United States District Court, C.D. Illinois
MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
proceeds pro se from his incarceration in Illinois River
Correctional Center on a claim that Defendants violated his
procedural due process rights by denying Plaintiff a
meaningful opportunity to defend prison disciplinary charges.
Defendants move for summary judgment, which is granted.
Plaintiff does not explain what evidence he would have
presented which might have made a difference in the outcome
of the disciplinary proceeding. Plaintiff had already
admitted to fighting with an inmate, and an officer reported
that the officer saw Plaintiff stomping on the inmate's
head with Plaintiff's foot.
facts are set forth in the light most favorable to Plaintiff,
drawing all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor
and resolving material disputes in Plaintiff's favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Summary judgment must be denied if a reasonable juror
could find for Plaintiff. Id.
was in two separate fights on February 5, 2015. The first
fight was with inmate Stephens. The parties do not go into
how this fight started, but, according to the disciplinary
report, inmate Stephens told an investigator that he went
into Plaintiff's cell “because he preys on the
weak. . . . [T]hat is when [Plaintiff] swung at me and struck
me on the left side of my head, so I beat his ass.”
(d/e 1-1, p. 7.)
after inmate Stephens left Plaintiff's cell that day,
Plaintiff's cellmate-inmate Thompson-returned to the
cell, and a fight between Plaintiff and his cellmate ensued.
According to the disciplinary report, inmate Thompson told an
investigator that Plaintiff had blamed Thompson for inmate
Stephens' assault on Plaintiff and then “started to
hit me and knocked me down to the floor and proceeded to
stomp my head against the door and strike me with closed fist
punches numerous times until the Officer stopped him and
separated us.” (d/e 1-1 p. 5.) The disciplinary report
also stated that Officer Robinson arrived at the scene and
observed Plaintiff “standing over Thompson and was
appearing to be stomping on Thompson's head with his
foot.” (d/e 1-1, p. 4.) These statements are not taken
for the truth of what actually happened but instead for what
information the disciplinary committee had when the committee
made its decision. Plaintiff was also interviewed but he
refused to answer any questions other than stating that
Plaintiff and Thompson were fighting, whereupon the
interviewer warned that, because of Plaintiff's refusal
to answer questions, Plaintiff would be charged with assault
in both incidents while inmates Stephens and Thompson would
receive a lesser charge of fighting. (Pl.'s Dep. 15-16.)
Inmate Thompson had to be taken to the hospital after the
received two separate disciplinary tickets, one based on the
incident with inmate Stephens and a second based on the
incident with inmate Thompson. Plaintiff had no writing
utensil in his segregation cell, and, therefore, could not
request witnesses or prepare a written defense before the
disciplinary hearing. When Plaintiff appeared before the
disciplinary committee on both tickets,  Plaintiff asked
for a continuance, explaining that he had not had a writing
utensil to request witnesses or prepare a written defense.
Defendant Millard denied the continuance, whereupon Plaintiff
objected and refused to participate. During a break in the
hearing, Plaintiff told correctional officer Taylor that the
incident with inmate Thompson was “just a simple
fight.” (Compl. para. 51.) Plaintiff now argues that
this statement cannot be considered, apparently because the
statement was made during the break, but Plaintiff does not
explain why. In any event, Plaintiff does not dispute
fighting with Thompson or Stephens. (Pl.'s Dep. 11.)
Plaintiff maintained in his deposition and that an inmate
eyewitness-“TY”-would have testified that
Plaintiff was assaulted by Thompson, but Plaintiff does not
dispute that Plaintiff was fighting, too. (Pl.'s Dep.
was found guilty on both disciplinary tickets. On the
incident with inmate Stephens, Plaintiff was punished with
one month of grade demotion, segregation, commissary
restriction, and yard restriction. (d/e 1-1 p. 10.) On the
incident with Stephens, Plaintiff was punished with one year
of grade demotion, segregation, commissary and yard
restrictions, restitution of $28, 753 (for inmate
Thompson's hospital bill), and the revocation of six
months of good time. The parties appear to agree that
Plaintiff's good time was later restored by the Prisoner
Review Board. (Pl.'s Dep. 31.)
punishment Plaintiff received on the Stephens ticket was not
serious enough to trigger procedural due process rights.
See Sandin v. Conner, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2301
(1995)(placement in typical segregation for 30 days did not
trigger due process protections). In contrast,
Plaintiff's one year of segregation on the Thompson
ticket was serious enough to trigger Plaintiff's
procedural due process rights, which included the right to
call witnesses and present evidence. See Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974); Rowe v.
DeBruyn, 17 F.3d 1047, 1053 (7th Cir. 1994)(year of
disciplinary segregation triggered procedural due process
protections). Looking at the record in the light most
favorable to Plaintiff, Plaintiff did not have a meaningful
opportunity to call witnesses or organize his defense because
he had no writing utensil.
not the end of the inquiry, though. If Plaintiff's
defense would not have changed the outcome of the
disciplinary hearing, then the refusal to allow him time to
gather that evidence amounted to harmless error. Jones v.
Cross, 637 F.3d 841, 847 (7th Cir.
2011)(inability to call witnesses at prison disciplinary
hearing was harmless error where prisoner's admission was
enough evidence to find him guilty of assault); Piggie v.
Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 678 (7th Cir. 2003)(applying
harmless error analysis to refusal to call witnesses in
disciplinary hearings). Plaintiff does not explain what his
defense would have been had he been given time to prepare. He
does not explain what his witnesses would have said. More
importantly, even if his witnesses might have stated that
both inmates were fighting equally or that inmate Thompson
started the fight, ample evidence still would have supported
the disciplinary committee's finding that Plaintiff was
guilty of assault: 1) Plaintiff admitted to fighting; 2)
inmate Thompson wound up in the hospital; 3) Officer Robinson
reported that he observed Plaintiff stomping on
Thompson's head with Plaintiff's foot; and, 4) inmate
Thompson told the investigator that Plaintiff knocked
Thompson to the floor and stomped on Thompson's head. The
committee's decision was more than supported by the
evidence they had before them. See Scruggs v.
Jordan, 485 F.3d 934 (7th Cir. 2007)(prison
disciplinary decision need only be support by
“‘some evidence.' . . . [O]nce the meager
threshold has been crossed our inquiry ends and we will not
reverse the disciplinary board's decision.”)(quoted
and other cites omitted). Plaintiff offers no reason why his
unspecified defense might have changed the disciplinary
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted (d/e
64). The clerk of the court is directed to enter judgment in
favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff. This case is
closed, with the parties to bear their own costs. All
deadlines and settings on the Court's calendar are
If Plaintiff wishes to appeal this judgment, he must file a
notice of appeal with this Court within 30 days of the entry
of judgment. Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4). A motion for leave to
appeal in forma pauperis should identify the issues Plaintiff
will present on appeal. See Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(1)(c). If
Plaintiff does choose to appeal, he ...