125 F.3d 1132 (7th Cir. 1997), 95-3130, Leslie v. Doyle

Docket Nº:95-3130.
Citation:125 F.3d 1132
Party Name:Keith LESLIE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. William DOYLE, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:September 29, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 1132

125 F.3d 1132 (7th Cir. 1997)

Keith LESLIE, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

William DOYLE, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 95-3130.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

September 29, 1997

        Argued April 18, 1996.

        Rehearing Denied Jan. 12, 1998.

        Stephen D. Libowsky, Orrin S. Shifrin (argued), Katten, Muchin & Zavis, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

        Jessie Wang-Grimm (argued), Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellee.

        Before CUDAHY, RIPPLE and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

        CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

        This case raises disturbing questions about the nature and extent of the constitutional rights that protect state prisoners from the arbitrary and arguably lawless acts of state prison officials. The prisoner here, Keith Leslie, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a correctional officer, William J. Doyle. The lawsuit alleged that Doyle falsely accused him of insolent conduct, thereby causing Leslie to be brought up on disciplinary charges and confined in disciplinary segregation for fifteen days. When a prison

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administrative board reviewed the sanctions, it concluded that the charges had been baseless. The board cleared Leslie, but his exoneration came well after he had left segregation.

        Leslie claimed that the officer's conduct and the ensuing punishment violated his federal constitutional rights. The district court ruled that no constitutional wrong had occurred: neither the Fourth Amendment, nor the Eighth Amendment, nor the Due Process Clause, proscribed the official conduct alleged here. The district court accordingly dismissed the case.

       I.

        Leslie takes his appeal from two orders of the district court, one dismissing a portion of his complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and the other dismissing the remainder on summary judgment. Our account thus portrays Leslie's story in the most favorable light in order to see whether Leslie's allegations can sustain any cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Howlett v. Birkdale Shipping Co., 512 U.S. 92, 94, 114 S.Ct. 2057, 2061, 129 L.Ed.2d 78 (1994) (summary judgment); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-02, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (motion to dismiss).

        In September 1992, an Illinois court sentenced Keith Leslie to three years for burglary and to ten years for an offense involving theft of motor vehicles. He was assigned to the Hill Correctional Center. In May 1993, Leslie was rehoused temporarily at the Joliet Correctional Center while he attended court proceedings nearby. At noon on May 24, Leslie returned to Joliet from his court appearance in the custody of Joe Carruthers and another correctional officer. In accordance with correctional procedure, Leslie's hands and feet were shackled. Although shackles would make movement awkward for anyone, they made movement particularly hard for Leslie because he has a partially paralyzed leg and must walk with a cane. With his hands and feet bound, he had to hold the cane's handle in the middle of his body while he kept its other end between his feet.

        The correctional officers escorted Leslie to the first security checkpoint, and Carruthers asked William Doyle, an officer there, to authorize Leslie's entry. To verify Leslie's identity, Doyle asked Leslie to look at him and state his name and registration number. Leslie complied, but Doyle repeated the order, insisting that Leslie look directly at him. Leslie told Doyle that he was doing so and then repeated his name and registration number. Doyle let Leslie pass through a gate at the security checkpoint, and, as Leslie walked by him, Doyle grabbed Leslie's cane and shook it. Leslie responded by asking Doyle whether Doyle was trying to make him fall. Doyle ordered Leslie to proceed with Carruthers to the "shakedown room" where correctional officers search inmates who enter the prison through the security checkpoint.

        Doyle was in the shakedown room when Leslie arrived. Although Leslie cooperated with the officers there, Doyle accused him of making trouble and ordered him to administrative segregation. After two days there, Leslie received notice that Doyle had charged him with disciplinary violations, including disobeying a direct order, making a dangerous disturbance, assault and insolence. According to the notice, Doyle had alleged that Leslie had refused to look at him and had argued with him at the security checkpoint and in the shakedown room, thereby creating a loud disturbance in each place.

        The prison administration held a hearing on the charges and found that Leslie had disobeyed a direct order and been insolent. It reduced his grade for one month and sentenced him to fifteen days in disciplinary segregation. Leslie filed a grievance report with an administrative review board. In his report, he included witness statements from Carruthers and two other correctional officers present at his encounter with Doyle, who essentially said that Leslie had done nothing wrong. The review board decided that the charges had been baseless. In November 1993, it expunged the disciplinary report from Leslie's record, restored his grade and compensated him $5.10 for the prison wages he lost in segregation.

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        Leslie sued pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In July 1994, his court-appointed lawyers filed an amended complaint alleging that Doyle's conduct and Leslie's confinement in disciplinary segregation had violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment and under the substantive component of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 1 Doyle moved for dismissal, contending that Leslie had failed to allege a cognizable constitutional violation.

        The district court largely agreed with Doyle's arguments, but with an important qualification. It ruled that Leslie's Eighth Amendment claim failed because fifteen days in disciplinary segregation was not such a serious punishment that it could be cruel and unusual. The district court also ruled that Leslie had not alleged an affected liberty interest that could uphold a substantive due process claim. Thus, according to the court, Leslie's claim derived from his being removed to disciplinary segregation; but, since Illinois prison regulations did not create a liberty interest in Leslie's remaining with the general prison population, the substantive due process claim necessarily foundered. The district court nonetheless did not dismiss the suit against Doyle. Leslie's allegations, it held, might support a claim that Doyle had illegally seized his person in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court ordered the parties to proceed with discovery on this issue. Leslie v. Doyle, 868 F.Supp. 1039 (N.D.Ill.1994) (Leslie I).

        Before the case went to trial, however, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that the district court would treat as dispositive of the outstanding Fourth Amendment matter. The Court ruled that confinement in disciplinary segregation did not trigger a prisoner's liberty interest, unless the conditions of this confinement "impose[d] atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2300, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995). The facts in Sandin were much like Leslie's: the Sandin prisoner had undergone 30 days of disciplinary segregation on baseless charges, but the Court denied that this confinement touched a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 485-86, 115 S.Ct. at 2300-01. Doyle moved for summary judgment on Leslie's remaining Fourth Amendment claim. Despite its outspoken misgivings about the wisdom of Sandin, the district court viewed Leslie's action as a "straightforward application" of Sandin, and one fatal to his claim. Leslie v. Doyle, 896 F.Supp. 771, 774 (N.D.Ill.1995) (Leslie II). On August 9, 1995, the district court ordered the case dismissed, and Leslie appealed.

       II.

        Leslie...

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