contact the court, she "represented to me, came back and reported to me, that she had contacted the court and, in fact, the sentence was to be followed the way it was-the way it read specifically, in that since the judge said that was to be the inmate's out date and gave no provision, no instructions as to whether good time should be considered." This testimony is undisputed. Also ...

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