United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
PHILIP G. REINHARD, District Judge.
For the reasons stated below, defendant Wendy Meyer's motion for summary judgment  is granted. The cause is dismissed in its entirety.
On December 23, 2009, plaintiff, Ellis Henderson, an inmate at the Dixon Correctional Center ("DCC"), filed a three-count complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his complaint, plaintiff originally named Wendy Meyer, the DCC mail room supervisor, Sherri Benton, a DCC grievance officer, and Roger Walker, the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, as defendants. After the court appointed counsel, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. In it, he alleged all three defendants were liable because they violated his First Amendment rights by preventing thirty-seven of his subscription publications to be delivered to him while he was incarcerated.
On March 13, 2013, defendants collectively moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See . Ultimately, the court granted the motion as to all defendants except for defendant Meyer. See . In the court's opinion, it determined that plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to suggest Meyer could be personally involved in plaintiff's alleged constitutional deprivation. See id.
The parties have completed discovery and Meyer has moved for summary judgment. Her motion is currently before the court.
On summary judgment, the court construes all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Schepers v. Commissioner, Indiana Dept. of Corrections, 691 F.3d 909, 913 (7th Cir. 2012). The court does not weigh evidence or determine the credibility of witness testimony. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). Instead, the court only grants summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). That said, Rule 56 "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that he paid for a number of publications which arrived in the mail at the DCC, but were never delivered to him. He claims he did not receive these publications because Meyer failed to properly distribute them. Plaintiff states he discovered some of his publications in the library and at the barbershop at the DCC. He contends a portion of these publications had his name and his correct Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") identification number on the front cover, but others had only his name and an incorrect IDOC number. Plaintiff believes defendant Meyer intentionally took his publications and "pass[ed] them around" the DCC because "she could." Pl.'s Dep. at 29; [84-1] at 9. These allegations form the basis of plaintiff's First Amendment claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  at 1-3.
Plaintiff now also seems to allege that he has been retaliated against for filing the instant suit. Pl.'s Dep. at 79-80; [84-1] at 21. At his deposition, plaintiff testified that his phone and mail privileges were cut off after he filed this case. See id. He also claimed that the mail room retaliated against him. Id. However, the amended complaint is void of any allegations which suggest plaintiff is asserting a retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See . Regardless, for the reasons more fully articulated below, the court finds plaintiff cannot sustain a retaliation claim under Section 1983 and all of his claims against Meyer fail.
"As a general rule, prisoners have a constitutionally-protected interest in their incoming and outgoing mail correspondence." Van den Bosch v. Raemisch, 658 F.3d 778, 785 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). Indeed, "the free-speech clause of the First Amendment applies to communications between an inmate and an outsider." Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 572 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Martin v. Brewer, 830 F.2d 76, 77 (7th Cir. 1987)). However, prison officials may impose restrictions on prisoner correspondence if the restrictions are "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Van den Bosch, 658 F.3d at 785 (citing Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987); Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 413 (1989)).
In the instant case, plaintiff claims that he is entitled to relief because defendant Meyer violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights by failing to deliver his mail. In her motion for summary judgment, Meyer argues plaintiff's conclusory allegations and self-serving deposition testimony are insufficient to withstand summary judgment. She also argues that summary judgment is appropriate because plaintiff has acknowledged that a portion of the publications he found throughout the DCC did not bear his correct IDOC number. Meyer contends the Seventh Circuit's decision in Horton v. O'Sullivan, 234 F.3d 1273, 2000 WL 1597793 (7th Cir. 2000) supports her position. The court agrees.
In Horton, (an unpublished opinion from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals), the Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court's decision to grant a prison official defendant summary judgment on a prisoner's Section 1983 claim. See id. There, the prisoner claimed that his First Amendment rights had been violated because individual officers at the prison where he was incarcerated had mishandled his mail. Id. at *2. However, to support his allegations, the prisoner only produced conclusory affidavits that his mail was mishandled. He failed to produce evidence or otherwise present "specific facts [to] show that there [was] a genuine issue for trial." Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). As a result, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment in favor of the defendant prison officials. Id.
The same is true in this case. Plaintiff has failed to produce evidence that Meyer has lost or otherwise mishandled his mail. Instead, the only support plaintiff has provided is his deposition testimony. At his deposition, plaintiff testified that the reason he believed Meyer was diverting his mail was because "she could." Pl.'s Dep. at 73-74; [84-1] at 20.
Simply asserting that Meyer diverted plaintiff's mail because she could is insufficient to withstand summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). It is well established that to survive summary judgment, a plaintiff cannot merely "rest on his allegations; [and instead] must come forward with specific facts that would support a jury's verdict in his favor." Kaufman v. Schneiter, 524 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1110 (W.D. Wis. 2007) (citing Van ...