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McGruder v. Veath

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 29, 2017

TONY McGRUDER, et al., Plaintiff,


          Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge.

         Tony McGruder, currently confined at Pontiac Correctional Center within the Illinois Department of Corrections, started this lawsuit with a pro se complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. McGruder alleges that his Fourteenth and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when he was not allowed to call a witness at a disciplinary proceeding and was placed in segregation with another inmate he was accused of fighting. The case comes before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment motions (Docs. 99, 105) filed by McGruder and the five Defendants remaining in the suit - Timothy Veath, Tracy Lee, Brett Meyerhoff, Joseph Cowan, and George Holton.[1]

         The motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition. As the evidence in the record is not sufficient to allow McGruder to recover on any of his claims, his motion for summary judgment (Doc. 99) is DENIED, and Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 105) is GRANTED.

         II. Overview of Key Facts and Allegations

         The same facts govern both summary judgment motions. At the times relevant to this suit, Tony McGruder (Plaintiff), who is black (Doc. 99, p. 12), was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (Menard) (Doc. 1, p. 5). On December 9, 2012, Plaintiff was taken to segregation for a fighting incident that occurred in the meal hall that day (Doc. 116, p. 2). As a result of the incident, Plaintiff was given a disciplinary ticket (id. at 3).

         According to Plaintiff, after receiving the ticket, he wrote on the bottom of it that he requested Correctional Officer Hormann to be called as a witness on his behalf (id.). Plaintiff believed that this testimony would acquit him of the charges. Plaintiff tore off the bottom of the ticket and placed it in the door of his cell to be picked up with the rest of his mail (id.). He did this so that his request for a witness would be delivered to the Adjustment Committee (id.). On the same day, Plaintiff also prepared a handwritten statement requesting a continuance of the Adjustment Committee hearing in order to allow Hormann to be called (id.).

         On December 14, 2012, Plaintiff received a second, re-written, disciplinary ticket (id.). On December 17, 2012, Plaintiff appeared before the Adjustment Committee for his disciplinary hearing (id. at 4). The disciplinary hearing was not continued, and according to Plaintiff, he was not allowed to call any witnesses, including Hormann (id.). Plaintiff was found guilty by the Adjustment Committee and sentenced to six month in segregation, inter alia (Doc. 99, p. 12). The Adjustment Committee report indicates that Plaintiff did not request a witness (id.). Defendants Timothy Veath and Tracy Lee were the individuals making up the Adjustment Committee (id.).

         Plaintiff was placed in segregation with an inmate named Antoine Brantley (Doc. 116, p. 4). Inmate Brantley was among the other inmates involved in the December 9th fight that led to Plaintiff's segregation (id.). According to Plaintiff, six other inmates involved in the fight were double-celled in segregation (id.). Plaintiff was celled with Inmate Brantley until June 6, 2013 (Doc. 99-2, p. 3). Brantley corroborates Plaintiff's statements regarding cell placement in an affidavit (Doc. 99, p. 13). According to Plaintiff's deposition testimony, prior to being placed in the segregation cell on December 17, 2012, Inmate Brantley had never made any threats or violent gestures toward Plaintiff (Doc. 160-1, p. 15). Plaintiff had never named Brantley as an enemy (id.). On December 17, 2012, Defendant Brett Meyerhoff was a correctional clerk and supervisor/placement officer at Menard (Doc. 106-5, p. 2). On the same date, Defendant Joseph Cowan was working as a shift supervisor, and Defendant George Holton was working as the Lieutenant on North 2 (Doc. 106-3, p. 2; Doc. 106-4, p. 2).

         In 2012, Menard's segregation standards required that each cell have a bed with clean bedding, running water, adequate lighting for reading and observation, heat, and ventilation (Doc. 106-2, p. 22 - 24). Under these standards, segregation inmates are to be given access to cleaning materials, allowed to shower and shave at least once a week, given state-issued necessities, given clean laundry, and allowed certain personal property items (id. at 23). Plaintiff has provided no evidence as to the condition of his segregation cell. Nor has he provided evidence that he was physically or mentally harmed by Brantley while in the same cell, or that the two inmates got into any physical or verbal altercations.

         III. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper only “if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multi Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted), citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7thCir. 2005).

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing --based on the pleadings, affidavits, and/or information obtained via discovery -- the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986), quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Ballance v. City of Springfield, Ill. Police Department, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2005); Hottenroth v. Village of Slinger, 388 F.3d 1015, 1027 (7th Cir. 2004). A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Accord Bunn v. Khoury Enterpr. Inc., 753 F.3d 676 (7th Cir. 2014).

         In assessing a summary judgment motion, the district court views the facts in the light most favorable to, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989, 994 (7th Cir. 2012); Righi v. SMC Corp. , 632 F.3d 404, 408 (7th Cir. 2011); Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011). As the Seventh Circuit has explained, as required by Rule 56(a), “we set forth the facts by examining the evidence in the light reasonably most favorable to the non-moving party, giving [him] the benefit of reasonable, favorable inferences and resolving conflicts in the evidence in [his] favor.” Spaine v. Community Contacts, Inc., 756 F.3d 542 (7th Cir. 2014).

         IV. ...

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