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Gevas v. Hoskinson

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

June 17, 2013

DAVID GEVAS, Plaintiff,


STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS, United States Magistrate Judge

Before the Court in this § 1983 civil rights case is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Heather Cecil, Carol Hahn, and Joyce Hoskinson. Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of interference with his legal mail and First Amendment retaliation. The motion ripened when Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 218) in opposition. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Doc. 213).


Plaintiff’s case stems from his time in Lawrence Correctional Center, where Defendant Hoskinson was the mailroom supervisor from 2001 through 2011, and Defendants Hahn and Cecil were mailroom office assistants. (Cecil temporarily assumed the supervisor position in October 2011). During 2009 and 2010, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Lawrence, he frequently communicated with his attorney, Barbara Clinite, about Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference case against officials at Stateville, another Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) institution.

Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his right of access to the courts by opening Plaintiff’s legal mail outside his presence on three occasions over a six month span: September 16, 2009; October 9, 2009; and February 11, 2010. On each occasion, Plaintiff was informed that the mail was opened outside his presence; he eventually received all three letters (Doc. 214 at 22, 28, 31). Defendants assert (and provide mail receipts and testimony to show) that Plaintiff’s mail was opened in error (see Doc. 11 at 13, 20; Doc. 214-1 at 115). Plaintiff counters that Defendants opened his legal mail because they were looking for incident reports regarding his deliberate indifference lawsuit (Doc. 218-1 at 25, 29-30). Plaintiff also contends that the mail must have been opened intentionally because three letters were opened within a six month period, even after he notified the warden and mail room staff of the incidents (Doc. 218-5; Doc. 218-6). Plaintiff finally notes that, of eleven grievances at Lawrence concerning legal mail filed in a ten month period, three concerned Plaintiff’s legal mail (Doc. 218-7). During his deposition, when asked to estimate how often he communicated with Attorney Clinite, Plaintiff responded: “Very frequently . . . I would say it was frequent enough, to maybe two a week. You know, this is just---I really can’t answer that without looking” (Doc. 218-1 at 12-13).

Plaintiff next alleges Defendants “overly scrutinized” his legal mail on April 29, 2009, July 20, 2009, and September 10, 2009, by writing notes for a correctional officer to verify his mail was indeed legal mail. On those dates, Plaintiff received mail from Attorney Clinite, and on each occasion a mailroom official wrote “Please verify contents of legal mail” on the receipt (Doc. 11 at 12-13). According to Plaintiff, when legal mail is delivered to an offender, normal procedure is for the officer delivering the mail to have the offender sign the legal mail receipt; then the officer opens the mail in front of the offender, inspects for contraband, and hands the mail to the offender (Doc. 218-1 at 13- 14). Correctional officers followed that procedure when delivering the April 29, July 20, and September 10 mail to Plaintiff (id.).

Plaintiff finally alleges that Defendants—falsely stating that his mother’s letters were perfumed—retaliated against him for filing grievances in September and October 2009 by returning unread letters to his mother. In October 2009, a piece of mail from Plaintiff’s mother was marked “no perfume” and returned to sender (Doc. 214-1 at 116). Plaintiff, who eventually received the letter, denies that the envelope from his mother was perfumed, and provides a letter from her to that effect (Doc. 218-8 at 4). According to Lawrence’s Offender Orientation Manual, mail cannot enter the prison if it is perfumed (Doc. 214-1 at 116).


Summary Judgment is proper only “if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multi Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)).See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 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. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)). A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Ba lance v. City of Spring field, Ill. Police Dep’t, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2005); H ottenroth v. Vill. of Sling er, 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.” Anders on, 477 U.S. at 248. “A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant’s petition is insufficient; a party will be successful in opposing summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.” Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 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. of Lisle, 588 F.3d 940, 948 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court adopts reasonable inferences and resolves doubts in the nonmovant’s favor. Id.; Nat’l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). 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.” Spiegla v. Hull, 371 F.3d 928, 935 (7th Cir. 2004) (abrogated on other grounds by Spiegla II, 481 F.3d at 966 (7th Cir. 2007)). See also Anderer v. Jones, 385 F.3d 1043, 1064 (7th Cir. 2004).


Defendants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting Plaintiff’s claims, and contend they are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff’s interference with legal mail and his First Amendment retaliation claims. For the following reasons, ...

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