798 F.3d 546 (7th Cir. 2015), 14-2910, Riker v. Lemmon
|Citation:||798 F.3d 546|
|Opinion Judge:||Ripple, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||REBECCA RIKER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BRUCE LEMMON, in his official capacity, et al., Defendants-Appellees|
|Attorney:||For Rebecca Riker, Plaintiff - Appellant: Aimee M. Gong, Attorney, Lawrence M. Reuben, Attorney, Law Offices of Lawrence M. Reuben, Indianapolis, IN; Gavin M. Rose, Attorney, Aclu of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN; Kelly Eskew, Attorney, Indianapolis, IN. For BRUCE LEMMON, in his official capacity, RI...|
|Judge Panel:||Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||August 14, 2015|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit|
While working as an employee of a contractor at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Rebecca Riker engaged in a romantic relationship with inmate Vest. When the relationship became known, her employment ended. She later requested to be allowed to visit Vest. Prison officials denied those requests because the institution’s policy prohibits visitation by former employees. Riker and Vest later... (see full summary)
Argued February 13, 2015
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:13-cv-00571-TWP-DML -- Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge.
While working as an employee of a contractor at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Rebecca Riker engaged in a romantic relationship with inmate Paul Vest. When the relationship became known, her employment ended. She later requested that she be allowed to visit Vest, but prison officials denied those requests as forbidden by the institution's inmate visitation policy. Ms. Riker and Vest later submitted an application to marry, which prison officials also denied.
Ms. Riker then brought this action against several individual officials of the Indiana Department of Corrections (" the Department" or " IDOC" ), in their official and individual capacities, challenging the denials of her requests to visit and to marry Vest. She sought damages against the individual defendants as well as declarative and injunctive relief. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. It concluded that prohibiting Ms. Riker from visiting Vest was reasonable and that this restriction did not unconstitutionally burden her right to marry. The court also granted the individual defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.
In this appeal, Ms. Riker limits her challenge to the district court's determination that, based on the summary judgment record, the defendants' refusal to permit the marriage does not violate Ms. Riker's rights guaranteed by the Constitution. We respectfully disagree with the district court and conclude that, on this record, the defendants have failed to justify adequately the denial of Ms. Riker's marriage request. We accordingly reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings.
From December 2007 through April 2008, Ms. Riker was employed by Aramark Correctional Services, Inc. (" Aramark" ). Aramark contracted with the Department to operate and manage food services in the Department's correctional facilities. Ms. Riker worked at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (" WVCF" ), a level-four maximum security correctional facility in Carlisle, Indiana. She supervised approximately twenty inmates in preparing and serving meals. As part of her job training, the Department gave her instruction in security, first aid, and personal protection skills. She also received training on WVCF emergency security procedures, including procedures for evacuation, riots, bomb threats, escape prevention, security sweeps, hostage scenarios, and emergency transport.
Ms. Riker met Vest, an IDOC inmate serving a fifty-year sentence for robbery, while working as his supervisor in the kitchen at the WVCF. After a couple of months, they began a romantic relationship, which included sexual intercourse in a walk-in cooler at the facility. In April 2008, another Aramark employee witnessed Ms. Riker and Vest kissing in the walk-in cooler and reported the incident to Ms. Riker's supervisor. Ms. Riker quit her job later that day; Vest later was disciplined by the Department.
After Ms. Riker left her job with Aramark, she maintained contact with Vest through letters and phone calls. In May
2008, she submitted an application for visiting privileges with Vest. The WVCF denied the application because Ms. Riker had " worked at [the] facility." 1 In 2008 and 2009, Ms. Riker wrote letters to the Department's commissioner and the facility superintendent requesting visitation privileges with Vest. Both letters met the same response: the Department's policy clearly states that " ex-employees shall not be permitted to visit an offender if the relationship between the offender and the ex-employee started ... during the ex-employee's period of employment with the Department." 2
In 2010, Ms. Riker accepted a proposal of marriage from Vest. They completed an application to marry, and Vest submitted that application to the chaplain at the WVCF. The application was denied because Ms. Riker was not on Vest's list of approved visitors.3
Formal IDOC and WVCF policies specifically addressed staff/inmate relationships. Ms. Riker's relationship with Vest during her employment at WVCF violated IDOC policy 04-03-103, which prohibits staff-persons from having " any personal contact with an offender ... beyond that necessary for the proper supervision and treatment of the offender." 4 The policy provides several examples of inappropriate contact, including: " [m]arriage to an offender," " [s]ocial relationship of any type with an offender," and " [p]hysical contact beyond that which is routinely required by specific job duties." 5 The policy also notes that " [s]exual contact with an offender is a criminal offense under IC 35-44-1-5." 6
Under the IDOC and WVCF offender visitation policies, former employees must make a written request to visit an offender.7 Former employees generally " shall not be allowed to visit an offender who has been housed in the same facility in which the ex-employee was employed and who was incarcerated at the facility during the time the ex-employee was employed there." 8 The superintendent of the facility reviews the ex-employee's " request and recommend[s] whether the visit is in the best interest of the facility and the individuals involved." 9 Absent special circumstances, an ex-employee must wait until one year after her employment has ended before she can visit an offender. However, ex-employees never are " permitted to visit an offender if the relationship between the offender and the ex-employee started or resulted from contact between the ex-employee and the offender during the ex-employee's period of employment with the Department." 10
The Department also maintains a marriage policy, which " recognizes that marriage may serve as a rehabilitative tool which may assist an offender during the community re-entry process." 11 The policy states that " [t]he approval of an offender's request to marry shall be based upon the legality of the proposed marriage and the safety and security of the facility and the individuals involved." 12 Notably, the Department did not reference its marriage policy when denying Ms. Riker's marriage application.
In April 2013, Ms. Riker filed this action against several IDOC officials, including Bruce Lemmon in his official capacity as commissioner of the Department, challenging the denials of her requests to visit and to marry Vest. In due course, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The officials submitted that the Department's refusal to permit Ms. Riker to marry Vest " did not violate [Ms.] Riker's qualified constitutional right to marry." 13 They constended that " the same security principles and concerns apply to the consideration of [Ms.] Riker's request for marriage as it does her request for visitation" and that allowing " [v]isitation between a former staff member and an offender that developed an inappropriate relationship during the course of the former staff member's employment inside the facility would threaten the security of the facility." 14 They maintained that, because Ms. " Riker was working inside the [WVCF] and was trained by the [IDOC] in security protocols, defense, and emergency security procedures," " [i]t was reasonable for [the prison officials] to conclude that [Ms. Riker] would know the security details of the [WVCF]" and that " a former staff person in a romantic relationship with an incarcerated individual might divulge security information to that incarcerated individual or assist him in other inappropriate ways." 15
The district court granted the defendants' motion. With respect to Ms. Riker's right-to-marry claim, the court concluded " that the burden on Ms. Riker's right to marry was not substantial or direct, but was light or at most moderate." 16 In support of its conclusion, " the [c]ourt note[d] that Ms. Riker ha[d] not made a formal request to marry Mr. Vest" and that " Ms. Riker ha[d] not been absolutely prevented from marrying a large portion of the eligible population of spouses." 17 The court then decided that " [a]llowing Ms. Riker, and other former employees, to visit inmates is a legitimate security risk" and that, under the rational-basis standard
of scrutiny, it would " not second guess the security concerns expressed by the correctional authorities." 18
Ms. Riker appeals only the district court's decision that the defendants did not unreasonably burden her constitutional right to marry.
Ms. Riker contends that the Department's decision preventing her from marrying Vest is unconstitutional. She submits that prohibiting her marriage to Vest is an...
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