405 F.3d 602 (7th Cir. 2005), 04-1420, Lekas v. Briley

Docket Nº:04-1420.
Citation:405 F.3d 602
Party Name:Christopher LEKAS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Kenneth BRILEY, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:April 25, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 602

405 F.3d 602 (7th Cir. 2005)

Christopher LEKAS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Kenneth BRILEY, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 04-1420.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 25, 2005

Argued Sept. 22, 2004.

Page 603

Linda K. Stevens (Argued), Schiff, Hardin & Waite, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Carl Elitz (Argued), Office of the Attorney General, Civil Appeals Division, Chicago, IL, Lara S. Kaufmann (Argued), Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before COFFEY, WILLIAMS, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge.

Christopher Lekas, a prisoner in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), makes several constitutional claims relating to his placement and confinement in disciplinary segregation. The district court dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim. We affirm this dismissal because we find that the allegations of Lekas's complaint effectively plead him out of court by detailing conditions that do not amount to a deprivation of a liberty interest, and because he failed to present arguments before the district court linking the allegations of retaliation in his complaint to his Section 1983 claim, leaving him with no case or controversy upon which to base a constitutional challenge of Section 1997e(e) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e)).

I. BACKGROUND

In reviewing a district court's dismissal of a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, we "take the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor." DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 612 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Strasburger v. Bd. of Educ., 143 F.3d 351, 359 (7th Cir. 1998)). While imprisoned at the Pinckneyville Correction Center, Lekas cultivated a relationship on "friendly terms" with one of the prison's female employees--Tyone Murray. By February 2000, however, Lekas was transferred to another IDOC prison--Menard Correctional Center. Once at Menard, Lekas found the prison's medical treatment of his various medical conditions inadequate, leading him and his father to file with the

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Administrative Review Board (ARB) and highly placed IDOC officials a number of administrative grievances and complaints. At least six of those grievances, which had been filed between July and October of 2000, were denied sometime around November 6, 2000.

In early November of 2000, while still incarcerated at Menard, Lekas mailed Murray a package containing two ceramic mugs and a personal letter via a third party. Under the IDOC's Rule against "Abuse of Privileges" (Rule 310), inmates are prohibited from "corresponding or communicating with a ... person after the committed person has received notice that such person has informed the [IDOC] that he or she does not wish to receive correspondence from the committed person." Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 504, Table A. There is, however, no rule against inmates sending mail or gifts to an IDOC facility employee.

Soon after he had mailed his package to Murray, on November 9, 2000, a disciplinary report was issued, stating that Lekas was "being placed on investigative status for his possible involvement in sending unauthorized correspondence." 1 That same day, Lekas was transferred to Stateville Correctional Center, where he was placed in the segregation unit under "investigative status." Lekas was not informed as to the precise basis for his reclassification to "investigative status" until November 17, 2000. At that time, an investigator for the IDOC informed him that he was being questioned regarding the package he sent to Murray. In response to the investigator's questions, Lekas explained that Murray had given him her address, a photograph of herself with her child, and permission to correspond with her. Notwithstanding his explanation, a disciplinary report was issued from Pinckneyville on December 8, 2000, officially charging Lekas with violation of IDOC Rules against "Abuse of Privileges" (Rule 310) and "Dangerous Communications" (Rule 208). 2

A hearing on these charges was held before the Adjustment Committee at Stateville on December 13, 2000. In response to the Abuse of Privileges charge, Lekas again asserted that Murray had permitted and encouraged his correspondence, and had not, as an "Abuse of Privileges" violation would require, given notice that his correspondence was unwelcome. Furthermore, his custodians proffered no evidence that would suggest that Murray gave such notice, as was their burden to establish the charge. Notwithstanding this alleged lack of evidence, the Adjustment Committee, composed of defendants Carol DelPriore, Daniel Luce, and Michael Dangerfield, found Lekas guilty of Abuse of Privileges, and sentenced him to three months of segregation, demoted him to "C Grade" for three months, and denied him commissary privileges for three months. The committee did, however, find Lekas not guilty of the "Dangerous Communications" charge.

Lekas then pursued an administrative appeal by filing a grievance before the

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ARB, asserting, inter alia, that the process of his disciplinary proceedings had violated his civil rights. But that grievance also failed, and allegedly resulted in its own, independent violations of department rules on grievance proceedings. 3

When all was said and done, Lekas had served about 90 days in segregated confinement--from November 9, 2000 until approximately February 9, 2001. While in segregation, he was unable to participate in prison programs, educational programs, and work programs; he lost prison employment, wages, contact visits, telephone privileges, visits from clergy, and access to church; and he was allowed fewer visits from family, exercise privileges, commissary privileges, personal possessions, and audio/visual items. According to his complaint, these conditions were "significantly atypical" from those in the general prison population.

Lekas, proceeding pro se, filed a Section 1983 claim in federal district court, alleging that several of his custodians violated his due process rights by depriving him of a liberty interest created by Illinois law when they placed him in segregation in contravention of the department's own rules. The district court immediately dismissed the complaint sua sponte, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, reasoning that this Circuit had already found in cases such as Williams v. Ramos, 71 F.3d 1246 (7th Cir. 1995) that the conditions of segregation in Illinois prisons did not create such an "atypical and significant hardship" as to give rise to an enforceable liberty interest. Lekas, however, prevailed upon the court to reinstate his case by arguing in a Motion for Relief from Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) that conditions of segregation at Stateville had taken a turn "for the worse" since Williams was decided. Thereafter, Lekas was appointed counsel, and ultimately granted leave to file a Second Amended Complaint.

The Second Amended Complaint states two claims for relief. Count I, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that the various prison employees named above, as well as defendant Kenneth Briley (the Chief Administrative Officer of Stateville)--together, "State Defendants"--violated his constitutional right to procedural due process by placing him in disciplinary segregation in contravention of their own mandatory department rules, and without evidence supporting the elements of the charge that would warrant his segregation. Count II joins the U.S. Attorney General ("Federal Defendant") seeking a declaratory judgment that Section 1997e(e) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 is unconstitutional both facially and as applied to the facts of this case. This second count asserts that Section 1997e(e) deprives prisoners of due process and denies them equal protection by leaving them without remedy for constitutional deprivations resulting in solely non-physical injuries.

The district court, however, dismissed this Second Amended Complaint upon motions by both State and Federal Defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In particular, the court found that Count I failed to state a claim because Lekas's segregation as alleged did

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not amount to a deprivation of a liberty interest and therefore could not form the basis of a procedural due process claim. With respect to Count II, the court found Lekas's Section 1997e(e) challenge "untenable," concluding that the provision was "merely a limitation on recovery," and not--as the complaint alleged--an outright bar. Lekas appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Accordingly, a complaint's ability to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge inevitably turns on its ability to satisfy Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure--the general rules of pleading a claim for relief. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), plaintiff's complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This "short and plain statement," with irrelevant exceptions, requires the plaintiff to plead merely "the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer," Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002), and not an exhaustive recitation of the facts or elements of that claim, Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1007 (7th Cir. 2002). Indeed, "[a] complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 612 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal...

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