United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge
currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center
(“Stateville”), has brought this pro se
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His
claims involve events that took place while he was confined
at Menard and Pontiac Correctional Centers. He asserts that
he was subjected to retaliation, cruel and unusual
punishment, and denied due process of law when he was put in
disciplinary segregation for a year, followed by another 8
months in administrative segregation. Plaintiff is serving a
38-year sentence for murder. This case is now before the
Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
§ 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner
complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion
of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks
for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable
basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an
objective standard that refers to a claim that “no
reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.”
Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir.
2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross
“the line between possibility and plausibility.”
Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on
its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations
as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th
Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or
implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a
plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574,
581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not
accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a
cause of action or conclusory legal statements.”
Id. At the same time, however, the factual
allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally
construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751
(7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance
Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).
these standards, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims
are subject to dismissal pursuant to § 1915A.
Menard was on lockdown in April 2014, Plaintiff was
questioned by investigators about prison gang activity and
pressured to disclose names of inmates who were involved in
Security Threat Groups (“STG's”). The
investigator accused Plaintiff of holding a ranking position
in a gang. (Doc. 5, p. 9). Plaintiff denied any involvement
in an STG, and said he had no knowledge of others' gang
activity, so could not provide any information. On April 22,
2014, Carter wrote Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket (charging
him with gang or unauthorized organization activity),
allegedly in retaliation for Plaintiff's refusal to
divulge information on STG's. Id.
Plaintiff's attached documents regarding the disciplinary
charges state that confidential sources named him as an
officer of the Latin Kings. (Doc. 5-1, pp. 6-7).
April 24, 2014, Plaintiff appeared before the adjustment
committee (made up of Scott and Hart). Crediting three
confidential informants, they found Plaintiff guilty and
recommended punishment of 3 months in segregation, along with
the loss of certain privileges. (Doc. 5, p. 9; Doc. 5-1, pp.
9-10). This recommendation, however, was remanded to the
committee by Warden Butler. Plaintiff's ticket was
rewritten, and a rehearing was held on May 9, 2014, conducted
by Scott and Cowan.
9 hearing date fell outside the time limitations imposed by
the Illinois Administrative Code. At the direction of Butler,
Scott and Cowan increased Plaintiff's disciplinary
segregation term from 3 months to 1 year (the maximum
available punishment). (Doc. 5, pp. 10-11). Butler added the
further sanction of a disciplinary transfer. Plaintiff claims
that these actions violated the Illinois Administrative Code
provision that prohibits increasing an original disciplinary
sanction imposed by the adjustment committee. He also asserts
that the longer punishment was imposed in retaliation for his
refusal to provide information to the investigators.
Plaintiff filed a grievance over the disciplinary action, but
was transferred on May 28, 2014, to Pontiac before getting
served his segregation term in Pontiac, where Pfister was the
warden at that time. On June 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed another
grievance over the Menard officials' actions related to
his disciplinary case. After this, unnamed Pontiac officers
confiscated and destroyed Plaintiff's personal property,
increased his commissary restriction from 1 month to 2 years,
and lost/misplaced his legal documents. (Doc. 5, p. 12).
According to Plaintiff, these actions were taken to assist
Pfister in carrying out the Menard Administration's
“retaliation-agenda” against Plaintiff.
Id. Pfister further retaliated against Plaintiff by
denying his numerous requests for cutting his segregation
time, and shortening his C-grade and commissary restrictions,
despite Plaintiff's good behavior during his segregation
confinement. (Doc. 5, pp. 12-13).
October 20, 2014, Godinez (IDOC Director) and McCarty
(Administrative Review Board), in response to Plaintiff's
grievance(s), remanded the disciplinary matter back to Carter
at Menard for further substantiation of the charges. (Doc. 5,
p. 13). They disregarded the violations of the Illinois
Administrative Code's time limits and prohibition on
increasing a punishment upon rehearing.
November 11, 2014, Plaintiff received a copy of the rewritten
disciplinary ticket. After a postponement, the hearing on
this revised ticket was held at Pontiac on November 25, 2014,
before Holte and Salinas. (Doc. 5, pp. 14-15). Plaintiff
submitted a written statement, challenged the evidence, and
pointed out the Administrative Code violations. His request
to call Scott (Menard official) as a witness was denied.
Holte, Salinas, and Pfister found Plaintiff guilty again, and
reimposed the 1-year segregation term. Plaintiff claims this
action was further retaliation against him for filing
grievances against Menard and Pontiac officials. (Doc. 5, pp.
filed a grievance challenging the November 25, 2014 rehearing
and disciplinary sanctions. He served the remainder of the
1-year segregation term, as Pfister denied him any relief.
(Doc. 5, pp. 17-18).
April 27, 2015, Anderson (Administrative Review Board) and
Stolworthy (IDOC Director) issued a final order, agreeing
that the increase in Plaintiff's punishment from 3 months
to 1 year had been improper under the Administrative Code,
and reducing his punishment to the original 3-month duration.
(Doc. 5, p. 18). Plaintiff complains, however, that he
effectively got no relief, because he had already completed
serving the full year in segregation, and other complaints he
raised were not addressed (which he claims constituted
retaliation on the part of Anderson and Stolworthy).
Moreover, the disciplinary matter “paved the way”
for Plaintiff to be held in administrative detention for
another 8 months, under the supervision of Pfister, following
his release from punitive segregation. Plaintiff was released
from administrative detention on December 10, 2015. (Doc. 1,
argues that the 9 months he was required to serve in punitive
segregation before the retroactive reduction in his
punishment constituted an atypical and significant hardship.
(Doc. 5, pp. 20-24). In support of this claim, he cites the
privileges he lost after he was removed from Menard's
general population (job opportunities, vocational classes,
religious services, recreational opportunites, visitation
privileges, and movement outside the cell). In contrast, he
was confined to his cell in Pontiac's segregation unit
for 24 hours per day (with the exception of 4 hours per week
of recreation in an 8-by-15-foot cage), without access to the
telephone, commissary, contact visits, or other various
privileges. The limited food supply caused him to lose 50
pounds, and the noise level from nearby mentally ill inmates
limited his sleep to 2-3 hours per night. (Doc. 5, p. 21).
The segregation cells were infested with roaches and ants,
and at times Plaintiff was placed in cells where feces had
been “smeared in the cracks and crevices of the
walls.” (Doc. 5, p. 22).
describes the additional 8 months in administrative detention
as “restrictive in nature, ” without further
explanation. (Doc. 5, p. 22).
seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the 9 months of
excessive segregation confinement and the 8 months of
administrative detention, as well as for the retaliatory
actions of the Defendants. (Doc. 5, p. 25).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it
convenient to divide the pro se action into
the following counts. The parties and the Court will use
these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless
otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The
designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as
to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the
Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be
considered dismissed without prejudice.
Count 1: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Carter, Scott,
Butler, and Cowan, for deprivation of a liberty interest
without due process, for imposing a 1-year term of punitive
segregation on Plaintiff when he should have been required to
serve only 3 months;
Count 2: First Amendment retaliation claim against Carter for
issuing the April 22 disciplinary ticket, and against Butler
for increasing Plaintiff's punishment, because Plaintiff
refused to provide information about other prisoners'
Count 3: First Amendment retaliation claim against Pfister,
for denying Plaintiff's requests for reduction of his
punishment, lengthening Plaintiff's commissary
restriction, and causing Plaintiff's property to be lost
or destroyed, in furtherance of the
“retaliation-agenda” begun by Menard officials;
Count 4: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against
Godinez and McCarty, for failing to address all of
Plaintiff's complaints about violations of the
Administrative Code in the disciplinary action, and allowing
him to remain in segregation beyond the time he should have
Count 5: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Holte, Salinas,
and Pfister for deprivation of a liberty interest without due
process, for reimposing the 1-year segregation term after the
rehearing on Plaintiff's STG charges;
Count 6: First Amendment retaliation claim against Holte,
Salinas, and Pfister, for reimposing the 1-year segregation
term, because Plaintiff filed grievances against Menard and
Count 7: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against
Anderson and Stolworthy, for failing to reduce
Plaintiff's segregation punishment until he had fully
served the 1-year term, and for failing to consider or
respond to additional issues raised in Plaintiff's
Count 8: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against
Pfister, for holding Plaintiff in administrative detention
for 8 months following the end of his punitive segregation
Count 9: Eighth Amendment claim against Pfister, for housing
Plaintiff in cells infested with insects and contaminated
with feces, subjecting him to intolerable noise, and failing
to provide him with adequate nutrition during Plaintiff's
these counts shall be dismissed for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted. However, Plaintiff shall be
allowed the opportunity to submit an amended complaint
limited to the claim in Count 9, in order to correct the
deficiencies in his pleading.
of Count 1 - Deprivation of a Liberty Interest Without Due
Process - Menard Defendants
focuses this claim on the last 9 months he spent in
disciplinary segregation. As a result of Plaintiff's
grievance(s), it was ultimately determined that he should
have been required to serve only 3 months in segregation, but
by the time that order was issued, Plaintiff had finished
serving the entire year. In Plaintiff's case, the extra 9
months in segregation does not give rise to a Fourteenth
certain limited circumstances, an inmate punished with
segregation may be able to pursue a claim for deprivation of
a liberty interest without due process of law. See Marion
v. Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 697-98 (7th Cir.
2009). However, those circumstances are not present in the
instant case. First, the Complaint does not reveal any
unconstitutional denial of procedural due process in the
conduct of Plaintiff's disciplinary hearings over the
April 22, 2014, STG charge. See Wolff v. McDonnell,
418 U.S. 539, 563-69 (1974) (to satisfy due process concerns,
inmate must be given advance written notice of the charge,
the right to appear before the hearing panel, the right to
call witnesses if prison safety allows, and a written
statement of the reasons for the discipline imposed);
Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1402 (7th Cir. 1994)
(disciplinary decision must be supported by “some
evidence”); see also Scruggs v. Jordan, 485
F.3d 934, 941 (7th Cir. 2007) (“once the meager
threshold has been crossed our inquiry ends”).
Plaintiff was not denied any of the Wolff
protections either in the original hearing on April 24, or in
the rehearing on May 9. And despite Plaintiff's assertion
of innocence, the committee had evidence before it, in the
form of the statements of the confidential informants, to
support the finding that Plaintiff had engaged in
unauthorized gang activity. Although this evidence was
contested, it was nevertheless sufficient to impose
disciplinary sanctions on Plaintiff.
includes much argument pointing to violations of the
applicable Illinois Administrative Code provisions, both in
the timing of the May 9 rehearing and in the decision to
impose greater sanctions on him than he originally incurred.
Indeed, it appears that these deficiencies were the reason
why Anderson and Stolworthy ultimately ruled in
Plaintiff's favor and rescinded the additional 9 months
of segregation. (Doc. 5-1, p. 57). An administrative code
violation, however, does not translate into a constitutional
violation upon which a civil rights claim may rest. A federal
court does not enforce state law and regulations. Archie
v. City ofRacine, 847 F.2d 1211, 1217 (7th
Cir. 1988) (en banc), cert. denied,489 U.S. 1065
(1989); Pasiewic ...