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Hicks v. Irvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 31, 2014

CHAD ALAN HICKS, #XXXXX-XXX, Plaintiff,
v.
SILAS IRVIN, ET AL., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Chad Alan Hicks filed this prison civil rights lawsuit on May 2, 2006. The lawsuit, brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), arises under the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the First Amendment. The complaint names as Defendants several officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago ("MCC"). Hicks maintains that he was falsely accused of assaulting a correctional facility officer; that he was placed for six days in a segregated, bug-infested "dry cell" that was inundated with feces; and that he was retaliated against for filing suit in response to these conditions.

This case came before the Court for a one-day bench trial in August 2013. At trial, the Court heard the testimony of several witnesses, including Plaintiff Hicks, Defendants Silas Irvin, James Henry, Dennis Rolke, Lazo Savich, and James Diamond, and Dr. Daniel Greenstein, a psychologist at the MCC. The Court sets forth below its findings of fact and conclusions of law, as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a). The facts are drawn from the documentary record in the case and the evidence and testimony presented at trial.

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed this prison civil rights lawsuit without the assistance of counsel in 2006.[1] The complaint named as Defendants several officials at the MCC. Plaintiff maintained that he was falsely accused of assaulting a correctional facility officer; that he was placed for six days in a segregated, bug-infested "dry cell" that was inundated with feces; and that he was retaliated against for filing suit in response to these conditions. After weathering a motion to dismiss, Hicks filed his third amended complaint in October 2009, specifically alleging in Count I (against all Defendants) that his cell conditions violated the Fifth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment against pre-trial detainees and in Count II (brought only against Defendant Rolke) that Plaintiff was deprived of his First Amendment rights by being placed in administration detention in retaliation for the filing of this lawsuit.

Defendants moved for summary judgment under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA" or the "Act"), arguing that Plaintiff had not exhausted his administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court. The Court denied the motion, concluding that the evidence in the record indicated that Hicks had used all of the regulatory hooks that were available to him. Each side then moved for summary judgment on the substantive claims. Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on Count I, and Defendants moved for summary judgment on both counts. With respect to Count I, the Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Defendant Rolke, denied Defendants' motion as to Defendants Irvin, Savich, Diamond, and Henry, and also denied Plaintiffs' motion. With respect to Count II, the Court denied Defendants' motion.[2] The case then proceeded to a bench trial against Defendants Irvin, Savich, Diamond, and Henry on Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment Due Process claim and against Defendant Rolke on Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim.

II. Findings of Fact

The Court prefaces its decision by noting that it found some of the testimony offered by Plaintiff at trial less than convincing in several respects because it differed substantially from the detailed allegations in the complaint. Simply put, when pushed, Plaintiff could not identify with any specificity when the problems in his cell began and when he complained to Defendants about these problems. As addressed in more detail below, the timing in this case is everything. If Plaintiff identified objectively serious problems in his cell and they were promptly addressed, his claim fails. If his complaints were ignored or the problems were not addressed in a timely manner, then he suffered a constitutional violation. While the Court certainly is cognizant that the age of this case bears on the parties' ability to recall the events in question, and both Defendants and Plaintiff were unable to remember many of the specific details, Plaintiff bore the burden of proof at trial. Moreover, to the extent that the witnesses on both sides lacked a clear recollection of the events, the Court was able to incorporate its assessment of the documentary evidence into its analysis. And that evidence - as well as the testimony of the only non-party witness presented at trial, Dr. Greenstein - largely supports Defendants' rendition of the events.

A. Plaintiff's 2005 Incarceration at the MCC

Plaintiff arrived at the MCC in August 2005, where he awaited trial on bank robbery charges. The MCC holds approximately 800 inmates. Inmates in the general population at the MCC are housed in two types of units-units with locking cells and dormitory-style units that do not have cells. In units where there are cells, the cells are not locked during the day, and inmates may move freely about the unit. MCC units with cells generally house approximately 88 inmates who are guarded by one correctional officer. Inmates also move about freely on dormitory units. Dormitory units generally house approximately 112 inmates who are guarded by one correctional officer. The correctional officers stationed in the units with inmates are not armed with weapons.

Correctional officers are expected to maintain order in the units through mutual respect between the officer and the inmates and trying to establish some type of rapport with the inmates. A breakdown in the respect between the inmates and the correctional officers increases the likelihood of a correctional officer losing control of the unit. Correctional officers are trained to report anything that might disrupt the orderly running of a unit or the facility to a lieutenant.

The SHU is a segregated area at the MCC where inmates are housed for administrative or disciplinary reasons. Anyone entering the SHU was expected to sign in and out of a log. In 2005, there were approximately 20 inmates in the SHU at any given time. Correctional officers do not decide whether an inmate is placed or remains in the SHU; rather, that authority rests with the shift lieutenant. However, correctional officers report information to the shift lieutenant, and the lieutenant may rely on that information in placing an inmate in the SHU or determining whether the inmate should remain there.

Cells #3 and #4 in the SHU are used to house MCC inmates who are placed on suicide watch. SHU cell #4 is one of the designated cells for suicide watch and "dry cell" status. An inmate is placed on dry-cell status when he or she is suspected of ingesting contraband and the staff at the MCC wants to monitor the inmate's feces to recover the contraband. Placement on dry-cell status would involve turning off the toilet and plumbing in the inmate's cell. The warden was the approving authority for an inmate to be placed on dry-cell status. No inmate was placed on dry cell status in 2005.

At the MCC, a segregation review committee met on a weekly basis to review the status of each inmate's status in the SHU. In October 2005, these meetings occurred on Thursdays and would involve, among others, the warden, associate wardens, the captain, the SHU lieutenant, Psychology, and Unit Management. Following the weekly Segregation Review Committee meeting, those involved in the meeting would go the SHU and visit each cell to ...


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