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Widmer v. Shehorn

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 20, 2015



STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Michael Widmer, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, for an alleged First Amendment retaliation claim while he was incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"). Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment filed on October 31, 2014. (Docs. 48). Plaintiff filed a response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on January 5, 2015. (Doc. 52). Plaintiff also requested oral argument, but having reviewed the filings of the parties, the Court has determined that no oral argument is needed. (Doc. 53). Plaintiff's request for oral argument is therefore DENIED. (Doc. 53). The Court has carefully considered the briefs and all of the evidence submitted by the parties, and for the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.


Plaintiff is a former inmate within the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). The events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Lawrence. From July 25, 2012 until September 12, 2012, Plaintiff went on a temporary court writ to Stateville. (Doc. 49-1, p. 6). During his time at Stateville, Plaintiff received a thirty day double-portion permit on September 7, 2012 and a thirty day low-bunk permit on September 11, 2012. (Doc. 49-5). On September 12, 2012, Plaintiff returned to Lawrence and was housed in the segregation unit. (Doc. 49-1, p. 6). When Plaintiff returned to Lawrence, Defendant, Correctional Officer Samuel Shehorn, worked in the segregation unit where Plaintiff was housed. (Doc. 49-2, p. 38).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant retaliated against him for filing grievances on two separate occasions. (Doc. 37, p. 6). The first alleged retaliation occurred on September 17, 2012 (Doc. 37 p. 4). Neither party has produced copies of any grievances Plaintiff filed against Defendant before the alleged September 17, 2012 retaliation. Additionally, Plaintiff did not state that he filed grievances against Defendant prior to September 17 in his original complaint. (Doc. 2. p. 7). The only evidence that Plaintiff filed grievances before the September 17, 2012 incident is Plaintiff's own testimony. (Doc. 49-1; p. 37). Plaintiff testified that he believed he filed a grievance against Defendant prior to the September 17, 2012 incident, but his testimony is based on the fact that he filed over a 100 grievances at Lawrence; he did not provide specifics on any grievances he filed against Defendant prior to September 17. (Doc. 49-1, p. 27). Defendant has no knowledge that Plaintiff filed any grievances against him prior to September 17, 2012. (Doc. 49-2, p. 18).

On that date, Defendant refused to honor his low-bunk permit that was issued at Stateville. (Doc. 37 p. 3-4). Defendant testified that his understanding was that he was not permitted to honor permits from other institutions, and that was standard operating procedure in segregation. (Doc. 49-2, p. 12). Defendant does not specifically recall this incident. (Doc. 49-2, p. 13). After Plaintiff reminded Defendant about his low-bunk permit, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant replied "I don't give a fuck what you have." (Doc. 37 p. 3-4.). Defendant denies cursing at inmates generally. (Doc. 49-2, p. 19). Shortly thereafter, Defendant called the crisis team after Plaintiff requested to speak with a crisis team member. (Doc. 49, p. 5) (Doc. 52, p. 14). When the crisis team member arrived, Plaintiff requested that he be allowed to speak to internal affairs since he wished to report a staff issue. (Doc. 49-1, p. 35). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant asked the crisis team member if they could place Plaintiff in a strip cell. (Doc. 37, p. 4). The crisis team member agreed because Plaintiff did not want to speak to her. (Doc. 49-1, p. 35). The crisis team member then gave the order to place Plaintiff in a strip cell. (Doc. 49-1, p. 35). Defendant testified that social workers, not guards, make the determination of whether to place inmates in strip cells. (Doc. 49-2, p.14). Plaintiff remained in the strip cell until September 21, 2012. (Doc. 37). Defendant testified that C wing crisis watch team monitors strip cells and that he would not interact with inmates in strip cells as an A wing officer. (Doc. 49-2, p. 15-16).

On September 22, 2012, Plaintiff filed two grievances against Defendant in regards to the events the occurred on September 17, 2012. (Doc. 49-3). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff for filing those grievances on October 1, 2012. (Doc. 37, p. 4). On that day, Defendant refused to honor Plaintiff's double-portion permit that was issued at Stateville. (Doc. 49, p. 4).

Defendant testified that if an inmate told him that he had a permit, that permit should be kept in the pod, in the middle of the segregation unit. (Doc. 49-2, p. 9). Defendant has submitted the affidavit of Major Sorenson, the Lieutenant who supervised the Segregation Unit in 2012, which corroborates this testimony about the proper procedure. According to Major Sorenson, a correctional officer will check the lieutenant's office to determine if the inmate does have a permit. (Doc. 49-6). There was also a board that reflected which inmates had which permits. (Doc. 49-2, p.

9). If the permit was not in the pod, Defendant's practice would be to then consult the relevant group, like health care. (Doc. 49-2, p. 9). Major Sorenson likewise corroborated that when the lieutenant's office does not have record of the permit, the correctional officer will contact the department responsible for issuing the permit. (Doc. 49-6).

Defendant, when shown Plaintiff's double-portion permit, testified that he would not have enforced that permit because it was not issued at Lawrence Correctional Center. (Doc. 49-2, p. 10-11). He also testified that the permit was posted outside of Plaintiff's cell door on his ID holder, which is not where special permits were generally posted. (Doc. 49-2, p. 12). Defendant wrote a disciplinary ticket that reflects that he contacted health care and was told that Plaintiff did not have a double portions permit and had not seen the doctor since he returned. (Doc. 49-2, p. 12). Defendant issued Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket for forgery after learning the Health Care Unit did not have record of Plaintiff's double-portion permit (Doc. 49-4). Defendant testified that his decision to issue the ticket was made in part because portions of the permit were written in different ink and he thought Plaintiff may have added things to the permit. (Doc. 49-2, p. 12). The ticket was later expunged. (Doc. 52-6).

At the time of his deposition, Defendant reported that his understanding remained that he was not to enforce permits from other institutions. (Doc. 49-2, p. 14).


1. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper when "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). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 255. The primary purpose of summary judgment is to identify and dispose of claims not supported by facts. Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 932 (7th Cir. 2001). The nonmovant must respond, with affidavits or otherwise, stating the ...

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