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Willis v. Ross

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 31, 2017

BENNY L. WILLIS, Plaintiff,


          Joan H. Lefkow, U.S. District Judge

         Benny L. Willis filed suit against Kenneth Ross, Rick Bard, Alan S. Hahn, Clarence Dumas, Jr., and Michelle Littlejohn in March 2012, alleging various violations of his federal constitutional rights secured by 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Willis's Third Amended Complaint alleges (1) violation of his due process rights under the United States Constitution resulting from the failure of Ross, Bard, Hahn, and Dumas to ensure he received a prompt preliminary parole revocation hearing; (2) violation of his due process rights under the Illinois Constitution and his Illinois statutory right to such a hearing resulting from the same conduct; and (3) violation of his due process rights under the federal Constitution resulting from Littlejohn's negligence in miscalculating his sentence. Defendants move to dismiss all three claims for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and to dismiss the claim against Littlejohn for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is granted with prejudice as to counts I and II, and with leave for Willis to file a Fourth Amended Complaint as to count III.


         On August 23, 2007, while on parole for an unrelated conviction, Willis[2] was arrested by local police in University Park, Illinois, and taken to the Will County Jail. Willis was charged with aggravated robbery.[3] The day following the arrest, Bard, an executive designee with IDOC, and Hahn, an IDOC warrant officer, signed a warrant directing that Willis be taken into custody for delivery to IDOC for having violated the conditions of his parole. Willis denies that he violated parole but, because of the warrant, he was not permitted to post bail for the aggravated robbery charge, an otherwise bailable offense under Illinois law. (Dkt. 146 at 3.) Bard, Hahn, Ross (also an IDOC warrant officer), and Dumas (Willis's parole officer) failed to provide Willis a preliminary parole revocation hearing. As a result, Willis remained in the Will County Jail for 29 months. On January 15, 2010, Willis pleaded guilty to a charge of committing aggravated robbery on August 14, 2007. He received a sentence of six years of imprisonment, with credit for 877 days of time served, and his parole was officially revoked that same day.

         In March 2010, Littlejohn, an employee of the Illinois Parole Review Board (PRB), negligently miscalculated Willis's release date by adding approximately one year to the calculation, resulting in a release date of April 19, 2011, instead of August 21, 2010. This alleged error resulted in Willis's remaining incarcerated nearly eight months beyond his proper release date.


         I. Failure to State a Claim

         Defendants' motion to dismiss counts I and II is treated according to the well-established principles to be applied when assessing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (holding that although a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitle[ment] to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do; also, factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true). In making this determination, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true the well-pleaded allegations, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

         A. Due Process Under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count I)

         Willis claims that Ross, Bard, Hahn, and Dumas denied him procedural due process when they failed to provide a preliminary parole revocation hearing as mandated by Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 92 S.Ct. 2593, 33 L.Ed.2d 484 (1972). Defendants respond that, because a parole violator warrant was issued but not executed, his due process right to a preliminary hearing was not triggered.

         In Morrissey, the Supreme Court held that a State may not revoke parole without affording the defendant due process. Id. at 481 (citing Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 168, 71 S.Ct. 624, 95 L.Ed. 817 (1951)). The Court imposed due process requirements at two stages of the typical process of parole revocation: first, at the time of arrest and detention of the parolee; second, when parole is formally revoked. Morrissey, at 485- 87. At the first stage (which is at issue here), “some minimal inquiry [must] be conducted at or reasonably near the place of the alleged parole violation or arrest and as promptly convenient after arrest” “to determine whether there is probable cause or reasonable ground to believe that the arrested parolee has committed acts that would constitute a violation of parole conditions.” Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 485.[4] It is at this first stage that Wills complains that he was denied due process.

         Filling in the blanks in the complaint, the court infers for purposes of this decision that soon after Willis was arrested for the aggravated robbery, police determined that he was on parole and notified IDOC, and the defendant parole authorities caused issuance of a warrant for arrest. But because Willis was already in custody for the robbery charge, they held onto the warrant while that charge awaited disposition. Since Willis alleges that he was denied bail because of the warrant, the fact of his being a parolee must have been made known to the judge who considered his request for bail.

         Willis contends that defendants violated his due process rights by issuing the warrant because the issuance, regardless of whether it was executed, made it impossible for him to post bail. He alleges that he had a “well-established constitutional right to a prompt preliminary parole revocation hearing” and it was the duty of the defendants to provide it. Willis's theory suggests that, if he had been provided the hearing, there would have been a finding of no probable cause for the parole violation warrant; and he would have been admitted to bail. The issue, then, is whether Willis was entitled to a preliminary hearing on the asserted parole violation reasonably close to the time of the arrest, whether or not the warrant was executed.

         Defendants cite Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 97 S.Ct. 274, 50 L.Ed.2d 236 (1976) and Doyle v. Elsea, 658 F.2d 512, 515-16 (7th Cir. 1981), in support of their argument that a warrant must be executed before a right to a preliminary parole revocation hearing is triggered. In Moody, a federal parolee was convicted of new crimes and returned to prison. Thereafter, the United States Board of Parole issued a parole violator warrant and lodged it as a detainer with prison officials. As a detainer, the parole revocation determination was placed on hold until all the sentences had been served. 429 U.S. at 80 n.2. The Board refused Moody's early request that the warrant be executed immediately so he could concurrently serve the recent sentence, the original sentence, and any sentence imposed for a parole violation. Id. at 81, 85. Affirming the denial of a writ of habeas corpus, the ...

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