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Maurice Jackson v. Misty New

August 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge


Plaintiff Maurice Jackson, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff contends that he was charged and disciplined unjustly, resulting in the loss of good conduct credit and placement in segregation, where his conditions of confinement were substandard. See Doc. 1.

The Court is required by § 1915A to review the complaint to identify cognizable claims, dismissing any claim that is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." The review standard under § 1915A is the same as the notice pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). To state a claim, the allegations must set forth a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The factual "allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555--556. However, pro se pleadings are liberally construed when applying this standard. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir.2009).

After reviewing the complaint and supporting documentation, the Court finds that certain claims are subject to dismissal.

The Complaint

Defendant Correctional Officer Misty New issued Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket for sexual misconduct and insolence. Defendant Lt. Jack Ashby, chairperson of the Hearing Committee, refused to call Internal Affairs to testify or produce the letter that formed the basis of the sexual misconduct charge. Plaintiff was found guilty of the offenses and was punished with nine months in segregation, a demotion to C Grade, commissary restrictions and a loss of one month of good conduct credit. His grievance regarding the ticket and conviction was denied by Defendant Jeanette Cowan, the grievance supervisor. The Illinois Department of Corrections' Administrative Review Board, of which Defendant Sarah Johnson is a member, affirmed the conviction.

In segregation, Plaintiff Jackson has suffered from food contamination, been denied outside recreation, denied showers, was subject to insults and taunts, and was denied his anti-hypertension medication.

Plaintiff prays for compensatory and punitive damages.

Fourteenth Amendment Claims

Relative to the issuance of the disciplinary ticket and subsequent administrative process-from hearing through administrative appeal-Plaintiff Jackson is clearly claiming that he was denied due process, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In the context of prison disciplinary proceedings, procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment is satisfied by advance written notice of the charges, a hearing by an impartial panel, an opportunity to present evidence and/or call witnesses (when consistent with institutional safety), and a written statement of the fact-finders as to the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 558, 564, 566, 570-571 (1974); Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454(1985); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

However, to establish a due process claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must first establish that he was deprived of a constitutionally protected interest in life, liberty or property. Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 607 (7th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff's claimed loss of good conduct credit and the conditions of his confinement in segregation may provide the required liberty interest. See Piggie v. McBride, 277 F.3d 922, 924 (7th Cir. 2002) (loss of good time is a protected liberty interest); and Wagner v. Hanks, 128 F.3d 1173, 1175 (7th Cir. 1997) (disciplinary confinement may implicate a liberty interest).*fn1

Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997), holds that claims which "necessarily imply the invalidity of the deprivation of ... [an inmate's] good-time credits" are not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 until the prison disciplinary decision has otherwise been invalidated, for example by a writ of habeas corpus. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). "[T]he Heck requirement is an essential element of a § 1983 claim; indeed, the [§ 1983] claim does not arise until the requirement is met." Dixon v. Chrans, 101 F.3d 1228, 1230 (7th Cir. 1996), citing Rooding v. Peters, 92 F.3d 578 (7th Cir. 1996). The complaint does not indicate that Plaintiff has satisfied Heck.

The Supreme Court has recognized a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause, where prison discipline imposes an "atypical, significant deprivation" on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 486 (1995). However the Supreme Court rejected the notion that "any state action taken for a punitive reason encroaches upon a liberty interest under the Due Process Clause." Id. at 484 (emphasis added). Both the duration and the conditions of the segregation must be considered in the due process analysis-a sort of sliding scale. See Marion v. Columbia Correction Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 698 (7th Cir. 2009); Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221--223 (2005); Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). In Younger v. Hulick, 2012 WL 1633032, at *3 (7th Cir. May 10, 2012), the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held that a segregation term of 90 days fell ...

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