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Wheeler v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 26, 2016




         Plaintiff Anthony Wheeler is a former inmate with the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). He filed this pro se lawsuit on September 18, 2013, asserting constitutional claims and related state law tort claims arising out of his 28-day confinement at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) (Doc. 1). Judge J. Phil Gilbert screened Wheeler's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and permitted Wheeler to proceed on the following claims:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against all Defendants for unconstitutional conditions of confinement;
Count 2: Equal Protection claim against Defendant Godinez for implementing a policy that resulted in the confiscation of Plaintiff's fan because he was transferred on a court writ, where other inmates housed in the segregation wing were allowed to have fans;
Count 3: State law negligence claim against all Defendants;
Count 4: State law claim for intentional infliction of mental and emotional injury against all Defendants;
Count 5: State law claim for negligent supervision or training resulting in injury, against Defendants Godinez, Atchison, Richard Harrington, and Butler.

         Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on July 10, 2015 (Doc. 118). Wheeler filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 121), to which Defendant filed a reply (Doc. 122). Before the motion was ruled on, this case was recently reassigned from Judge Gilbert and Magistrate Judge Philip Frazier to the undersigned and Magistrate Judge Reona Daly (Docs. 124, 129).

         For the reasons explained below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.


         Following convictions for armed robbery and aggravated robbery, Plaintiff Anthony Wheeler entered IDOC custody in early 2003.[1] Wheeler was transferred through several different IDOC prisons before arriving at Pinckneyville Correctional Center in November 2005 (“Pinckneyville”) (Doc. 119-1, p. 5). After almost six years at Pinckneyville, Wheeler was transferred in June 2011 to Danville Correctional Center (“Danville”) (Id.). Except for temporary transfers, Wheeler stayed at Danville through at least May 2015 (Id.). He was then released from IDOC custody and placed on mandatory supervised release (parole) on June 17, 2016.[2]

         The incidents that give rise to this litigation occurred when Wheeler was temporarily transferred from Danville to Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) on a court writ from August 29, 2012, to September 26, 2012 (Doc. 119-1, pp. 5, 6). Wheeler was the plaintiff in another civil rights lawsuit that required him to be present at this district's courthouse in East St. Louis, Illinois (Id.). See Wheeler v. Merchant, Case No. 3:09-cv-00114-SCW (S.D. Ill.); Wheeler v. Wexford Health Source Inc., Case No. 3:11-cv-00839-MJR-SCW (S.D. Ill.).

         Wheeler arrived at Menard via an IDOC prisoner transport bus on the evening of August 29, 2012 (Doc. 119-1, p. 6). After getting off the bus, Wheeler and the other recent arrivals were escorted to the Menard prison chapel (Id.). The inmates were separated into groups and strip searched by teams of correctional officers (Doc. 119-1, p. 7). Wheeler stated at his deposition that there were extra correctional officers present (about ten to twenty in all) because Menard was on lockdown at the time (Doc. 119-1, p. 6). Defendant Sergeant Nathaniel Birkner oversaw the prisoner intake process in the chapel (Id.). After Wheeler was strip searched, Sergeant Birkner questioned Wheeler as to why he had been transferred (Doc. 119-1, p. 8). Wheeler responded that he was at Menard on a court writ so that he could be present at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis (Id.). After the encounter in the chapel, Sergeant Birkner and Wheeler had no further interactions with each other (Doc. 119-1, p. 14).

         Following the initial intake and strip search, Correctional Officer Phillip Shields escorted Wheeler from the chapel to his newly assigned cell: number 742 in the “North 2 House” (Doc. 119-1, pp. 8, 9). It was a one-man cell in a segregation unit (Doc. 119-1, p. 17). The front of his cell consisted of open bars, and across from his gallery there was a wall with windows (Id.). Because he was transferred from Danville (a medium security prison) to a segregation unit at Menard (a ...

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