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Carpenter v. Biermann

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 23, 2014

DAVID BIERMANN, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

The "privilege to proceed without posting security for costs and fees is reserved to the many truly impoverished litigants who, within the District Court's sound discretion, would remain without legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to them." Brewster v. North Am. Van Lines, Inc. , 461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972). Additionally, a court must dismiss cases proceeding in forma pauperis "at any time" if the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim, even if part of the filing fee has been paid. 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915(d)(2). Accordingly, this Court grants leave to proceed in forma pauperis only if the complaint states a federal claim.

In reviewing the complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour , 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S. , 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(quoted cite omitted).


Plaintiff is civilly detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, 725 ILCS 207/1, et seq. On July 22, 2013, Plaintiff went to the gym only to discover that training mats were covering the area where Plaintiff had planned to shoot basketball. The training mats had been used that morning for a staff training exercise.

Plaintiff proceeded to move the mats out of the way, whereupon Security Guard Seymore told Plaintiff to leave the mats where they were and shoot hoops on the other side of the room. Plaintiff protested because other detainees were already using the other side of the recreation room to lift weights. According to Plaintiff, Seymore directed Plaintiff to use the other side of the room or leave, and Plaintiff chose to leave.

A few days later, Plaintiff was written a disciplinary report for disruptive conduct/disobeying a direct order/insolence arising from the basketball incident. The report accused Plaintiff of arguing with staff, cursing, accusing the guard of being racist, and refusing to return to his room after a direct order.

Defendants Jumper, Roth, and Clark were the disciplinary committee members who presided over Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff denied behaving in a disruptive or disrespectful manner. Plaintiff alleges that he was not allowed to offer exonerating evidence to the committee such as witness statements or video footage. Plaintiff allegedly asked Defendant Jumper to recuse himself from the disciplinary committee because of Plaintiff's pending civil action against Jumper, but Jumper refused.

The disciplinary committee found Plaintiff guilty and punished him with 30 days of "close" status, which entails the loss of certain privileges and restrictions on movement. The committee also recommended that Plaintiff be required to wear the "black box" restraint on transports outside the facility for 90 days. Additionally, Defendant Jumper failed or refused to recommend that Plaintiff be allowed to continue his sex offender treatment while Plaintiff served his punishment. Plaintiff asked his therapists for permission to continue his therapy but was only permitted to continue part of that therapy while he served his punishment.


At this early stage, the Court cannot rule out a procedural due process claim based on the alleged partial decisionmaker (Defendant Jumper) and Plaintiff's inability to present exonerating evidence at the disciplinary hearing. See Wolff v. McDonnell , 418 U.S. 539, 564-65 (1974)(establishing procedural due process protections in prison disciplinary proceedings, which protections include an impartial decisionmaker and a meaningful opportunity to defend against the charge).

A further developed record may show that the punishment imposed on Plaintiff did not rise to a protected liberty interest, in which case Plaintiff had no right to procedural due process. For example, the Seventh Circuit has held that the imposition of "close" status at the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center does not implicate a protected liberty interest, nor does the use of the black box restraint during transport outside the facility. Miller v. Dobier , 634 F.3d 412, 414-15 (7th Cir. 2011). However, the Court is aware from another pending case in this District that the term "close status" may now entail more significant restrictions than those in the Miller case. See Fields v. Clayton, 11-CV-3368 (C.D. Ill., Judge Myerscough). The record needs development on the exact deprivations Plaintiff suffered in order to determine whether Plaintiff's constitutionally protected liberty interests were affected. The procedural due process claim will therefore proceed against the disciplinary committee members: Defendants Jumper, Roth, and Clark.

Plaintiff also states an arguable claim against Defendant Jumper for retaliating against Plaintiff for Plaintiff's pending lawsuit against Jumper, Carpenter v. Jumper, et al., 12-CV-3352 (C.D. Ill., Judge Myerscough). Babcock v. White , 102 F.3d 267, 276 (7th Cir. 1996)(retaliation for exercising First Amendment right states a constitutional claim). The alleged retaliation in this case appears to be finding Plaintiff guilty without allowing him an opportunity to present evidence, imposing an atypically harsh punishment on ...

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