November 3, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Illinois No. 3:12-cv-00841-SCW - Stephen C.
Williams, Magistrate Judge.
Bauer, Manion, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Hamilton, Circuit Judge.
Charles Murphy was an inmate in the Vandalia Correctional
Center in Illinois. On July 25, 2011, correctional officers
hit Murphy, fracturing part of his eye socket, and left him
in a cell without medical attention. Murphy sued under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and state-law theories. A jury awarded him
damages on some of those claims, including some state-law
claims, and the district court awarded attorney fees under 42
U.S.C. § 1988. Two of the defendants now appeal and
challenge two aspects of the judgment. They argue that
state-law sovereign immunity bars the state-law claims and
that the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that 25
percent of the damage award be used to pay the attorney fee
affirm on the sovereign immunity defense. The Illinois
doctrine of sovereign immunity does not apply to state-law
claims against a state official or employee who has violated
statutory or constitutional law. See Leetaru v. Board of
Trustees of University of Illinois, 32 N.E.3d 583 (Ill.
2015). Murphy alleged and ultimately proved such violations
here. On the attorney fee issue, however, we reverse. Under
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d), the attorney fee award must first
be satisfied from up to 25 percent of the damage award, and
the district court does not have discretion to reduce that
maximum percentage. We remand for entry of a modified
Factual and Procedural Background
recount the facts in the light reasonably most favorable to
the verdict, which defendants do not challenge on the merits.
On July 25, 2011, plaintiff Charles Murphy was a prisoner at
the Vandalia Correctional Center. His assigned seat at
mealtime that day had food and water on it. When he reported
the mess, Correctional Officer Robert Smith first told him to
clean it up himself and later told Murphy to leave the dining
area. A different officer handcuffed Murphy, and Officer
Smith escorted him to a segregation building. When they got
there, a third officer asked Murphy what unit he normally
stayed in, but Murphy ignored him. Officer Smith began moving
his finger in and out of Murphy's ear, while asking
Murphy if he was deaf and repeating the phrase "you
can't hear, you can't hear." While this was
happening, Lieutenant Gregory Fulk entered the building and
saw what was happening.
escorted by three officers, Murphy was taken further into the
segregation unit. Murphy did not struggle with the officers
as they walked, although he taunted Officer Smith, promising
what would happen the next time he "ain't got no
handcuffs on." Hearing that, Officer Smith hit Murphy in
the eye and then applied a choke hold with his arm around
Murphy's throat. Murphy lost consciousness. When he came
to, Lieutenant Fulk and Officer Smith were pushing him into a
cell. With his hands still cuffed behind his back, Murphy
fell face-first into the cell and hit his head on its metal
toilet. The officers took off his clothes and handcuffs and
left without having checked his condition.
or forty minutes later, a nurse came to see Murphy, who was
ultimately sent to a hospital. His orbital rim-part of his
eye socket-had been crushed and needed surgery. He had that
surgery but did not recover completely. As of January 2015,
his vision remained doubled and blurred.
2012, Murphy filed suit in the Southern District of Illinois.
After two rounds of complaint amendments and a partial grant
of summary judgment for defendants, the case was tried to a
jury The jury found for plaintiff Murphy on four claims
against two defendants-Lieutenant Fulk and Officer Smith, the
appellants here. The jury found Officer Smith liable on two
claims of state-law battery and one federal claim of
unconstitutional use of force under the Eighth Amendment. The
jury also found Lieutenant Fulk liable on a federal Eighth
Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to a serious
medical need. All told, the jury awarded $241, 001 in
compensatory and punitive damages against Officer Smith and
$168, 750 against Lieutenant Fulk. The district court reduced
the combined award to a total of $307, 733.82. That reduction
is not at issue in this appeal. The district court also
awarded attorney fees and ordered that 10 percent of the
damages awarded be put toward paying those fees. Officer
Smith and Lieutenant Fulk have appealed.
defendants argue first that state-law sovereign immunity bars
Murphy's state-law claims. The district court found, and
Murphy contends on appeal, that defendants waived their
state-law sovereign immunity defense. We find no waiver but
find that state-law sovereign immunity does not shield these
defendants from liability.