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Neal v. Veath

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 27, 2017

CHRISTOPHER NEAL, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY VEATH, JASON N. HART, and REBECCA COWEN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS United States Magistrate Judge.

         Introduction

         Acting pro se, incarcerated inmate Christopher Neal filed the present lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), alleges that the Menard officials named as defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when he was sentenced to six months of disciplinary segregation after a fight in the Menard lunchroom. He alleges that, unbeknownst to him until after the sentence, an additional offense was added to his disciplinary ticket. This matter is now before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34). For the reasons articulated below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34) is DENIED.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary judgment motions. The rule states that summary judgment is appropriate only if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Archdiocese of Milwaukee v. Doe, 743 F.3d 1101, 1105 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating - based on the pleadings, affidavits and/or information obtained via discovery - the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact remains “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). Accord Bunn v. Khoury Enterpr. Inc., 753 F.3d 676 (7th Cir. 2014).

         In assessing a summary judgment motion, the district court views the facts in the light most favorable to, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989, 994 (7th Cir. 2012); Righi v. SMC Corp. , 632 F.3d 404, 408 (7th Cir. 2011); Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011). As the Seventh Circuit has explained, as required by Rule 56(a), “we set forth the facts by examining the evidence in the light reasonably most favorable to the non-moving party, giving [him] the benefit of reasonable, favorable inferences and resolving conflicts in the evidence in [his] favor.” Spaine v. Community Contacts, Inc., 756 F.3d 542 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The events leading to this lawsuit began in June 2009. From May 23 to June 19 of that year Plaintiff was in segregation due to an investigation relating to the healthcare unit at Menard. (Doc. 35-1, p. 6). After being released from segregation, Plaintiff made his way to the healthcare unit where he was an inmate worker. (Id.). Before he could arrive there, however, he was stopped by Defendant Timothy Veath, who was a lieutenant and supervisor of the Menard healthcare unit. (Id. at 4, 6). Veath would not allow Plaintiff to return to work in the healthcare unit, and told Plaintiff that he was responsible for sending Plaintiff to segregation. (Id. at 7; Doc. 41, p. 4). Veath then sent Plaintiff to the North 1 shower, and a few days later Plaintiff was transferred to Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”). (Doc. 35-1, p. 7). After his encounter with Defendant Veath, and prior to the transfer to Stateville, Plaintiff filed two grievances: one for Veath's actions in preventing him from returning to work, and the other for the investigation that placed Plaintiff in segregation in the first place. (Id.). Plaintiff filed the grievance in the ordinary course by placing the grievances in the grievance box on his way to chow. (Id. at 8). He was sent to Stateville only a few days later, and he never received responses or heard anything more regarding the two grievances. (Id.).

         Plaintiff returned to Menard in January of 2013. (Id.). On October 17, 2013, Plaintiff had an altercation with another inmate in the chow hall that resulted in a warning shot being fired by a guard. (Id. at 10). As a result of the fight, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary ticket. (Id.). The ticket given to Plaintiff was prepared by a C/O Anthony and charged Plaintiff with “301-Fighting”. (Id. at 9, 22). On October 23, 2013, Plaintiff was brought before the Menard adjustment committee for a hearing on his charges. (Id. at 11). Present at the hearing were Lt. Veath, Jason Hart, and Rebecca Cowan. (Id.) While Plaintiff “assumed” that all three of these individuals were on the adjustment committee, the committee's Final Summary Report indicates that only Veath and Hart were members. (Id. at 12, 24).

         When Plaintiff entered the room where the committee had convened, Lt. Veath said, “Mr. Neal, you're back with us, huh? What are you here for?” (Id. at 12).

         Defendant Cowan then indicated that she was looking for his ticket, upon which Veath, presumably after looking at the ticket, asked, “Oh, you had a fight?” (Id.).

         Plaintiff then said, “Veath, you ain't even got to go through that, man. I plead guilty, man.” (Id.). He continued, “It's nothing, man. You ain't got to read off of nothing.” (Id.). Plaintiff made this statement because, from the ticket he had been given, he already knew with what he had been charged, and because “Veath was not trying to hear anything.” (Id; Doc. 41, p. 1). Additionally, according to Plaintiff, Defendant Cowan stated, “All he's got is a fighting ticket.” (Doc. 35-1, p. 12).

         Defendant Veath then told Plaintiff to stop fighting in the chow hall, and Plaintiff apologized and left. (Id.). At no point during the hearing did anyone read the ticket to Plaintiff. (Id.). The encounter at the Adjustment Committee hearing was the first time that Plaintiff had seen or interacted with Defendant Veath since Plaintiff's return to Menard. (Id. at 8).

         Plaintiff was placed in segregation, but was not told the specific results of the hearing. (Id. at 13). He assumed that he would be in segregation for thirty days, but later, after asking an officer to check what day he was to be released, he found out that he had been sentenced to six months in segregation. (Id.). While the ticket that was provided to Plaintiff before the adjustment committee hearing indicates that he was charged with only “301-Fighting”, the summary report from the committee indicates that Plaintiff was charged with and pled guilty to “Fighting” and “Dangerous Disturbances.” (Id. at 24). The discipline recommended by the committee, and later finalized, ...


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