United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.
Charles Hill is an inmate at Menard Correctional Center
(“Menard”), a maximum security facility in the
Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”)
prison system. In September 2012, a Menard official issued
Hill a disciplinary report for possessing a note (referred to
as a “kite” in prison parlance) that discussed
prison “security threat group” (gang) activity.
On October 1, 2012, the Menard Adjustment Committee held a
hearing on Hill's disciplinary charge. Hill was found
guilty, and he received one year in disciplinary segregation
9, 2014, Hill filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 asserting that various officials at Menard violated his
due process rights when he was subjected to the disciplinary
action. Hill initially filed suit pro se, but
counsel was later recruited to represent him. On July 29,
2016, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs.
66). On August 1, 2016, Hill filed a Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (Doc. 73). Hill also filed a Motion for Oral
Argument (Doc. 83). All motions have been fully briefed.
reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 66), denies Hill's
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 73), and denies
Hill's Motion for Oral Argument (Doc. 83).
has been in IDOC custody since 2007 (Doc. 67-1, pp. 2-3). On
September 25, 2012, Hill and three other inmate workers were
picking up laundry in the Menard “Front Street”
area (Doc. 67-1, p. 3). While they were working, a Menard
official named Lt. Hughes conducted a shakedown of the west
house/front street workers housing unit (Doc. 67-1, p. 3;
Doc. 73, p. 3). In conducting the shakedown, Lt. Hughes
discovered and confiscated a note that was in Hill's
pocket (Doc. 67-1, p. 4). Hill testified at his deposition
that he had never actually read the contents of the note, but
that he was just passing it along for another inmate in his
gallery (Id). Hill testified that inmate workers
frequently pass notes between other prisoners (Id).
Hill admitted, however, that passing notes was prohibited
under prison rules (Id).
Joshua Schoenbeck, an internal affairs officer, investigated
the incident, which included reviewing the letter,
interviewing Hill, and interviewing Juan Blanco, another
inmate at Menard who was housed at the time in the cell
corresponding to the number written on the letter (Doc. 73,
p. 4; Doc. 74).
officials later determined that the note referenced
“security threat group” (gang) activity (Doc.
67-1, p. 4). On September 27, 2012, Hill was issued a
disciplinary report for possessing the note (Doc. 67-2, p.
The disciplinary report stated that “Offender Hill is a
known member of the Maniac Latin Disciples (MLD), known
affiliates of the Latin Folk Family.” (Id.).
The report goes on to mention that the confiscated letter
“made references to ‘membership' of the Latin
Folk Family and the ‘I' staff which is the
leadership of the Latin Folks at the Institutional level here
at Menard.” (Id.).
report was signed by Defendant Schoenbeck, shift supervisor
Major Kees, and reviewing officer D. Lyorla (Id.).
At the bottom of the report there is also a signature line
for the “Hearing Investigator.” (Id.).
When the disciplinary report was first provided to Hill (in
the form of a carbon copy), the hearing investigator line was
blank (Id.). However, sometime after the carbon copy
was removed from the original, Defendant Rebecca Cowan placed
her signature on the original disciplinary report on the
hearing investigator line (Doc. 1, p. 14). Because the carbon
copy and original disciplinary report were no longer
attached, Defendant Cowan's signature was, of course, not
on the carbon copy.
October 1, 2012, a disciplinary hearing took place before the
Adjustment Committee. The Adjustment Committee was comprised
of Menard officials Defendant Timothy Veath and Anthony Wells
(Doc. 1, p. 15). Hill told the members of the Adjustment
Committee that he did not write the confiscated note, he had
never read the note, and he was merely passing it along for
someone else (Doc. 67-1, p. 5). One of the members of the
Adjustment Committee then responded, “Tell us where it
came from or where you were the note (Doc. 1, p. 15). During
the hearing, Hill was not given an opportunity to read the
note (Doc. 67-1, p. 4). Hill was allowed to see the note
during his deposition for this case, however, which occurred
years later (on July 27, 2015) (Id.). Hill testified
at his deposition that this was the first time that he had
actually read the note (Id.).
Veath (now retired from Menard) testified at his deposition
that inmates were not typically allowed to review confiscated
gang-related documents at disciplinary hearings due to
security concerns (Doc. 67-10, p. 7). Defendant Veath also
testified that, when disciplinary hearings involved
gang-related matters, he generally would rely on the
investigations conducted by the Internal Affairs office
(Id.). Defendant Veath stated that he did not
specifically remember Hill's Adjustment Committee
disciplinary hearing, but he indicated that he would have
likely reached a ruling without having read the confiscated
the hearing, the Adjustment Committee found Hill guilty of
“Gang or Unauthorized Organization Activity”
(Doc. 67-3, p. 1). The Adjustment Committee recommended that
Hill be punished with one year of “C Grade, ” one
year of disciplinary segregation, a one year commissary
restriction, and a six-month restriction on contact visits
(Id.). Defendant Michael Atchison, the warden of
Menard at that time, approved the disciplinary
recommendation, and Hill spent the next twelve months in
after arriving in the segregation unit, Hill filed a
grievance protesting the disciplinary report and hearing
(Doc. 1, p. 16). When Hill initially received the carbon copy
of the disciplinary report, there was no signature on the
“hearing investigator” line. Hill argued in his
grievance that the lack of a signature reflects that the
disciplinary charge was not properly investigated
(Id.). Hill also argued in his grievance that he
should have been afforded an opportunity to read the letter
during his disciplinary hearing. On January 30, 2013, Warden
Harrington, who became the warden of Menard after Defendant
Atchison, denied Hill's grievance (Doc. 1, p. 19).
February 13, 2013, Hill appealed the denial to the IDOC
Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) in
Springfield (Doc. 1, p. 17). On January 15, 2014, almost one
year later, the ARB issued a decision to expunge the
disciplinary report (Id.). The ARB noted that
Hill's disciplinary report failed to comply with IDOC
rules, presumably due to the lack of the hearing
investigator's signature (Id.). At this point,
Hill had already served the full twelve months in
segregation, and so the expungement had little effect.
9, 2014, approximately six months after receiving the ARB
expungement letter, Hill filed this lawsuit. Hill asserts in
his complaint that Defendants Atchison, Schoenbeck, Veath,
and Cowen mishandled his disciplinary proceedings, thereby
violating his due process rights. On August 8, 2014, District
Judge J. Phil Gilbert screened Hill's complaint pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Judge Gilbert determined in the
screening order that Hill asserted a colorable denial of due
process claim against all four defendants. On September 14,
2015, Magistrate Judge Philip M. Frazier (who has ...