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Webb v. Godinez

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

June 20, 2017

JESSE WEBB, Plaintiff,
SALVADOR GODINEZ, in his individual and official capacities; JOHN BALDWIN, in his official capacity; ADAM MONREAL, in his individual and official capacities; CRAIG FINDLEY, in his official capacity; WILLIAM BECKETT, in his individual capacity; and DAVID BLACKBURN, in his individual capacity, [1] Defendants.


          Robert W. Gettleman United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jesse Webb filed an amended complaint against defendants alleging that his due process and Eighth Amendment rights were violated, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983), when he was not appointed counsel for his parole[2] revocation hearing, and was ultimately detained rather than released. Defendants have moved to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety under Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons described below, defendants' motion is granted.


         Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges three violations of Section 1983, all stemming from plaintiff's parole revocation hearing: failure to appoint counsel for the hearing (Count I); incarceration beyond when plaintiff was entitled to be released (Count II); and denial of due process during the revocation process (Count III). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages in relation to Counts I through III. Plaintiff also seeks a declaratory judgment that, “if indigent, he be assigned counsel in any future parole revocation hearing where he challenges the asserted bases for parole revocation” (Count IV). According to plaintiff, he was not advised of his right to an attorney and no inquiry was made as to his need for an attorney prior to his parole revocation hearing. Plaintiff alleges that his parole was revoked as a result of his inability to assert a proper defense during that hearing. Plaintiff ultimately blames the policies of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (“PRB”) for his predicament, which is suffered by many registered sex offenders, and has been coined “Violating at the Door” or the “Turnaround Practice.”

         Plaintiff was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and taken to Cook County Jail on December 23, 2013. Unable to pay his bond, plaintiff remained there leading up to his trial and until he was convicted on October 8, 2014. Plaintiff was sentenced to one year of incarceration and was given credit for the 290 days he had served in Cook County. Plaintiff was also eligible for one day of credit for each day served, and he expected to be released on parole shortly after being transferred to Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”). Plaintiff's expectation was correct: he was paroled upon arrival at Stateville on October 10, 2014. Rather than being released, however, plaintiff was given a “Parole Violation Report” on October 15, 2014.[4] The report informed plaintiff that he had violated his parole the very day that it was granted because he lacked suitable housing, that is, housing that meets the many requirements that sex offenders must fulfill.[5] This, plaintiff alleges, was the result of a joint internal policy of the DOC and the PRB, the Turnaround Practice, [6] which is aimed at ensuring that inmates (often indigent sex offenders) who have earned the right to be released instead spend their term of parole incarcerated.

         Plaintiff further alleges that he had secured suitable housing and immediately contested the violation report, but could not effectively convey this information at his parole revocation hearing because he was not appointed counsel and has limited formal education. According to plaintiff he was not appointed counsel due to another joint policy of the DOC and the PRB that denied counsel to indigent parolees facing revocation, but permitted retained counsel to appear at revocation hearings on behalf of more affluent parolees. Plaintiff's parole was ultimately revoked and he spent an additional year (his parole term) at Stateville without having spent one day released on parole. Plaintiff holds defendants accountable for his additional year of incarceration. Godinez is the former Director of the DOC and Baldwin currently fills that role. Adam Monreal is the former Chairman, and Findley the current Chairman, of the PRB. Beckett and Blackburn are parole agents for the DOC.


         I. Legal Standard

         A motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Though short and plain, the pleading must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds on which the claim rests. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising the possibility above the “speculative level.” Id.

         This standard demands that a complaint contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim that is plausible on its face and allege more than legal conclusions or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court accepts the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Sprint Spectrum L.P. v. City of Carmel, Indiana, 361 F.3d 998, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004).

         II. Analysis

         Defendants argue that plaintiff's claims should be dismissed for the following reasons: (1) defendants are immune from official capacity claims under the Eleventh Amendment; (2) defendants are entitled to absolute immunity with regard to the individual capacity claims; (3) if defendants are not immune, plaintiff's allegation that defendants refused to appoint counsel for plaintiff's parole revocation hearing fails to state a plausible constitutional violation; and (4) defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.[7] Defendants present an additional argument in their reply brief: that plaintiff's request for declaratory judgment was mooted by a settlement reached on January 13, 2017 in Morales v. Findley, 13-CV-7572 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 22, 2013), and, because plaintiff lacks a request for prospective relief, defendants are immune from official capacity claims under the Eleventh Amendment. The court will address this last argument first.

         Morales was a class action lawsuit brought under F. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2). The court certified the following class: “all people who, while on parole/Mandatory Supervised Release (‘MSR'), are supervised by the IDOC and who now or in the future will be subject to parole revocation proceedings conducted by the IDOC and the PRB.” Order at 2, Morales, No. 13-CV-7572, Doc. 136. The claims in Morales were nearly identical to those in the instant case: that the DOC and the PRB systematically failed to screen parolees facing revocation to determine whether they were eligible to receive appointed counsel, and failed to appoint counsel to those who qualified. Morales also challenged the process through which parole revocation hearings were held on due process grounds. Id. The parties in Morales settled after engaging in extensive discovery and agreed to the implementation of a number of measures to safeguard the due process rights of parolees facing revocation procedures. Relevant to the instant case, the court approved the following injunctive relief:

If a parolee cannot afford to hire an attorney, and has a timely and colorable claim that he or she did not commit the alleged parole violation, PRB shall appoint counsel, upon request and at no expense to the ...

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