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Fillmore v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

July 12, 2017

AARON FILLMORE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
GLADYSE C. TAYLOR, Director of Corrections; LEIF M. McCARTHY, Chairperson of the Adjustment Committee; and ELDON L. COOPER, Member of the Adjustment Committee. Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 15MR915 Honorable Rudolph M. Braud, Jr., Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE APPLETON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pope and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Plaintiff, Aaron Fillmore, who is in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (Department), sued three officers of the Department, Gladyse C. Taylor, Leif M. McCarthy, and Eldon L. Cooper, for failing to follow mandatory legal procedures before imposing discipline upon him for violating prison rules. He sought a writ of mandamus, declaratory relief, and a common-law writ of certiorari. The trial court granted a motion by defendants to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. See 735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2016). Plaintiff appeals.

         ¶ 2 In our de novo review, we agree with the trial court that the count for declaratory judgment, count II, is legally insufficient in its entirety. We disagree, however, that the remaining two counts are legally insufficient in their entirety. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's judgment in part and reverse it in part, and we remand this case for further proceedings.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 In his complaint, which he filed on September 14, 2015, plaintiff alleged substantially as follows.

         ¶ 5 A. The Parties

         ¶ 6 Plaintiff is an inmate at Lawrence Correctional Center, in Sumner, Illinois.

         ¶ 7 Gladyse C. Taylor is the Department's director.

         ¶ 8 Leif M. McCarthy is the chairperson of the adjustment committee at Lawrence Correctional Center, the committee that hears and decides inmate disciplinary reports.

         ¶ 9 Eldon L. Cooper is a member of the adjustment committee.

         ¶ 10 B. The Inmate Disciplinary Report Issued to Plaintiff

         ¶ 11 On December 16, 2014, an inmate disciplinary report was served on plaintiff. In the report, a correctional officer named "J. Harper" accused plaintiff of two offenses as defined by the Department's regulations: security group threat or unauthorized organizational activity (20 Ill. Adm. Code 504.Appendix A (2003) (No. 205)) and intimidation or threats (id. (No. 206)). The report summarized the following evidence: (1) an "accumulation of incidents" concerning plaintiff's "involvement with the Latin Kings Security Threat Group, " including statements of confidential informants, one of whom identified plaintiff as chairman of the Latin King National Regional Crown Council; (2) handwritten notes, confiscated in a shakedown, in which he discussed Latin King business and, in one note, expressed a desire to "kick *** down the steps" someone named Kevin, who had "told Springfield a lot" about the gang; and (3) recorded telephone conversations, in which plaintiff discussed various Latin King members who were in prison.

         ¶ 12 C. Witness Request

         ¶ 13 On December 16, 2014, plaintiff submitted to the adjustment committee a document, handwritten by him, in which he requested the committee to review the "[p]hone log records" for May 5, September 29, and October 12, 2014. He stated that those phone records would disprove the allegation, in the disciplinary report, that he made outgoing telephone calls on those days. He also "request[ed] to be shown these alleged notes" by him, confiscated in the shakedown. Finally, he made an "inmate witness request, " listing the imprisoned Latin Kings whom he allegedly had discussed on the telephone. He wrote: "Each inmate will testify that [plaintiff] did not order or direct any security threat group activity within [the Department] ever."

         ¶ 14 D. Plaintiff's Written Statement to the Committee

         ¶ 15 On December 19, 2014, in the hearing on the inmate disciplinary report, plaintiff presented a handwritten statement to the committee. In this statement, he began by pleading not guilty to the two charges. Then he made essentially four points.

         ¶ 16 First, he denied the allegation, in the disciplinary report, that he made "outside telephone calls" on May 5, August 30, and September 29, 2014. He wrote that if only the committee would review the "B-Wing telephone log records, " those records would show he did not use the telephone on those dates.

         ¶ 17 Second, he insisted that if there were any recordings of his telephone calls, those recordings, when played in their entirety, would debunk the claim that he had engaged in unauthorized organizational activity.

         ¶ 18 Third, he denied writing the notes cited in the disciplinary report. He also denied the notes had come from his cell, property, or person, or that there were any shakedown records indicating as much. He pointed out that Harper was not a handwriting expert.

         ¶ 19 Fourth, he claimed the disciplinary report was untimely under the Department's regulations because it "was written beyond the [eight] days allowed after the commission of the offense or discovery thereof." 20 Ill. Adm. Code 504.30(f) (2003). He noted that the report listed the dates of "February of 2014[;] May 5, 2014[;] July 15, 2014[;] August 30, 2014[;] September of 2014[;] October 13, 2014[;] and December 7, 2014"-all of which preceded the issuance of the report, on December 16, 2014, by more than eight days.

         ¶ 20 His written statement concluded with the following paragraph: "I request to see the alleged confiscated 'notes' regarding the [December 16, 2014, ] disciplinary report, and request that my December 16, 2014[, ] witness and document request be reviewed and considered as exculpatory evidence by the Committee."

         ¶ 21 E. The Disciplinary Hearing

         ¶ 22 Plaintiff alleges that, in the disciplinary hearing, which was held on December 19, 2014, the two members of the adjustment committee, McCarthy and Cooper, declined to show him the notes in question and declined to personally review the notes, the telephone logs, or the telephone recordings. As for plaintiff's witness request, "Cooper stated that Jerry Harper (the prison official who wrote the [disciplinary report] against plaintiff) [had] directed the Committee not to call any of plaintiff's witnesses[;] thus, no witnesses would be called." Also, Cooper told plaintiff, in the disciplinary hearing, "that the Committee [had been] directed by higher[-]up prison authorities to find plaintiff guilty and revoke a year [of] good conduct credits and impose punitive segregation and other punitive sanctions for a year." Upon receiving that news, plaintiff "made a verbal objection" to the committee's lack of impartiality, but McCarthy and Cooper "refused to recuse themselves." All this is according to plaintiff's complaint.

         ¶ 23 F. The Final Summary Report

         ¶ 24 On January 3, 2015, the Department served upon plaintiff a "Final Summary Report, " in which McCarthy and Cooper found plaintiff guilty of "Gang or Unauthorized Organization Activity" and "Intimidation or Threats." They recommended one year in "C grade, " one year of segregation, revocation of one year of good-conduct credits, restriction for one year to $15 per month, and one year of "Contact Visits Restriction." The chief administrative officer, Stephen B. Duncan, approved the recommendation.

         ¶ 25 G. Plaintiff's Grievance

         ¶ 26 On January 5, 2015, plaintiff administratively appealed the discipline by filing a grievance. He complained of the committee members' refusal to produce and personally review the notes, telephone logs, and telephone recordings; their refusal to recuse themselves; the untimeliness of the disciplinary report; and other irregularities, which we will discuss in greater detail later in this opinion.

         ¶ 27 On August 13, 2015, by adding her signature to a form, Taylor concurred with the denial of plaintiff's grievance. The Department "[found] no violation of the offender's due process in accordance with [sections 504.30 and 504.80 (20 Ill. Adm. Code 504.30, 504.80 (2003))], " to quote the check-marked preprinted language of the form. The Department was "reasonably satisfied the offender committed the offense cited in the report."

         ¶ 28 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 29 A. The Request for Mandamus (Count I)

         ¶ 30 Because the motion for dismissal was pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2016)), the question is whether the complaint states a cause of action for mandamus, declaratory relief, or a common-law writ of certiorari: the three forms of relief that plaintiff sought in the three counts of his complaint. See Johannesen v. Eddins, 2011 IL App (2d) 110108, ¶ 27.

         ¶ 31 We answer that question de novo, taking the well-pleaded facts or specific factual allegations of the complaint to be true and disregarding any conclusory allegations unsupported by well-pleaded facts. Simpkins v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 2012 IL 110662, ¶ 26; Primax Recoveries, Inc. v. Atherton, 365 Ill.App.3d 1007, 1010 (2006). Not only will we assume the well-pleaded facts in the complaint to be true, but we will regard those facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Johannesen, 2011 IL App (2d) 110108, ¶ 27. If, from the well-pleaded facts, a reasonable inference could be drawn in plaintiff's favor-which is to say, in favor of the legal sufficiency of the complaint-we will draw that inference. See id. "Dismissal pursuant to section 2-615 *** is only proper where, when construing the allegations of the complaint ...

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