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Blackmann v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 9, 2019




         Pending before the Court is a Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Gilbert C. Sison (Doc. 109), which recommends denying Plaintiff Blackman's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 66) and granting in part and denying in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 88). For the following reasons, the Court adopts the conclusions of the Report and Recommendation.


         Plaintiff Eric Blackman is an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). While Blackman was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, he alleges that prison officials repeatedly interviewed him about his suspected involvement in prison “gang operations” and told him that if he did not cooperate by informing investigators of his involvement and knowledge of prison gang activities, he would be punished with segregation and transfer to a different prison. (Doc. 13, p. 11). Blackman, who had no disciplinary infractions at Menard from July 2012 through April 2014, maintained that he was not a part of gang activity and could provide no information. (Doc. 13, p. 11; Doc. 66, p. 5). Despite his claims, Blackman was served with an inmate disciplinary report citing him with violating Rule 205-participation in a security threat group (“STG”) or unauthorized organizational activity-on April 22, 2014. (Doc. 13, p. 10; Doc. 66, p. 5).

         On April 24, 2014, Blackman appeared for the first time on the STG charge before the Menard adjustment committee for a disciplinary hearing (Doc. 87-2, p. 13). The report of the hearing indicates that on April 22, 2014, the Menard Intelligence Unit concluded an investigation into the leadership of the Gangster Disciples STG at Menard. (Doc. 66-3, p. 2). Two confidential sources identified Blackman as the Assistant Institutional Coordinator for the Gangster Disciples at Menard. (Id.). The adjustment committee found that Blackman was an active participant in STG activity, and they recommended that he be disciplined with 3 months C grade, 3 months segregation, 3 months of commissary restriction and 6 months of contact visit restrictions. (Id.).

         After the hearing, the Chief Administrative Officer of Menard, Defendant Butler, rejected the adjustment committee's summary report and findings and remanded the charge back to the committee for a second hearing. (Id., pp. 2-3). Butler attested that a designee in her office signed the direction to remand Blackman's ticket for a second hearing and that she did not direct staff at Menard to retaliate against any offender with expanded discipline for refusing to provide incriminating information to the intelligence unit. (Doc. 87-1).

         On May 8, 2014, Defendants Hughes and Hart sat on the second adjustment committee and presided over Blackman's remanded disciplinary hearing. (Doc. 66-3, p. 4). The second adjustment committee report states that the remand was done so that the reporting officer could provide additional information to substantiate the charge against Blackman. (Id.) The report also states that the Chief Administrative Officer “advised the adjustment committee to impose the following discipline: 1 year seg., C-grade, and loc.” (Id.). Defendants Hughes and Hart found Blackman guilty of violating Rule 205 and increased Blackman's original three-month sanction to twelve months of confinement in disciplinary segregation. (Id., pp. 4-5). They additionally imposed a disciplinary transfer (Id.). Defendant Butler approved Defendants Hughes's and Hart's findings and sanctions on May 15, 2014. (Id., p. 5).

         Subsequent to the second adjustment committee hearing, Blackman filed numerous grievances, including a June 2014 grievance that reached the Administrative Review Board (ARB) and the IDOC Director. (See Doc. 13-1, pp. 6-8; 24; 25-26; see also Doc. 13-2, pp. 7; 10-12). Blackman's repeated complaints centered on Butler's, Hughes's, and Hart's imposition of increased sanctions. He claimed that their actions violated Title 20, Section 504.90(d) of the Illinois Administrative Code, which prohibits imposing greater sanctions on remand than what was originally imposed unless there are different charges or new evidence that was not available at the original hearing. (Id.; see also 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.90(d)). Blackman argued that the first and second disciplinary reports were substantively identical as to the facts alleged against him, he was not charged with a different offense at any time, and no new evidence previously unavailable was presented at the second disciplinary hearing. (Compare Doc. 13-1, pp. 2-3 with Doc. 13-1, pp. 10-11; see also Doc. 13-1, pp. 15-16).

         In October 2014, the ARB issued its first response to Blackman's June 2014 grievance. (Doc. 13-2, p. 7). By this time, Blackman had served nearly six months in disciplinary segregation and been transferred to Pontiac. The ARB, through Defendants McCarty and Godinez, “remand[ed] the second disciplinary report back to the reporting officer at Menard to provide additional information as to how Offender Blackman was identified as an active participant in STG activity.” (Id.). Because Blackman was already at Pontiac, the ARB further directed Menard to forward, upon completion by the reporting officer, the rewritten report to Pontiac so that it could be served and reheard. (Id.). While Blackman testified that the remand order was entered because Defendants McCarty and Godinez were disgruntled with his grievance writing (Doc. 87-2, p. 26-27), McCarty attested that the decision to remand the issue was not done to retaliate but rather to obtain additional information so the ARB could finalize its investigation. (Doc. 87-5).

         On November 24, 2014, Blackman filed an emergency grievance with Defendant Pfister, the Pontiac CAO (Doc. 89-2, p. 32). He requested his immediate release from disciplinary segregation claiming that his due process rights were being infringed because the ARB ordered the remand hearing to commence within fourteen days, when possible. (Id.). He also filed a writ of mandamus in December 2014 regarding the same issue. (Id., p. 33). Defendant Pfister found Blackman's emergency grievance unsubstantiated and directed that his grievance should be submitted in the normal manner. Consequently, Blackman remained confined in disciplinary segregation.

         On January 15, 2015, the reporting officer from the Menard Intelligence Unit rewrote the disciplinary report against Blackman. (Doc. 13-1, pp. 15-16). Pontiac received the rewritten disciplinary report from Menard and served Blackman with it prior to the second rehearing. (Doc. 87-2, pp. 30-31). The second rehearing on the STG charge was held on January 27, 2015. Defendants Brown and Salinas, sitting on the Pontiac adjustment committee, presided over Blackman's rehearing. (Doc. 13-1, pp. 22-23).

         At the hearing, Blackman submitted a two-page written statement to the Pontiac adjustment committee clearly outlining his defense as well as his procedural arguments related to the STG charge. (Doc. 66-3, pp. 7-8). He raised two issues: (1) inadequacy of the third disciplinary report to provide meaningful notice of the basis of the charge that would enable him to mount a defense; and (2) violations of 20 Ill. Admin. Code §§ 504.90(d) and 504.80(p)(2) by Defendants Butler, Hughes, and Hart, who increased his original sanction from three to twelve months at the first rehearing without the existence of different charges or new evidence. (Id.). Blackman requested that the Pontiac adjustment committee dismiss and expunge the STG charge initiated against him while at Menard. (Id.).

         At the third adjustment committee hearing, Defendants Brown and Salinas found the confidential sources who provided information about Blackman were reliable. (Doc. 66-3, p. 9-10). The report noted that Blackman held an institutional coordinator position within the Gangster Disciples at Menard, a position that Blackman made an overt, conscious decision to accept. (Id.). They found Blackman guilty for the third time on the same Rule 205 violation and re-imposed the increased sanctions, including the twelve-month term of confinement in disciplinary segregation. (Id.). On February 2, 2015, Defendant Pfister approved the determination and imposition of sanctions. (Id.).

         Blackman subsequently filed a grievance complaining that Defendants Brown and Salinas obstructed his defense during the hearing by telling him they were not authorized to rule on the STG charge but, instead, would submit all information to the ARB so that it could make the final determination. (Doc. 13-1 pp. 25-26).

         On April 27, 2015, the ARB concluded its review of Blackman's June 2014 grievance and issued its determination. (Doc. 66-3, p. 11). The ARB stated that it was reasonably satisfied Blackman violated Rule 205 so it denied his grievance. (Id.). The ARB determined, however, that the increased sanctions Blackman challenged, which were imposed at the May 2014 rehearing, failed to adhere to the procedural safeguards outlined by Department Regulation 504. (Id.). The ARB noted that the original discipline imposed should not have increased during the second hearing and directed that the discipline be reduced to reflect Blackman's original sentence of 3 months' C Grade, 3 months' segregation, 3 months' commissary restriction, and 6 months' contact visit restriction. (Id.). Defendant Pfister, in accordance with the ARB's directives, completed an IDOC Disciplinary Reduction Notification form and submitted it to the Records Office at Pontiac on May 5, 2015. (Doc. 13-1, p. 29). By that time, Blackman had served the entire twelve-month term that Defendants Butler, Hughes, and Hart imposed at the second hearing.

         On October 19, 2016, Blackman filed this pro se civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. (Doc. 1). Blackman alleges his constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments were violated by Defendants' ...

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