Barnes v. Veath et al
ORDER GRANTING 44 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Timothy R. Veath and Tonya D Kenner. The action is DISMISSED with prejudice and the Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to enter judgment accordingly. Signed by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on 11/13/2017. (bak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
TIMOTHY R. VEATH and
TONYA D. KENNER,
Case No. 3:14-CV-1277-NJR-DGW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge:
This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants Timothy R. Veath and Tonya D. Kenner (Doc. 44). For the reasons set forth
below, the Motion is granted.
Plaintiff Leon Barnes (‘Barnes”) is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois
Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). Barnes filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at
Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Barnes alleges that he received two
disciplinary tickets related to the same January 15, 2013 incident and, despite being
advised of this issue, members of the Adjustment Committee, Timothy Veath and Tonya
Kenner, imposed punishment for the duplicative charge.
The complaint was screened pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Barnes was
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allowed to proceed on the following claims against Defendant Veath and Kenner (as
numbered in the Court’s screening order):
Count Two: Defendants denied Barnes due process in violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment; and
Count Three: By meting out two punishments for the same conduct,
Defendants subjected Barnes to cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Defendants Veath and Kenner now move for summary judgment asserting
Barnes’s due process rights were not violated and the disciplinary charges and
subsequent punishment did not amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Along with
their motion, Defendants filed a notice pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. That notice informed Barnes of the contents of Rule 56 and notified him of
the perils of failing to respond within the proper timeframe of thirty days (see Doc. 46).
Defendants’ notice also informed Barnes that his failure to file a response by the deadline
may, in the Court’s discretion, be considered an admission of the merits of their motion
pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(c) (id.). Despite receiving adequate notice, Barnes failed to file
a response by the deadline of September 25, 2017 (and there is no response on file as of
the date of this Order). The Court deems Barnes’s failure to file a response to be an
admission as to the merits of Defendants’ motion.
The claims stem from an incident on January 15, 2013, wherein Barnes was
involved in an assault on another inmate. Barnes was issued a disciplinary ticket for an
offense of “102 – assaulting any person” on January 15, 2013 by Lt. Holton (see Doc. 45-1).
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A hearing on the ticket was held before the Adjustment Committee, Scott Minh and
Timothy Veath, on January 18, 2013 (see Doc. 45-2; see also Affidavit of Timothy Veath,
Doc. 48, ¶ 3). Barnes was found guilty of the offense, and the Committee imposed the
following disciplinary action: (1) six months “C grade”; (2) six months segregation;
(3) six months commissary restriction; and (4) three months yard restriction (see
Doc. 45-2; see also Doc. 48, ¶ 3).
Barnes was subsequently issued a second disciplinary ticket stemming from the
January 15, 2013 incident. That ticket was issued on January 25, 2013, and it charged
Barnes with the offense of “102—assaulting any person” and the offense of
“205—security threat group or unauthorized organization activity” (see Doc. 45-3, p. 1).
A hearing on the January 25, 2013 ticket was held on January 29, 2013 before Adjustment
Committee members Timothy Veath and Tonya Kenner (Doc. 48, ¶ 4 see Doc. 45-4).
Barnes was found guilty of both charges (Id.). At the January 29, 2013 hearing, Barnes
advised Defendants that he had already been found guilty and received punishment for
the assault charge (Doc. 48, ¶ 41). Defendant Veath recalls telling Barnes that he was not
receiving discipline for the assault charge; instead, he was only receiving discipline for
the gang activity charge (Id.). The Committee imposed the following disciplinary action:
(1) six months “C grade”; (2) six months segregation; (3) six months commissary
restriction; and (4) six months contact visits restriction (Id.; see Doc. 45-4, p. 3).
Defendant Veath’s affidavit contains a chronological numbering error insofar as he includes two
statements designated as paragraph four. This citation is in reference to his second statement numbered as
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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 as a
matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See also
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). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in
genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved
against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970). See also
Lawrence v. Kenosha Cty., 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004). 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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A. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim (Count Two)
Barnes asserts he was not afforded due process insofar as he was punished twice
for the same offense and, as a result, he was confined to segregation for one year.
Although incarceration necessarily makes many rights and privileges of ordinary
citizens unavailable, “a prisoner is not wholly stripped of constitutional protections
when he is imprisoned for crime.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 555 (1974). In
particular, prisoners may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law. Id. at 556 (citations omitted). In substantiating a due process claim, a
plaintiff must establish that: (1) there was a protected interest at stake that necessitated
the protections demanded by due process; and (2) the disciplinary hearing process was
not in accordance with procedural due process requirements. See Crane v. Logli, 992 F.2d
136, 138 (7th Cir. 1993).
With respect to the first showing, a liberty interest only exists when prison
officials restrain the freedom of inmates in a manner that “imposes atypical and
significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.”
Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). “In assessing whether disciplinary segregation
amounts to a constitutional violation,” courts are directed to look to “the combined
import of the duration of the segregative confinement and the conditions endured.”
Hardaway v. Meyerhoff, 734 F.3d 740, 743 (7th Cir. 2013) (quotation omitted) (emphasis in
original). The evidence here suggests Barnes was placed in segregation for
approximately twelve months; however, there is no evidence concerning the conditions
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he endured during this time. 2 Without any evidence demonstrating that the conditions
in segregative confinement were atypical or significantly harsher than the conditions in
the general prison population, the Court cannot find that Barnes suffered a deprivation
of a liberty interest that entitled him to due process protections. See Sandin, 515 U.S. at
486 (comparing disciplinary segregation to other forms of segregation); Bryan v.
Duckworth, 88 F.3d 431, 434 (7th Cir. 1996) abrogated on other grounds, Diaz v. Duckworth,
143 F.3d 345, 346 (7th Cir.1998) (“If the conditions of confinement in segregation were
not so different from those of the general prison population as to work a major
disruption in his environment, or equivalently an atypical, significant deprivation, then,
however protracted, it would not count as a deprivation of liberty; the decrement of
liberty would be too slight. But if conditions in segregation were considerably harsher
than those of the normal prison environment—a factual issue requiring for its resolution
a comparison between the conditions of confinement of the general population and
those in the segregation unit—then a year of it might count as a deprivation of liberty
where a few days or even weeks might not” (quotation marks and citation omitted)).
Based on the foregoing, the Court need not consider whether the disciplinary
hearing process was in accordance with due process requirements. Defendants are
entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Count Two, the Fourteenth Amendment
B. Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment Claim (Count Three)
In Count Three, Barnes claims that he was subjected to cruel and unusual
Barnes describes some conditions he endured while in segregation in his complaint; however, his
complaint was not verified and, as such, it has no evidentiary value.
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punishment as he was punished twice for the same offense. It is well settled that,
although the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, it does not permit
inhumane ones. Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (quotation omitted)). As such, the Seventh Circuit holds that the
treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined
are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment. Id. (citation omitted). In order to
prevail on such a claim, two requirements must be met. Id. “First, the deprivation alleged
must be, objectively, sufficiently serious; a prison official’s act or omission must result in
the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Id. (citations omitted).
Second, a prison official “must have a sufficiently culpable state of mind”, mainly
“deliberate indifference.” Id.
At the outset, it is not apparent that Barnes’s confinement to segregation for
twelve months resulted in a deprivation that was objectively sufficiently serious given
the lack of evidence concerning the conditions of the confinement. This point need not be
dispositive here, however, because Defendants have provided sufficient, undisputed
evidence that they did not act with deliberate indifference. In particular, Defendant
Veath attests that punishment on the same charge was not meted out twice. Rather,
Defendant Veath explains that Barnes received an additional six months in segregation
due to a finding of guilt on the “205” offense—“security threat group or unauthorized
organization activity”—not the “102” offense at the second Adjustment Committee
hearing. As Barnes has not provided any evidence to dispute Defendant Veath’s
attestation, the Court finds that no reasonable jury could conclude that Defendants
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Veath or Kenner acted with deliberate indifference in imposing a punishment of an
additional six months in segregation at the January 29, 2013 hearing.
Based on the foregoing, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants
Timothy R. Veath and Tonya D. Kenner (Doc. 44) is GRANTED. This action is
DISMISSED with prejudice, and the Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to enter judgment
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: November 13, 2017
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL
United States District Judge
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