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Palafox v. Spiller

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 18, 2018

ANASTACIO B. PALAFOX, #N-33550, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Anastacio B. Palafox, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently housed at Western Illinois Correctional Center, recently filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that, in 2015 when he was housed at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), officials violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process in a prison disciplinary proceeding. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sues William A. Spiller (IDOC Gang Intelligence Officer for Internal Affairs, Menard); Kent E. Brookman (Hearing Committee Chair, Menard); Terrance T. Jackson (Hearing Committee Member, Menard); Kimberly S. Butler (Warden, Menard); John Doe 1 (Confidential Informant No. 1, Menard Inmate); and John Doe 2 (Confidential Informant No. 2, Menard Inmate).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         On August 6, 2015, Plaintiff was placed in temporary confinement at Menard's segregation unit and was issued an offender disciplinary report (“ODR”). (Doc. 1, p. 4). The ODR, which was written by Spiller, charged Plaintiff with violating DR 504.205 (Gang or Unauthorized Organization Activity/Security Threat Group (“SGT”) Activity). Id. The charge was premised, in part, on information provided by John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 (both Menard inmates) regarding Plaintiff's alleged participation in a 10-minute meeting that occurred in the yard near the telephones. Id. Plaintiff has attached the ODR as an exhibit to his Complaint, and it provides as follows:

This disciplinary report is being issued to offender Palafox upon the conclusion of an internal investigation that was initiated on August 3, 2015 and concluded on today's date. On August 3, 2015 the Intelligence Unit conducted video surveillance on the West Yard while West Cell House 1, 3, 5 galleries and non-weapon violator/staff assaulters from 7 gallery attended yard. At the beginning of yard, it was observed that fourteen offenders that included Latin Kings, Latin Kings Allies, and two other offenders that had not been previously identified as affiliated, grouped in a circle by phone 7 having a meeting. The meeting lasted approximately ten minutes with all offenders being positively identified. Additionally during the investigation information was obtained that the meeting on the yard was to discuss new Latin King leadership in the west cell house. The information was obtained from two confidential sources (names and numbers being withheld for the safety and security of the institution). The Latin King STG meeting was confirmed by Intel Staff based on confidential sources and video evidence obtained during the investigation conducted by IDOC staff: Offender Palafox was identified by his stated ID card and OTS.

(Doc. 1, p. 10).

         Plaintiff objects to the ODR because (1) it relied on confidential informants who are not reliable and are often given incentives for providing information; (2) it did not identify Plaintiff's affiliation with the STG; (3) it did not specifically allege Plaintiff's participation in the STG leadership discussion; and (4) it was intentionally vague. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). He also claims that the ODR “is part of an orchestrated policy, practice or custom regularly implemented against inmates, (usually in mass) that has been abused by gang intel and its members for many years.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff speculates that the goal of the alleged policy is “to identify and segregate inmates who are STG participants.” Id. He also speculates that disciplinary reports written by gang intelligence officers are “rubber stamp[ed]” by hearing committee members. Id.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on August 10, 2015. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 14). At the hearing, Plaintiff pled not guilty and submitted a written statement in his defense. Id. The Adjustment Committee, which was comprised of Brookman and Jackson, found Plaintiff guilty and indicated that the decision was based on the ODR, which was transcribed virtually verbatim in the decision. Id. Plaintiff was sanctioned with placement in segregation for one year, demotion to “C” grade for one year, commissary restriction for one year, yard restriction for one month, and contact visit restriction for six months. Id. Butler concurred with the Adjustment Committee's decision. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Plaintiff claims that his due process rights were violated in the following ways:

• The record does not indicate whether the Adjustment Committee considered ...

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