Childress v. Godinez et al
ORDER: The Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants (Doc. 86 ) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Judgment is GRANTED in favor of Defendant Robert Hilliard and against Plaintiff on Counts 1 and 2. Summary judgment is DENIED as to Defendants William Peyton, Ty Bates, Danalyn Wilson, and C/O Saurbrunn. Jury trial and the final pretrial conference will be set by separate order. Signed by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on 8/7/2017. (mlp)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
CRAIG A. CHILDRESS,
ROBERT HILLIARD, WILLIAM
PEYTON, TY BATES, DANALYN
WILSON, and C/O SAURBRUNN,
Case No. 3:12-cv-1230-NJR-DGW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge:
Now pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants on January 17, 2017 (Doc. 86). Plaintiff Craig Childress responded to the
motion on April 14, 2017 (Doc. 94). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is
granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff Craig Childress, a convicted sex offender, was incarcerated by the
Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) at Big Muddy River Correctional Center
(“Big Muddy”) until August 19, 2010, when he was released on mandatory supervised
release (“MSR”). A majority of the population at Big Muddy during the relevant time
period consisted of sex offenders: it was the “sex offender facility for the State” of
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Illinois (Doc. 87-4, p. 8-9). 1 The terms of Childress’s MSR restricted him from possessing
any computer-related items.
Prior to his release from Big Muddy, Childress enrolled in a job preparedness
class, which he understood to be part of a general Life Style Redirection Program
(Doc. 87-1, pp. 14-15). This voluntary program was offered to inmates, like Childress,
who were nearing a release date (Doc. 87-1, pp. 19-20). The program began within
IDOC when Defendant Robert Hilliard was Assistant Warden of Programs between
April 2006 and September 2007 (Doc. 87-2, pp. 9, 14). The class did not begin at Big
Muddy until 2008, however, because of a teacher shortage. Defendant William Peyton
was the Assistant Warden of Programs at that time (Doc. 87-2, p. 14). Defendant Ty
Bates took over as Assistant Warden of Programs in December 2009 (before Childress
enrolled in the class) (Doc. 87-6, p. 15; Doc. 87-4, p. 6-7). 2
The job preparedness class was created by IDOC’s Program Division using grant
money acquired from the “Safer Foundation” (Doc. 87-6, p. 15). 3 The class ran in the
same manner as vocational programs at the prison, with instructors being hired
through a junior college. Defendant Danalyn Wilson was one such instructor; she was
employed by Rend Lake College but exclusively taught the job preparedness class at
Defendants Hilliard and Peyton estimated anywhere between 15 percent and 30 percent of inmates at
Big Muddy were sex offenders (Doc. 87-6, p. 10).
2 There is some confusion as to what dates each of these three defendants held their respective roles.
Defendant Bates indicated he was an Assistant Warden at Big Muddy from December 2009 until early or
mid-2011 when he became Warden of Big Muddy. In December 2011, he became a Deputy Director of
IDOC (Doc. 87-4, p. 6).
3 According to its website, the Safer Foundation “is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of
services designed exclusively for people with criminal records. We focus on helping our clients secure
and maintain jobs because we understand that employment offers the best chance at successful re-entry.”
THE SAFER FOUNDATION, http://www.saferfoundation.org/about/ overview (last visited August 6, 2017).
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Big Muddy from February 2008 to May 2011 (Doc. 87-2 pp. 11-12, 29-30). When Wilson
was teaching the class, she reported to Assistant Warden Peyton and then to Assistant
Warden Bates (Doc. 87-2, p. 31).
To enroll in the class, inmates would make a written request, which was sent to
Wilson. She would then enroll inmates in the ten day class based on their release date
(Doc. 87-2, p. 16). The only requirements for the class were that an inmate had at least a
sixth-grade education and less than a year left on his sentence (Doc. 87-2, p. 17). The
Safer Foundation provided the class content and materials, including a booklet that was
given to inmates containing course materials (Doc. 87-2, pp. 27-28). Wilson also created
tests on the material covered in class (Doc. 87-2, p. 22).
The inmates enrolled in the job preparedness class at Big Muddy used desktop
computers during class (87-2, pp. 30, 32). They created resumes as part of their
coursework, which were saved by Wilson on the computer (and then to a server) and
then downloaded to a computer disk that was kept under lock and key by Wilson
(Doc. 87-2, pp. 32, 37). The inmates had “no contact with the disks whatsoever” because
the disks posed a security risk per Assistant Warden Peyton (Doc. 87-2, p. 31).
A booklet handed out to inmates in the class informed them they would receive
the disk upon their release from prison (87-2, pp. 41-42). Wilson also informed inmates
at the beginning and end of the class that the disks would be placed in their personal
property (Doc. 87-2, p. 54). At the end of each class, Wilson labeled the disks, placed
them in a white envelope with the inmate’s name and number and the notation “job
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prep.” Wilson then dropped the disks off at the personal property area of the jail
(Doc. 87-2, p. 37-38).
Defendant Officer Saurbrunn, the property officer, then placed the disks in the
property boxes of out-going inmates (Doc. 87-3, 19-20). From his testimony, it appears
he did not place the disks in the boxes until an inmate collected the box before his
release; at that point, he checked to see if it had a disk and, if it did, he informed the
inmate that he was putting it in his property box (Doc. 87-3, p. 20). Officer Saurbrunn
does not recall Childress specifically, nor does he recall any conversation he may have
had with him (Doc. 87-3, pp. 22-23). The Assistant Warden of Operations oversaw the
property room (Doc. 87-5, pp. 15-16). This position was held by Hilliard (until
December 2009) and then by Peyton (Doc. 87-5, p. 7-8). 4 The procedure regarding the
handling of disks was determined by the Assistant Warden of Programs (i.e., Defendant
Peyton and then Defendant Bates) (Doc. 87-2, p. 31; Doc. 87-6, pp. 36-37). 5
There are only two Assistant Warden positions: one for Programs and the other for Operations (Doc. 875, p. 7).
5 Defendant Hilliard was employed at Centralia Correctional Center as the Assistant Warden of
Operations after he left Big Muddy in December 2009 (Doc. 87-5, pp. 6, 12). At Centralia, inmates never
were given a disk upon completion of the identical job preparedness class, which was offered throughout
IDOC (Doc. 87-5, p. 12-13). In fact, the reason why disks were not given to inmates was because of
restrictions in their MSR:
Q. And could there be a restriction on them possessing computer-related materials?
A. Outside of the prison?
Q. Yes. When they are on MSR?
A. That would be with anybody. It is not just sex offenders.
Q. Okay. I didn’t realize that.
A. Or at least that was what we went by at Centralia, that computer disks don’t leave the
Q. Regardless of what type of offender it was?
A. Yes. Sir. (Doc. 87-5, p. 20).
Assistant Warden Bates testified, however, that the “state-wide” policy of issuing disks to inmates upon
completion of the class was stopped after Childress was re-incarcerated (Doc. 87-4, p. 24).
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Notwithstanding Wilson’s practice, Childress was not told that a disk would be
placed in his property box, nor was such information contained in the documents he
read for the class (Doc. 87-1, pp. 21-22). And, on the envelope containing Childress’s
disk, there was no notation that it contained a disk (Doc. 87-2, pp. 48-49).
Shortly after his release from prison and while on supervision, Childress’s
property was searched by state officials, and the computer disk from the job
preparedness class was found. Possession of the disk violated the terms of Childress’s
MSR, and he was subsequently re-incarcerated. According to Childress, he had no idea
a disk was placed (or “planted”) in his property box. He did not open the box prior to it
being searched by state parole officials (Doc. 87-1, p. 37). At that time, Childress was
two weeks into a one-year term of MSR; he ended up spending that year in jail as a
result of the violation (Doc. 87-1, pp. 41). The presence of the disk in his property box
was the sole reason his MSR was revoked (Doc. 87-1, pp. 43-44).
Wilson generally was aware there were limitations on a sex offender’s possession
of computer equipment (Doc. 87-4, p. 40). She testified, however, that she was unaware
of the specific offenses of her students and did not know if any particular offender was
incarcerated for a sex offense because she did not have access to offenders’ files
(Doc. 87-4, p. 40). She also was unaware of any person having his supervised release
revoked because of a disk generated in her class (Doc. 87-4, p. 43). But Childress
testified that he specifically spoke to Wilson about his crime and told her he was a sex
offender (Doc. 87-1, pp. 11, 32). Childress stated that he spoke to Wilson “personally
about the fact that I was there for a sex offense and I was going to be on parole. She
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knew my restrictions. I saw her discuss this with other people.” (Id., p. 11). Childress
further testified that Wilson said she “has dealt with other sex offenders before” and
that he “[did not] have to worry about that. . . . We talked about my crime. She told me
what a change that I had made as a sex offender as participating in the sex offender
program.” (Id., p. 32).
Officer Saurbrunn also was unaware of a particular inmate’s crime and was not
aware of limitations regarding computing equipment for inmates being released
(Doc. 87-3, p. 21-22). Childress testified that he had conversations with Saurbrunn,
however, and that Saurbrunn knew Childress was a sex offender and was not supposed
to have a computer disk (Doc. 87-1, p. 89).
Assistant Wardens Bates and Peyton were aware that sex offenders could have
restrictions on computer equipment in their supervised release agreements (Doc. 87-4,
p. 21-22, Doc. 94-11, p. 12). Assistant Warden Hilliard was aware that inmates,
including sex offenders and non-sex offenders, released on mandatory supervised
release would have restrictions on computer equipment (Doc. 87-5, p. 20). Defendants
uniformly testified, however, that they were unaware of any other person whose
supervised release was revoked under similar circumstances (See e.g. Doc. 87-6, p. 46). 6
All of the Assistant Wardens agreed that the policy regarding disks and their
dissemination was made in the upper echelons of IDOC, by the Director of Programs,
the Deputy Director of Programs, or a jail’s warden (Doc. 87-6, p. 38; Doc. 87-5, p. 13;
But Childress testified that Assistant Warden Bates told him that two other inmates had their supervised
release revoked because of the disks that were given to them at the end of the class (Doc. 94-5, p. 9).
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Doc. 87-4, pp. 23-24). It is undisputed that after and because of the above events, Big
Muddy stopped placing disks in inmates’ property boxes (Doc. 87-4, p. 12-13). This
decision was made after Assistant Warden Bates initiated the change through the Chief
of Programs, Deb Denning, who is not a defendant in this lawsuit (Doc. 87-4, p. 13, 2324).
On December 3, 2012, Childress filed a complaint alleging that his constitutional
rights were violated by a policy or practice of knowingly placing computer disks in
personal property that would violate the terms of supervised release (Doc. 1). The
complaint was dismissed by Senior District Judge J. Phil Gilbert on February 20, 2013
(Doc. 7). Childress appealed, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and
remanded this matter on June 12, 2015 (Doc. 34; Childress v. Walker, 787 F.3d 433 (7th
Cir. 2015)). Counsel was appointed to represent Childress, and an amended complaint
was filed on December 15, 2015 (Doc. 51). The case was transferred to the docket of the
undersigned on June 7, 2016 (see Doc. 73).
Childress alleges in Count 1 that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by
creating, enforcing, and/or following a policy whereby a prohibited computer disk was
placed in his personal property. In Count 2, Childress alleges a state law claim of
intentional infliction of emotional distress. Discovery has been completed, and
Defendants have now moved for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate “that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
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as a matter of law.” FEDERAL RULE
CIVIL PROCEDURE 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d
603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005); Black Agents & Brokers Agency, Inc. v. Near North Ins. Brokerage,
Inc., 409 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2005). At the summary judgment phase of the litigation,
the facts and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.
Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., 703 F.3d 966, 972 (7th Cir. 2012). The
Court shall “neither come to a conclusion on factual disputes nor weigh conflicting
evidence.” E.E.O.C. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 233 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2000). Summary
judgment shall be denied “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving
party “has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with
respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “[A] complete
failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated that
summary judgment is “the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must
show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the
events.” Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle
Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (other citations omitted)).
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The gravamen of Childress’s complaint is that his liberty interests were violated
by Defendants’ deliberate indifference in placing a computer disk in his property, or
condoning a policy that caused a computer disk to be placed in his property, knowing
that possession of the disk would violate the terms of Childress’s supervised release
and lead to its revocation. See Childress, 787 F.3d at 440. The Seventh Circuit held this
claim is analyzed under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment rather than the broader substantive due process guarantees of the
Fourteenth Amendment. Id. (“incarceration after the time specified in a sentence has
expired violates the Eighth Amendment if it is the product of deliberate indifference”).
In reaching this conclusion, the Seventh Circuit cited Burke v. Johnson, 452 F.3d
665, 667 (7th Cir. 2006), which in turn relied on a test identified by the Third Circuit in
Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3rd Cir. 1993). In Moore, the Third Circuit held that a
plaintiff must establish three elements to succeed on a claim such as the one brought by
Childress in this case:
First, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a prison official had knowledge of
the prisoner’s problem and thus of the risk that unwarranted punishment
was being, or would be, inflicted. Second, the plaintiff must show that the
official either failed to act or took only ineffectual action under the
circumstances, indicating that his response to the problem was a product
of deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s plight. Finally, the plaintiff
must show a causal connection between the official’s response to the
problem and the unjustified detention.
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Moore, 986 F.2d at 686 (citing Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099 (3rd Cir. 1989)). The Court’s
analysis begins with this test. 7
First, the Assistant Wardens (Defendants Bates, Peyton, and Hilliard) knew or
should have known there was risk to placing a disk in the personal property of a sex
offender who was about to be released, as possession of the disk would violate the
terms of MSR. Certainly these upper-level IDOC officials would have been aware of
conditions of supervised release of persons in their custody. From Assistant Warden
Hilliard’s testimony, it was a common condition of MSR for a sex offender (or any
inmate) that he may not possess a disk and that, because of this condition, inmates at
Centralia were not given such disks upon their release. Both Assistant Wardens Bates
and Peyton also knew there were restrictions on computer equipment such that they
should have been aware of the risk of placing a disk in an inmate’s property.
As to Wilson and Saurbrunn, Childress testified that both Defendants were
aware he was a sex offender and that Wilson was aware of the “restrictions” he would
be under while on MSR. 8 Certainly their knowledge of such restrictions should have
given them pause in placing potentially unauthorized material in an inmate’s property
without his knowledge or consent.
Second, while there is no evidence Defendants deliberately placed the disk in
Childress’s property knowing that his supervised release would be revoked, a
Defendants do not specifically address the test articulated in Moore but do argue that they had no
knowledge of the risk to Childress, that they were not deliberately indifferent, and that their actions were
not the proximate cause of the deprivation of Childress’s liberty interests.
8 While Defendants testified they had no knowledge of Childress’s situation, the Court on summary
judgment must construe all facts and draw reasonable inferences in favor of Chidress, the non-movant.
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reasonable jury may find that Defendants’ conduct was highly reckless. “The infliction
of suffering on prisoners can be found to violate the Eighth Amendment only if that
infliction is either deliberate, or reckless in the criminal law sense.” Duckworth v.
Franzen, 780 F.2d 645, 652-53 (7th Cir. 1985). Negligence, gross negligence, or even
“recklessness” as that term is used in tort cases, is not enough. Id. at 653; Shockley v.
Jones, 823 F.2d 1068, 1072 (7th Cir. 1987). Put another way, a plaintiff must demonstrate
that the officials were “aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a
substantial risk of serious harm exists” and that the officials actually drew that
inference. Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653. “Whether a prison official had the requisite
knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the
usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, . . . and a fact finder may
conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk
was obvious.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994) (citations omitted).
If prison officials knew that conditions of MSR prohibited the possession of
computer equipment, it should have been obvious to prison officials that placing a disk
in a probationer’s personal property would violate the terms of supervised release.
Defendants, while not on parole boards and not probation officers, should have been
familiar with the conditions of supervised release because those conditions were
undoubtedly relayed to them any time an inmate is incarcerated and released. 9 It
stretches credulity to believe that these Defendants were wholly oblivious to the known
IDOC maintains custody of persons placed on supervised release, and the Prisoner Review Board
monitors compliance while on supervised release. 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/3-14-2.
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risk of placing prohibited items in an inmate’s personal property, without his
knowledge or consent, prior to release. Figgs v. Dawson, 829 F.3d 895, 902 (7th Cir. 2016)
(deliberate indifference can be shown if “the defendant was essentially criminally
reckless, that is, ignored a known risk”). A jury could find Defendants knew or should
have known that the disk would negatively affect Childress’s liberty interest and that
by doing nothing (or affirmatively placing the disk in his property), they were
deliberately indifferent to that harm. See Schneider v. County of Will, Ill., 528 F. App’x 590,
594 (7th Cir. 2013) (“A jailer is deliberately indifferent when he does nothing, or when
he takes action that is so inept or ineffectual that deliberate indifference can be
inferred.”) (citations omitted).
Third, there is a causal connection between the placement of the disk in
Childress’s property and the revocation of his supervised release. During the relevant
time period, there is no dispute there was a policy of placing disks in inmates’ property
after completion of the job preparedness class. This policy led to the placement of the
disk in Childress’s property, which in turn resulted in the violation of the terms of his
MSR. The contours of the policy were either set by IDOC or a jail’s warden. At Big
Muddy, the Assistant Warden of Programs, as Ms. Wilson testified, was personally
involved in the manner in which the disks were given to inmates. At the time,
Defendant Bates was the Assistant Warden of Programs, and Defendant Peyton was the
Assistant Warden of Operations. Defendant Peyton was also the Assistant Warden of
Programs, however, and directed the manner in which the disks would be handed out
to inmates. Thus, both Bates and Peyton were personally involved in the conduct that
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may have violated Childress’s constitutional rights. See Chavez v. Illinois State Police, 251
F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001) (finding that supervisors are subject to § 1983 liability if
they know about the conduct and “facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind
eye for fear of what they might see”) (quotation marks and citations omitted). The
policy was then carried out by Wilson, who created the disk, and Saurbrunn, who
placed it in Childress’s property. Further, Childress testified that, but for the discovery
of the disk, his supervised release would not have been revoked, and he would not
have spent an additional year in prison. A reasonable jury could find, therefore, that
Childress’s Eighth Amendment rights were violated.
The only defendant entitled to summary judgment at this stage is Defendant
Hilliard, who was not employed at Big Muddy at the time Childress either took the
class or was released from custody. There also is no evidence that Hilliard created the
policy at issue or that he turned a blind eye to the practice as it relates to Childress.
Because there is no causal connection between any action of Hilliard and the disk being
placed in Childress’s property, he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Even if Childress’s claims survive summary judgment on the merits, Defendants
argue they are entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity “protects
government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quotation
marks and citation omitted). In determining whether the defendants are entitled to
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qualified immunity, the Court must consider two questions: whether “the facts that a
plaintiff has alleged [ ] or shown [ ] make out a violation of a constitutional right”; and,
“whether the right was clearly established at the time of defendant’s alleged
misconduct.” Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232 (citations and quotation marks omitted); Saucier v.
Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001); See also Miller v. Harbaugh, 698 F.3d 956, 962 (7th Cir.
As indicated above, a reasonable jury could find that Childress’s constitutional
rights were violated. The first question, therefore, is satisfied. With respect to the second
question, the inquiry is specific to the circumstances of the case: “The relevant
dispositive inquiry in determining whether a right is clearly established is whether it
would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he
confronted.” Saucier, 533 U.S. at 202. A plaintiff has the burden of establishing that a
constitutional right is clearly established. Denius v. Dunlap, 209 F.3d 944, 950 (7th Cir.
2000). While Plaintiff need not present a “case directly on point,” he must show that
“existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate.” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 335, 341 (1986). “[T]he law is ‘clearly established’ if
‘various courts have agreed that certain conduct is a constitutional violation under facts
not distinguishable in a fair way from the facts presented in the case at hand . . . .’”
Campbell v. Peters, 256 F.3d 695, 701 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Saucier, 533 U.S. at 202). If
found applicable, qualified immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those
who knowingly violate the law.” White v. Pauly, __ U.S. __, 137 S. Ct. 548, 551 (2017).
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As Childress has acknowledged, there is no case directly on point or similar to
this case that would have placed the constitutional question beyond debate. 10 Each case
cited by Childress is distinguishable from the facts here. In those cases, the central
question was whether the inmates were held in prison beyond their release date. See
Burke, 452 F.3 at 669 (inmate held in jail beyond his release date because officials were
deliberately indifferent in timely computing jail time credit); Campbell, 256 F.3d at 699
(inmate held in jail beyond his release date because officials miscalculated his release
date and the application of good conduct credit). 11 It is insufficient for Childress to
point to general statements of constitutional law; rather, he must point to “clearly
established law” that is “’particularized’ to the facts of the case.” White, 137 S.Ct. at 552
(quoting Anderson v. Cerighton, 483, U.S. 635, 640 (1987)). As such, cases setting forth the
general principal that it is a violation of the constitution to hold inmates in prison
beyond their release date cannot be converted to clearly established law that placing
prohibited items in a parolee’s property upon release from jail, leading to his or her reincarceration, would violate the Eighth Amendment. The two factual scenarios are
sufficiently dissimilar to render Childress’s citation to the above cases fruitless. 12
Because Childress has not set forth an analogous case, the Court looks to whether
Defendants’ conduct “constituted an obvious violation of a constitutional right.”
In footnote 2 of his brief, Childress states: “Plaintiff is not aware of another reported case with these
extreme facts, namely, a parole violation caused by actions of the prison officials themselves.”
11 In Campbell, the Court ultimately found that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at
12 The Court acknowledges that the cases cited by Childress are those cited by the Seventh Circuit in its
opinion reversing and remanding the dismissal of this case. The Court of Appeals cited these cases,
however, in its discussion of the proper Constitutional Amendment under which Childress’s claims must
be analyzed—not in any analysis of qualified immunity.
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Wernsing v. Thompson, 423 F.3d 732, 749 (7th Cir. 2005); Nabozny v. Podlesny, 92 F.3d 446,
456 (7th Cir. 1996) (“liability is not predicated upon the existence of a prior case that is
directly on point”); Saucier, 533 U.S. at 202 (“The relevant, dispositive inquiry in
determining whether a right is clearly established is whether it would be clear to a
reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.”). Put
another way, “in light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be apparent.”
Anderson, 483 U.S. 640. “[I]f officers of reasonable competence could disagree on this
issue, immunity should be recognized.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986).
The relevant inquiry in this case, then, is whether a reasonable officer could have
believed that placing a computer disk in Childress’s property (without his knowledge
or consent) was lawful, in light of the information readily available to them. The
evidence in the record demonstrates that each remaining defendant knew sex offenders
have or could have restrictions on possession of computer equipment as a condition of
MSR. On the other hand, each defendant also testified he or she did not know Childress
himself was a sex offender or that the specific terms of his MSR restricted his possession
of computer equipment. There is also testimony that Childress was informed during the
class that a disk would be placed in his property. Childress disputes these facts,
claiming each defendant was personally aware he was a sex offender and knew he was
not permitted to possess any computer related materials as part of his parole
restrictions. He also states that he was never informed he would receive a disk.
Based on this evidence, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether
these defendants acted in an objectively reasonable manner when they placed a
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computer disk in Childress’s property or turned a blind eye to the policy. Accordingly,
Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity must be denied.
State law claim
Defendants also assert they are entitled to summary judgment on Childress’s
state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Under Illinois
law, to succeed on a claim of IIED, Childress must show “(1) the conduct involved was
“truly extreme and outrageous”; (2) the defendants intended for their conduct to inflict
severe emotional distress or should have known that there was a high probability of
such distress; and (3) the conduct in fact caused severe emotional distress.” McGrath v.
Fahey, 533 N.E.2d 806, 809 (Ill. 1988). “Severe emotional distress is distress so severe that
no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.” Lifton v. Bd. of Educ. of City of
Chicago, 416 F.3d 571, 579 (7th Cir. 2005). “The nature of the defendant’s conduct must
be so extreme as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and be regarded as
intolerable in a civilized community.” Dunn v. City of Elgin, 347 F.3d 641, 651 (7th Cir.
2003). The more control a defendant has over the plaintiff, the more likely the
defendant’s conduct will be deemed outrageous. McGrath, 533 N.E.2d at 809.
Defendants’ sole argument in support of summary judgment is that placing a
disk containing Childress’s resume and cover letter into his property box is neither
extreme nor outrageous by any standard. Defendants claim the only way such conduct
could possibly be extreme or outrageous is if they had specific knowledge of the effect
the disk would have, that is, that ultimately Childress’s supervised release would be
revoked and he would be returned to prison. But that is exactly the knowledge Childress
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claims Defendants possessed. Given the conflicting testimony in this case regarding
Defendants’ knowledge of Childress’s status as a sex offender and the specific terms of
his MSR, a genuine issue of material fact exists that precludes the entry of summary
judgment on Childress’s state law IIED claim.
For the reasons set forth above, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants on January 17, 2017 (Doc. 86) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
Judgment is GRANTED in favor of Defendant Robert Hilliard and against Plaintiff on
Counts 1 and 2. Summary judgment is DENIED as to Defendants William Peyton, Ty
Bates, Danalyn Wilson, and C/O Saurbrunn.
Jury trial and the final pretrial conference will be set by separate order.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: August 7, 2017
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL
United States District Judge
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