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LaBoy v. Clements

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

July 10, 2017

HECTOR LABOY (#B-63282), Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER CLEMENTS, et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE:

         Plaintiff Hector LaBoy, an Illinois state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. LaBoy claims that Defendants, correctional officers at the Stateville Correctional Center, violated LaBoy's constitutional rights by harassing and retaliating against him for his grievances and for refusing to cooperate in internal affairs investigations. This matter is before the Court for ruling on Defendants' motion for summary judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion and dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         “Under the Local Rules of the Northern District of Illinois, a party filing a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 must serve and file ‘a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Judson Atkinson Candies, Inc. v. Latini-Hohberger Dhimantec, 529 F.3d 371, 382 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); Fleming v. Illinois Dep't of Corr., No. 16 CV 50074, 2017 WL 1833207, at *1 (N.D. Ill. May 8, 2017). The opposing party must then “file ‘a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.'” Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)); Fabiyi v. McDonald's Corp., No. 11 CV 8085, 2014 WL 985415, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2014), aff'd 595 F. App'x 621 (7th Cir. 2014)). The opposing party may also present a separate statement of additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Consistent with the Local Rules, Defendants filed a Statement of Material Facts together with their motion for summary judgment. (See R. 40, Defts. Stmt. of Facts.) Each substantive assertion of fact in Defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement is supported by evidentiary material in the record. Also in accordance with the Local Rules, Defendants filed and served on LaBoy a Local Rule 56.2 Notice, which explained in detail the requirements of Local Rule 56.1. (R. 44, Defendants' “Notice Pursuant to Local Rule 56.2” / “Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment.”)

         Despite Defendants' admonitions, LaBoy's response to their Statement of Facts is deficient in multiple respects. First, many of LaBoy's responses are devoid of citations to the evidence (see, e.g., Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' L.R. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 5-1), while others make only general reference to his exhibits. (Id., ¶ 6-2) (citing, generally, “Exhibits A through E.”) But as noted above, “[t]he non-moving party must file a response to the moving party's statement, and, in the case of any disagreement, cite ‘specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.'” Kelley v. Hardy, No. 14 CV 1936, 2016 WL 3752970, at *1 (N.D. Ill. July 14, 2016) (citing Petty v. City of Chicago, 754 F.3d 416, 420 (7th Cir. 2014)); see also L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B) (N.D. Ill.)

         Furthermore, legal arguments, suppositions, and conclusions of law are not “facts.” See Judson Atkinson, 529 F.3d at 382 n.2 (“It is inappropriate to make legal arguments in a Rule 56.1 statement of facts.”). Nor is the “response to a statement of facts ... the place for purely argumentative denials, and courts are not required to ‘wade through improper denials and legal arguments in search of a genuinely disputed fact.'” Almy v. Kickert Sch. Bus Line, No. 08 CV 2902, 2013 WL 80367, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan 7, 2013) (internal citation omitted) (quoting Bordelon v. Chi. Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000)).

         In addition, LaBoy sometimes adds information that he should have set forth in a separate statement of additional facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(c) See, e.g., McGuire v. United Parcel Serv., 152 F.3d 673, 675 (7th Cir. 1998); De v. City of Chicago, 912 F.Supp.2d 709, 714-15 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (collecting cases). “Under settled law, facts asserted in a [summary judgment response] but not presented in a Local Rule 56.1 statement are disregarded in resolving a summary judgment motion.” Beard v. Don McCue Chevrolet, Inc., No. 09 CV 4218, 2012 WL 2930121, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 18, 2012); see also Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 643-44 (affirming the district court's refusal to consider additional facts set forth in the non-movant's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response).

         LaBoy, a relatively experienced federal litigator, has taken at least one of his multiple prior lawsuits to summary judgment. See LaBoy v. Ghosh, No. 11 CV 3950, 2013 WL 182815, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 17, 2013). Regardless, a plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with these rules. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993); cf. Morrow v. Donahoe, 564 F. App'x 859, 860 (7th Cir. 2014) (unpublished opinion) (citations omitted); Boyce v. Martella, No. 13 CV 6526, 2014 WL 5766112, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 4, 2014) (“there is no reason to excuse [plaintiff] from complying with Local Rules 56.1 and 56.2, which govern the format of motions for summary judgment and the notice that pro se litigants must receive when an opposing party moves for summary judgment.”). Furthermore, the Court granted Plaintiff almost four months to respond to Defendants' summary judgment motion.

         A district court is entitled to decide a motion for summary judgment based on the factual record outlined in the Local Rule 56.1 statements. Perez v. Thorntons, Inc., 731 F.3d 699, 712 (7th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted); see also Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632 (“Because of the important function local rules like Rule 56.1 serve in organizing the evidence and identifying disputed facts, we have consistently upheld the district court's discretion to require strict compliance with those rules.”) (citations omitted). As LaBoy has essentially failed to controvert Defendants' facts, the Court may deem those facts admitted for summary judgment purposes. See, e.g., Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003).

         With the above standards in mind, the Court has incorporated LaBoy's factual assertions to the extent that he could properly testify about the matters asserted, as long as those statements would be admissible at trial pursuant to the rules and have bearing on the Court's analysis. See Fed. R. Evid. 602 (testimony must be based on personal knowledge); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4) (affidavits or declarations in support of or opposition to a motion must be based on personal knowledge, and must set out facts that would be admissible in evidence). For the sake of simplicity, the Court will refer to Defendants' Statement of Facts rather than the evidence in the record where LaBoy does not contest those factual assertions. The Court will cite the actual evidence where LaBoy arguably disagrees with, or attempts to clarify, Defendants' representations.

         II. Relevant Facts

         Plaintiff Hector LaBoy is an Illinois state prisoner. (Dkt. 43, Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Uncontested Facts (“Defts. SOF”), ¶ 1.) LaBoy was incarcerated at the Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) at the time of the events giving rise to this action. (Id.) LaBoy is currently housed at the Lawrence Correctional Center. (Dkt. 50, Plaintiff's Change-of-Address Notice.) Defendants Eric Michalek, Xavier Taylor, and Joshua Clements were intelligence officers at Stateville during the relevant time period. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 3.)

         One of the primary responsibilities of intelligence officers is to conduct investigations into the prison activities of so-called “security threat groups” (“STGs”). (Dkt. 43-4, Defendants' Exhibit D, Declaration of Joshua Clements, at ¶ 2; Dkt. 43-5, Defendants' Exhibit E, Declaration of Eric Michalek, at ¶ 15.) A “security threat group” is more commonly known as a “gang.” (Id.)

         It is of paramount concern to the IDOC that prison employees detect and prevent gang activity in all of its prisons. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 50.) Prevention of gang activity at Stateville and other maximum security prisons is particularly important because offenders at those facilities usually have a demonstrated history of violent and/or predatory behavior. (Id., ¶ 51.) In Clements' experience, prison gangs pose a “serious and continuous” threat to the safety and the security of everyone in the prison. (Id., ¶ 48.) STG activity often includes plots to physically harm, or even kill, inmates who belong to rival gangs. (Id., ¶ 49.)

         LaBoy maintains that prison officials “exaggerate” their preoccupation with STGs because he claims never to have personally known of an instance where rival gangs fought each other, rioted, or murdered anyone. (Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' L.R. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 5-1.) LaBoy additionally asserts that he himself has never been disciplined for violence or for predatory behavior. (Id., ¶ 5-2.)

         To combat STG activity, intelligence officers at Stateville regularly conduct inmate interviews. (Deft. SOF, ¶ 52.) Prison officials have found offender interviews to be one of the Intelligence Unit's most effective tools. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 53.) The many reasons for interviewing offenders include (1) when officials suspect an offender of engaging in STG activity, (2) when they suspect an inmate of planning or participating in otherwise “prohibited conduct” that threatens the security of the institution; and (3) when authorities have reason to believe an inmate's own safety may be endangered.[1] (Id., ¶ 54.) It is-and was, at the time of LaBoy's tenure at Stateville-“common” for offenders to be summoned from their cellhouse to speak to an intelligence officer. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 75.) The Intelligence Unit usually interviews at least one inmate, or group of inmates, a day. (Id., ¶ 76.) Clements and Michalek typically interview between 30 and 40 offenders in any given month. (Id., ¶ 77.)

         Under IDOC rules, inmates must fully assist in prison investigations. (Id., ¶ 59.) Correctional officials require prisoners to cooperate in prison investigations whether the inquiry pertains to the offender's own conduct or that of another individual. (Clements Aff., ¶ 10.) An inmate who refuses to cooperate in a prison investigation may face discipline for his refusal to provide information to investigators. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 60.)

         Clements admits that he interviewed LaBoy on “a number of occasions” concerning STG activity while LaBoy was incarcerated at the Stateville Correctional Center. (Id., ¶¶ 46, 73, 78.) Clements can recall “numerous” occasions when he called LaBoy to the Investigation Office, both alone and along with several other fellow inmates. (Defts. SOF, ¶¶ 25. 46, 78.) Michalek has no independent recollection of ever having spoken to LaBoy, (Michalek Aff., ¶ 16.), but he does not dispute that he may have interviewed LaBoy.

         Clements' intelligence-gathering led him to believe that LaBoy had personal knowledge of at least one prison gang's STG activity at Stateville. (Id., ¶ 74; Clements Aff., ¶¶ 18, 20.) LaBoy, however, denies that he either belongs to a gang or participates in STG pursuits.[2] (Pltff. Response to Defts. L.R. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 6-4.). Whenever questioned, LaBoy invariably claimed to be unable to provide any information to intelligence investigators. (Id., ¶ 47.)

         In July 2013, prison officials interviewed LaBoy concerning his use of three-way calling. (Id., ¶ 35.) During the interrogation, investigators asked LaBoy why he was calling his wife and asking her to search online for the housing placements of other prisoners. (Id., ¶ 36.) LaBoy confessed that he had indeed made three-way calls to communicate with another inmate's family. (Id., ¶ 38.) LaBoy also admitted knowing that three-way calling violated prison rules. (Id., ¶ 37.) LaBoy additionally conceded that he had asked his wife to find information relating to other offenders. (Id., ¶ 38.) At the close of the investigation, Defendant Michalek issued LaBoy a disciplinary ticket that accused him of engaging in STG activity, making a dangerous communication, and three-way calling. (Id.; see also Plaintiff's Exhibit K, “Offender Disciplinary Report.”)

         A prison adjustment committee found LaBoy guilty of two charges, abuse of privileges and violation of rules. (Defts. SOF, ¶¶ 43, 44; (Plaintiff's Exhibit K.) The disciplinary committee found LaBoy not guilty of engaging in gang or unauthorized organization activity, dangerous communications, or possession or solicitation of unauthorized personal information. (Id.) The Final Summary Report simply noted “Unsubstantiated” as to the dismissed charges. (Id.) LaBoy spent over a month in segregation. (Id.)

         Sometime after this incident, an internal affairs investigator questioned LaBoy about a gun that had supposedly been smuggled into the prison.[3] (Defts. SOF, ¶ 45.)

         Correctional officials may place an individual in investigative status for two principal reasons: First, the prison may receive information that the offender faces imminent danger. (Id., ¶ 55.) Second, officials may place an inmate in investigative status if he is suspected of wrongdoing and officials are in the process of conducting an investigation. (Id., ¶ 56.) Offenders typically remain on investigative status for a 30-day period before either being released back into the general population (if the concern has been resolved), or to disciplinary segregation.[4] (Id., ¶¶ 57, 58.)

         On February 5, 2014, Defendant Clements ordered LaBoy's placement on investigative status. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 10.) Clements asserts that he did so because the Intelligence Unit had received information that there was an inmate plan to attack LaBoy. (Id., ¶ 11.) According to Clements, he placed LaBoy in segregation in order to protect him from the threat. (Clements Aff., ¶ 19.) Further, Clements states that he allowed LaBoy to leave segregation as soon as the threat receded. (Id.)

         LaBoy claims that Clements never notified him that he was being placed on investigative status to protect him. (Pltff. Response to Defts. L.R. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 4-2.). LaBoy additionally maintains, without any basis for that contention, that it somehow “goes against Internal Affairs policy to protect offenders.” (Id., ¶ 5-5.). LaBoy likewise fails to provide a factual foundation for claiming that Clements sent him to segregation “for not cooperating.” (Id.)

         Clements recommended that LaBoy be removed from investigative status on March 10, 2014. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 13.) LaBoy spent 35 days in investigative segregation rather than the normal 30-day period. (Id., ¶¶ 14, 16.) In response to LaBoy's ensuing grievance, his counselor would say only that he had been placed under investigation “in accordance with departmental policy.” (Exhibit A to Cmplt.)

         Defendants explain that disclosure of an offender's intelligence file poses “numerous” security concerns. (Defts. SOF, ¶ 62.) A major concern is that disclosure could reveal the identities of confidential informants, even if names were redacted. (Id., ¶¶ 63-65.) Revealing the identity of informants would expose them to “an extraordinary risk of bodily harm.” (Id., ¶ 66.) Furthermore, release of such records could reveal the IDOC's intelligence-gathering techniques. (Id., ΒΆ 67.) If inmates were ...


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