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Frankie N. Walker, Sr v. Guy Groot and Steven Schostak

July 23, 2012

FRANKIE N. WALKER, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
GUY GROOT AND STEVEN SCHOSTAK, DEFENDANTS.



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

E-FILED Monday, 23 July, 2012 02:16:17 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, pursues First Amendment claims arising from a letter he sent to the director of a conditional release program. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is before the Court. For the reasons below the motion is denied.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A movant may demonstrate the absence of a material dispute through specific cites to admissible evidence, or by showing that the non-movant "cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [material] fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(B). If the movant clears this hurdle, the non-movant may not simply rest on his or her allegations in the complaint, but instead must point to admissible evidence in the record to show that a genuine dispute exists. Id.; Harvey v. Town of Merrillville, 649 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2011). "In a § 1983 case, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof on the constitutional deprivation that underlies the claim, and thus must come forward with sufficient evidence to create genuine issues of material fact to avoid summary judgment." McAllister v. Price, 615 F.3d 877, 881 (7th Cir. 2010).

At the summary judgment stage, evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, with material factual disputes resolved in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a reasonable juror could find for the non-movant. Id.

FACTS

From July 2007 to June 2010, Plaintiff participated in voluntary psychiatric treatment at the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center.

In or around January, 2009, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Jerry Isikoff, who was the executive director of a conditional release program for sexually violent persons operated by an independent contractor, Liberty Healthcare Corporation. (Plaintiff's Response, p. 7, d/e 86.) Plaintiff does not dispute that a conditional release agent from this program is not assigned until a resident is found eligible for release. When Plaintiff wrote the letter to Mr. Isikoff, Plaintiff had not been ruled eligible for conditional release.

According to Plaintiff, he wrote to Mr. Isikoff in an attempt to assist Plaintiff's counsel in a state court challenge to Plaintiff's detention. In November, 2008, Plaintiff had submitted an evaluator's report in that proceeding which recommended Plaintiff for outpatient treatment. (Pl.'s Resp., p. 2, d/e 86; Pl.'s Dep. pp. 25-26, d/e 76-1.) Plaintiff describes his letter to Mr. Isikoff as asking for information on finding an appropriate outpatient treatment program and asking for information about the conditional release program in general. Defendants do not dispute Plaintiff's representation that no inappropriate or threatening language was contained in his letter. However, Plaintiff admits that his letter did refer to his own evaluator's positive recommendation but failed to mention the contrary recommendation by the State's evaluator. Id. at p. 26.

Though central to the case, Plaintiff's letter to Mr. Isikoff is not in the record. In fact, Defendants admit that they never possessed or read the letter. Plaintiff has tried valiantly to obtain a copy of the letter, but Mr. Isikoff purportedly no longer works at the conditional release program, and the program has no record of the letter. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. LL2, d/e 86-16, p. 4.) Whether Mr. Isikoff even received Plaintiff's letter is not clear. Plaintiff questions whether the letter was intercepted by Defendants, since one of Defendants purportedly told Plaintiff that the letter would be placed in Plaintiff's file.*fn1 A juror might reasonably agree with Plaintiff, based on this admission and based on Defendant Groot's contradictory statements on how he came to know about the letter, discussed infra . In any event, since the letter is not in the record, the Court accepts Plaintiff's description of what he wrote in the letter for purposes of this order.

Defendant Groot was Plaintiff's "Treatment Team Leader" when Plaintiff wrote the letter, which meant that Groot coordinated Plaintiff's psychiatric treatment by a team of persons (the "Treatment Team"). Defendant Groot avers in his first affidavit that he received a letter from Mr. Isikoff addressed to him asking for information about Plaintiff's letter. (Groot Aff. ¶ 5, d/e 76-2, p. 2.) However, Groot contradicts this averment in one of his interrogatory responses, stating instead that Shan Jumper, the facility's Clinical Director, had informed him about Mr. Isikoff's letter. (Groot Resp. to Interrog. # 4, d/e 86-15, p. 8.) Later he contends that Mr. Isikoff contacted him by telephone, though his second affidavit says only that "I was informed that Plaintiff wrote to Jerry Isikoff and the contents of the letter." (Defs.' Notice of Compliance, d/e 96, ¶ 3; Groot Aff. ¶ 3, d/e 96-1). Mr. Isikoff's purported letter is not in the record, nor is his affidavit.

Despite having never seen Plaintiff's letter, Defendant Groot concluded that the letter was misleading. Groot believed the letter had implied that Plaintiff had been recommended for conditional release by the Department of Human Services. What facts formed the basis for this belief is not clear. Plaintiff admits in his deposition that he did not mention the State's evaluation in letter, but whether Defendants knew about this when they learned of the letter is not in the record. In any event, Plaintiff disagreed with Groot and maintained that the letter was not misleading and that he had a right to send it.

Defendant Groot informed Defendant Schostak and the rest of the Treatment Team about Plaintiff's letter. At that time, Schostak was working towards his Ph.D. in forensic psychology. Defendant Schostak was also concerned that Plaintiff's representations to Mr. Isikiff had been misleading, presumably based on Groot's description since Schostak never saw the letter either. According to Schostak's progress notes, Plaintiff continued to "defend[] his decision to write to the C.R. program director without consulting his primary therapist" and continued to maintain that he had a right to write to whomever he wanted, with the exception of his victims. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. MM, d/e 86-16, p. 8.) According to Plaintiff, Schostak ...


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