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Anthony Allen, #B43715 v. Krista Schorn Allsup

June 15, 2012


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


I. Introduction

Before the Court is a summary judgment motion filed by Defendants Krista Schorn Allsup, Jennifer Clendenin, Jeannette Cowan, Lawrence Kania, William Spiller, Shannis Stock, and Kathy Westerman (Doc. 59 & 60). Specifically, Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims of retaliation and denial of access to the courts because Plaintiff's claims are barred under the Heck doctrine (He c k v . Hu m p h re y , 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994)) and res judicata. Defendants also argue that, even if the claims are not barred, they are entitled to summary judgment on both Plaintiff's retaliation and denial of access to the courts claims because Plaintiff has failed to show that Defendants purposefully housed him at a high aggression level due to retaliation, and because Plaintiff has failed to show any actual injury caused by a denial of access to the courts. Based on the following, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

II. Factual Background

This case stems from events which took place while Plaintiff was an inmate at Menard Correctional Center. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that while housed at Menard he was denied access to the courts by Defendant Allsup and was retaliated against by various members of Menard Correctional Center staff.

As to his denial of access to the courts claim, Plaintiff that Defendant Allsup refused to copy certain exhibits and failed to provide him with relevant case law needed for his post-conviction case and his state court retaliation case. Plaintiff contends that on December 12, 2007, he filed a grievance against Alllsup because she failed to copy legal papers for him (Doc. 63-1 at ¶ 2). Allsup later filed a disciplinary report against him on February 4, 2008 (Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff also states that between November 2007 and January 2008, and beyond, he put in request slips to visit the library but was denied access (Id. at ¶ 5). According to inmate records, Plaintiff visited the law library 47 times between May 2007 and November 2011 (Doc. 60 Ex. 8 at ¶6). He was also visited 16 times by library personnel during cellhouse tours when the prison was on lockdown (Id.).

Plaintiff filed a retaliation claim against Defendant Allsup and others in the Circuit Court for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit for the State of Illinois on January 9, 2009, regarding Allsup and others' failure to provide him with legal materials and access to the law library (Doc. 63-1 at ¶ 8). Plaintiff's Complaint in the state case also included claims regarding the disciplinary ticket he received from Allsup in February 2008. During the pendency of his suit, Plaintiff received a disciplinary ticket on April 3, 2009, for scraping metal paint off his bed frame, for which he was sentenced to three months in segregation (Id. at ¶¶ 9-10). On August 28, 2009, defendants in that case filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 60 Ex. 3). Plaintiff asked the state court for additional time to respond, which was granted, and he ultimately filed a 61-page responsive brief (Doc. 60 Exs. 4 & 5). The state court granted summary judgment for the defendants because there were no issues of material fact; the court found that the discipline issued against Plaintiff was motivated by Plaintiff's violation of the rules, not any protected conduct. (Doc. 60 Ex. 6).

The Complaint also alleges that Plaintiff was placed in moderate aggression level housing, even though he had a low aggression level rating, in retaliation for his filing litigation against the prison and complaining about his conditions of confinement to prison employees. From 2009 to 2011, Plaintiff has been increased from a low aggression level to a moderate aggression level even though his aggression rating remained a "5," which is normally indicative of a low aggression level (Doc. 63-1 at ¶ 18). On April 11, 2007, and March 5, 2008, an aggression level assessment was performed and Plaintiff was rated a level 6 and recommended for moderate aggression level housing (Doc. 60 Ex. 7 at ¶¶ 6-7; Exs. 7-1 and 7-2). An aggression level determination was again performed on December 4, 2009, and Plaintiff was rated a level 5 and was recommended for low aggression level housing(Doc. 60 Ex. 7 at ¶ 8; Ex. 7-3). However, on March 5, 2010, another aggression rating was performed; although Plaintiff again scored a "5," he was recommended for moderate aggression level placement by Internal Affairs for "Admin. Concerns" (Id. at ¶ 9; Ex. 7-4). On January 1, 2011, Plaintiff again scored a "5," and was again recommended for a moderate aggression level housing due to "Admin. Concerns" (Id. at ¶ 11; Ex. 7-5). Placement Officer Brett Meyerhoff noted that inmate aggression levels are usually determined once a year and, while a level 5 aggression rating usually corresponds with a low aggression level placement, there are instances where a 5 rating can also trigger a moderate aggression level assignment, if internal affairs determines that additional security concerns warrant a higher aggression level assignment (Id. at ¶¶ 2 & 5). No further security concerns were noted in Plaintiff's records, other than "Admin. Concerns".

Plaintiff's Complaint also alleges that he was retaliated against by being issued a disciplinary report for scraping paint off his bed frame and for gang related activity. On April 3, 2009, Plaintiff received a disciplinary ticket for scraping paint off of his bed (Doc. 63-1 at ¶ 9). He was placed in segregation for three months as a result of the ticket (Id. at ¶ 10). The ticket, however, was ultimately expunged on April 3, 2009 (Id. at ¶ 14). Plaintiff also received a disciplinary ticket for gang activity in the summer of 2011 (Doc. 63-1 at ¶ 23). At the time Plaintiff received the ticket, he was no longer in a gang-- a fact which he states he made clear to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Menard Correctional Center employees, and the defendants (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25). The ticket was remanded by the Administrative Review Board in August 2011 and a hearing was held on September 5, 2011-- which Plaintiff states he did not attend (Id. at ¶ 26). The ticket was ultimately rewritten and Plaintiff remained in segregation (Id.).

III. Summary Judgment Standard

Under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 56(c), summary judgment is proper

only if the moving party can demonstrate "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Ce lo te x Co rp . v. Catre tt, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Se 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 burden is upon the moving party to establish that no material facts are in genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the moving party. Ad ic ke s v . S.H. Kre s s & Co ., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970). Se e als o Law re n c e v . Ke n o s h a Co u n ty , 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004). A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. An d e rs o n v . Lib e rty Lo b b y , In c ., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Ballan 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). 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 evidence." Sp ie g la v . Hu ll, 371 F.3d 928, 935 (7th Cir. 2004). Se e als o An d e re r v . Jo n e s , 385 F.3d 1043, 1064 (7th Cir. 2004).

The threshold inquiry is to determine whether there is the need for a trial; whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.

[T]his standard mirrors the standard for a directed verdict under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 50(a), which is that the trial judge must direct a verdict if, under the governing law, there can ...

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