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Baird v. Burke

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 10, 2013

WILLIS BAIRD, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Before he filed a complaint in this § 1983 lawsuit, pro se Plaintiff Willis Baird filed a motion for temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction (Doc. 1) so that he would be placed into protective custody or transferred from Lawrence Correctional Center. Upon threshold review, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and Local Rule 72.1(a), the undersigned referred the motion to Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams for an evidentiary hearing and Report and Recommendation (R&R). Judge Williams held a hearing in June 2013, and that month submitted an R&R recommending denial of injunctive relief. Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R in July 2013, and those objections are ripe for ruling.

For the reasons articulated below, the undersigned district judge ADOPTS Judge Williams' R&R (Doc. 33) and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief (Doc. 1).


Plaintiff, a former police officer, is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center in the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). As pertinent to the instant motion for injunctive relief, Plaintiff has made allegations that several officials at Lawrence violated (and continue to violate) his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from inmates at Lawrence.

According to Plaintiff, his problems began at Hill Correctional Center, where he was incarcerated before his transfer to Lawrence. At Hill (on June 11, 2012), Plaintiff was approached by inmates on the yard about the fact he is a former police officer. About a month later, officials transferred Plaintiff-along with two inmates who knew about his former profession-to Lawrence. On his arrival at Lawrence (and ever since), Plaintiff told staff he is an ex-police officer, that two other inmates knew he was a former officer, and that he needed protective custody. While at Lawrence, he was attacked by Inmate Meeks (one of his cellmates) and, on two other occasions, placed in cells with (respectively) an inmate who had shot a police officer and one who had assaulted a corrections officer. Plaintiff also received a letter from another inmate (Couch) containing the following phrases: "I hate undercover cops" and "Someone might kill you."

Plaintiff moved to enjoin prison officials to either transfer him away from Lawrence or, alternatively, to place him in protective custody. Finding that an injunction requiring a transfer would improperly intrude upon the discretion of prison officials, that Plaintiff did not show he would suffer irreparable harm were he not placed in protective custody, and that Plaintiff's fears were too generalized and speculative to necessitate an injunction, Magistrate Judge Williams recommends denying Plaintiff's motion.


A. Standard of Review

Where, as here, timely objections are filed, this Court must undertake a de novo review of a Report and Recommendation. 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B), (C); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SDIL-LR 73.1(b); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992); Harper v. City of Chi. Heights, 824 F.Supp. 786, 788 (N.D. Ill. 1993). The Court "may accept, reject, or modify the magistrate judge's recommended decision." Harper, 824 F.Supp. at 788. In making the determination, the Court must examine all the evidence in the record and give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objections have been made. Id. The Court reviews de novo only the portions of the report or specific proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

A de novo determination, however, is not the same as a de novo hearing. Goffman v. Gross, 59 F.3d 668, 671 (7th Cir. 1995). If, following a review of the record, a district court is satisfied with the magistrate judge's findings and recommendation, it may (in its discretion) treat those findings and recommendations as its own. Id. (citing U.S. v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675 (1980)).

Plaintiff makes sixteen overlapping objections to Magistrate Judge Williams' R&R. Before turning to those objections, the substantive legal standards warrant review.

B. Eighth Amendment Failure to Protect

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 491 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962)). To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must show that prison officials imposed conditions which denied him the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. Jaros v. Illinois Dep't of Corr., 684 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2012). Part of a prison official's duty under the Eighth Amendment is taking "reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates." ...

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