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Verser v. Gooding

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

February 23, 2017

GLENN VERSER, Plaintiff,
DOUGLAS GOODING, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and presently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center, brought the present lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging claims for excessive force and retaliation that arose from his incarceration at Western Illinois Correctional Center and Lawrence Correctional Center. The matter comes before this Court for ruling on the Defendants' Partial Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 88). The motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         Summary judgment should be granted “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). All facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in his favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). The party moving for summary judgment must show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In order to be a “genuine” issue, there must be more than “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).


         During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Western Illinois Correctional Center (“Western”) and Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”). Defendant Funk was the transfer coordinator for the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), and Defendant Gooding was a correctional officer at Western. The remaining defendants were employed at Lawrence in the following capacities: Defendant Hodge was the Warden; Defendants Storm and Tredway were Assistant Wardens; Defendant Strubhart was the grievance officer; and Defendant Erickson was a correctional officer. Plaintiff alleges a First Amendment retaliation claim against each of these defendants.[1]

         On December 7, 2012, Plaintiff arrived at Western Illinois Correctional Center (“Western”) from another prison. On December 13, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”). Plaintiff testified in his deposition that this transfer was a “lateral” transfer, as opposed to a transfer to a more restrictive prison for disciplinary reasons. Pl.'s Dep. 27:2-7 (“Q. You indicated that both Western Illinois and Lawrence are Level 2 facilities. Is that the same as being a medium security facility? A. Yes. Q. So this was a lateral transfer? A. Exactly.”). According to documents Defendants provided, Western and Lawrence are both “minimum or medium security” prisons that house inmates in any grade classification with less than 20 years remaining until the inmate's release date. (Doc. 89-3 at 4).

         Records show that Plaintiff's 2012 transfer from Western was related to comments Plaintiff made about one of Western's female employees in 2007. Specifically, Plaintiff filed a grievance that read in relevant part: “For instance, [the employee] is an individual with a history of frequenting bars, getting drunk, meeting strangers, and later discovering that she is pregnant by the unknown.” (Doc. 89-3 at 8). Plaintiff's discipline for these comments included a transfer to Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”), a maximum security prison. Pl.'s Dep. 9:19-24; see Illinois Department of Corrections, All Facilities, available at: Pages/AllFacilities.aspx (last accessed Feb. 6, 2017). The records indicate that this employee still worked at Western in 2012 when Plaintiff returned. Accordingly, Plaintiff was transferred to Lawrence.

         Once at Lawrence, Plaintiff encountered issues with receiving his property. Plaintiff testified that a non-defendant prison guard confiscated several items, including a television that was later cracked and cassette tapes to which Plaintiff attached sentimental value. Pl.'s Dep. 22:7-23:24. Plaintiff testified that he cannot produce evidence that the guard was ordered by the Defendants to take these items. Id.

         Plaintiff's complaints to prison administrators about these items, and other perceived acts of retaliation, were so frequent that Plaintiff likened his actions to those of a stalker or a broken record. In response to those complaints, Defendant Hodge met with Plaintiff, but did not resolve the issues to Plaintiff's satisfaction. Instead, the results of this meeting form the crux of Plaintiff's claims: “I voiced all my concerns, the retaliation. He promised to look into them. My TV could have been saved. My tapes could have been saved, and he did absolutely nothing. It wasn't his action. It was his inaction.” Pl.'s Dep. 33:20-24.

         Defendant Tredway also listened to Plaintiff's concerns. Id. 52:18-20 (“[I]f I would approach her on the walk, she would hear what I had to say.”). When Plaintiff met with her, however, she did not entertain Plaintiff's complaints of retaliation, presumably the same complaints Plaintiff made to Defendant Hodge and Defendant Storm. Id. 51:10-16. Nonetheless, Plaintiff testified that he has no evidence that Defendant Tredway knew about Plaintiff's prior litigation. Id. 53:14-22. Plaintiff, however, testified that he discussed his prior litigation with Defendant Storm. Id. 49:9-11.

         According to Plaintiff, the inaction of prison officials was not limited to high level administrators. Defendant Strubhart, the grievance counselor, failed to resolve Plaintiff's grievances in a manner satisfactory to Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts that the responses were not “in conjunction with the administrative directives.” Id. 55:12-14.

         As an example, Plaintiff testified that Defendant Strubhart failed to investigate a grievance regarding the events that gave rise to Plaintiff's excessive force claims against Defendant Erickson. A copy of the grievance discloses that Defendant Strubhart, or Plaintiff's counselor, obtained a statement from Defendant Erickson, but later recommended denial of the grievance on the grounds that Plaintiff's claims could not be substantiated. (Doc. 89-4 at 21). Grievances in the record show that Defendant Strubhart inquired with the relevant individual or department within the prison each time Plaintiff filed a ...

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