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Anthony Wheeler, #A81100 v. Jay Merchant

April 25, 2012


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


I. Introduction

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 112). Defendants seek summary judgment for Defendants Merchant, James, Sutton, Fernandez, and Crow on Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim regarding his inhumane conditions of confinement. Defendants also seek summary judgment on Plaintiff's retaliation claim because they argue Plaintiff cannot prove that his infraction and subsequent discipline would not have occurred without retaliatory motive and because Plaintiff's claim would invalidate the discipline Plaintiff received. Plaintiff has filed a Response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 126). Based on the following, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 112).

II. Factual Background

The claims in Plaintiff's Complaint occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Pickneyville Correctional Center in the summer of 2008. Plaintiff alleges that while he was housed at Pickneyville Correctional Center he was subjected to unsanitary conditions in two cells. He also alleges that Defendants retaliated against him for being a jailhouse lawyer by issuing him a disciplinary ticket. The allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint begin with a disciplinary ticket which Plaintiff received on June 10, 2008 for unauthorized movement. Plaintiff was issued the ticket at 4:30 p.m. by Defendant James as he was exiting the dining hall en route to the law library. Plaintiff stated in his deposition that as he was exiting the dining hall, James called him out of line and escorted him to segregation (Doc. 112 Ex. A at p. 28). Plaintiff stated that James never explained why he was being taken out of line, only ordered him to turn around and cuff up (Id. at p. 29). He was subsequently charged with stopping to talk to other inmates entering the dining hall while his line continued to proceed to the law library, although Plaintiff did not receive his disciplinary ticket until a few days later (Doc. 1 Ex. C; Doc. 112 Ex. A at p. 31-32).

Upon being cuffed by Defendant James, Plaintiff was escorted to receiving segregation and left in the shower area with segregation officers, at which point Defendant James left and Plaintiff never saw him again (Doc. 112 Ex. A at pp. 37-38, 68). Plaintiff was subsequently placed in Cell 23 in receiving segregation. While in Cell 23, Plaintiff said he was first subjected to sweltering heat as he believed that the heat in Cell 23 was turned on (Id. at pp. 41-43). While in this cell, he also experienced a bug infestation, with the cell being occupied by roaches, ants, and spiders. Plaintiff also complained that the cell, including the sink, walls, toilet, and floor, were covered in feces, leftover food, and saliva (Id. at p. 47). Plaintiff also noted that the electrical outlets did not work in Cell 23, so he was not able to run his fan once he received his personal property (Id.). The noise in Cell 23 was also excessive and Plaintiff could not sleep (Id. at p. 48).

On June 19, 2008 Defendant Jason Bradley conducted a search of Cell 23 (Id. at p. 72-73, 83; Doc. 1 Ex. B). Plaintiff was handcuffed and ordered out of the cell while Bradley went through Plaintiff's paperwork, scattering numerous documents on the ground (Id. at p. 74). As a result of the search, Bradley confiscated legal documents belonging to other inmates and Plaintiff was charged with a disciplinary report for possession of unauthorized information (Id. at pp. 74-75, 79; Doc. 1 Ex. B). Plaintiff stated that while Bradley went through his papers, he asked Plaintiff about the nature of his lawsuits and asked why he filed so many complaints (Id. at p. 79) Plaintiff appeared before Rick Sutton, Christel Crow, and Frederico Fernandez and pled guilty to the charge (Id. at pp. 74-75; Doc. 1 Ex. D). As a result of the charge, he was disciplined with one month loss of good time credit, one month C grade, and segregation (Id. at pp. 76-77). Plaintiff never got his good time restored, although he admits he has received additional good time since the incident for good behavior (Id.). Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that he received the disciplinary ticket and that Defendants found him guilty because he is a jailhouse lawyer (Id. at p. 78).

As a result of his guilty finding on the disciplinary reports, Plaintiff was transferred to the segregation unit and housed in Cell 5C-69 (Id. at p. 83). Plaintiff stated in his deposition that the conditions in 5C-69 mirrored those of Cell 23 and were "deplorable" (Id. at p. 85). Plaintiff stated that while it was not hot in the cell and the electrical outlets worked (unlike in Cell 23), the rest of the conditions were the same (Id. at p. 86). The cell was covered in bodily fluids and dry leftover food, and was infested with insects (Id.).

Plaintiff noted in his deposition that many of his listed Defendants did not see him while he was in either Cell 23 or Cell 5C-69. Plaintiff noted that Jay Merchant, the assistant warden, did not speak or see Plaintiff while he was in either cell (Id. at pp. 50, 53-54, 92). Plaintiff only notes that Merchant concurred with the findings of the adjustment committee when he was found guilty of his second offense, possession of unauthorized information, and that he was the assistant warden and thus the supervisor of the prison staff (Id. at pp. 51-52. 56). Plaintiff believes that Merchant should have known of his cell conditions as he is responsible for the overall operations of the prison, but he does not have any evidence that Merchant was aware of the condition of his cell during the fourteen (14) days he was in Cell 23 (Id. at pp. 62-63, 67). As to Defendant Gregory James, Plaintiff stated that James only escorted him to the segregation unit and he did not place him in or see him in either Cell 23 or 5C-69 (Id. at pp. 68, 87). As to Defendants Rick Sutton and Frederico Fernandez, Plaintiff acknowledged that they were on the adjustment committee that heard his disciplinary ticket for unauthorized movement and possession of unauthorized contraband, but neither placed him in either cell or spoke or saw him while he was in the cells (Id. at pp. 69-72, 87-88). Plaintiff noted that Christel Crow was also on the adjustment committee and never saw Plaintiff's cell (Id. at p. 75, 81, 90)

Plaintiff, however, did note in his deposition that Jason Bradley conducted the search of his cell while he was in Cell 23 and that he did see the conditions of Plaintiff's cell at that time (Id. at pp. 72). Plaintiff stated that he pointed out the conditions of his cell while Bradley searched the cell, but turned a blind eye and informed Plaintiff that this was not a hotel (Id. at p. 81). Plaintiff did not see Bradley after he concluded the search his cell and did not see him while he was housed in 5C-69 (Id. at p. 89). Plaintiff also noted that Defendant Teresa Kisro was aware of his cell conditions in Cell 23 because she would meet with Plaintiff in his cell to discuss grievances (Id. at pp. 81-82). While she was in the cell, Plaintiff pointed out the unsanitary conditions and informed her that the electrical outlet did not work (Id. at p. 82). Kisro also met with Plaintiff while he was in 5C-69 to return grievances and observed the unsanitary conditions (Id. at p. 90-91). Plaintiff also stated that Mark Hartman went in his cell while he was housed in Cell 23 (Id. at p. 83). Hartman was also Plaintiff's counselor while he was housed in 5C-69, although Plaintiff stated that he rejected numerous grievances and refused to talk to him although he did approach his cell door on occasion (Id. at p. 91). He did try to explain the condition in his cell when Hartman came to his cell, but Plaintiff testified that Hartman would not acknowledge the conditions (Id. at pp. 91-92).

III. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary Judgment is proper only "if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Dy n e g y Mktg . & Trad e v . Mu lti Co rp ., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted)(citing FED.R.CIV.P. 56(a)); s e e als o Ru ffin -Th o m p kin s v . Exp e rian In fo rm atio n So lu tio n s , In c ., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005).. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating - based on the pleadings, affidavits, and/or information obtained via discovery - the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Ce lo te x Co rp . v . Catre tt, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

After a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." An d e rs o n v . Lib e rty Lo b b y , In c ., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986)(quoting FED.R.CIV.P. 56(e)(2)).*fn1 A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. An d e rs o n , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); B allan c e v . City o f Sp rin g fie ld , Illin o is Po lic e De p artm e n t, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2005); Ho tte n ro th v . Villag e o f Slin g e r, 388 F.3d 1015, 1027 (7th Cir. 2004). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." An d e rs o n , 477 U.S. at 248. "A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovent's petition is insufficient; a party will be successful in opposing summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion." Alb ie ro v . City o f Kan kake e , 246 F.3d 927, 931-32 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotations omitted).

On summary judgment, the Court considers the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Srail v . Vill. o f Lis le , 588 F.3d 940, 948 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court adopts reasonable inferences and resolves doubts in the non-movant's favor. Id .; Nat'l Ath le tic Sp o rts w e ar, In c . v . We s tfie ld In s . Co ., 528 F.3d at 512. Even if the facts are not in dispute, summary judgment is inappropriate when the information before the court reveals that "alternate inferences can be drawn from the available ...

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