882 F.2d 1171 (7th Cir. 1989), 88-1653, Lenea v. Lane

Docket Nº:88-1653, 88-1734, 88-2407 and 88-2436.
Citation:882 F.2d 1171
Party Name:Paul Frederick LENEA, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant, v. Michael P. LANE, et al., Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees.
Case Date:August 11, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1171

882 F.2d 1171 (7th Cir. 1989)

Paul Frederick LENEA, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant,


Michael P. LANE, et al., Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees.

Nos. 88-1653, 88-1734, 88-2407 and 88-2436.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 11, 1989

Argued March 28, 1989.

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Thomas J. Canna and John F. Canna, Canna & Canna, Homewood, Ill., for Paul F. Lenea, plaintiff-appellee, cross-appellant.

Neil F. Hartigan, Atty. Gen., Timothy J. Cavanagh, Deborah L. Ahlstrand, Bret A. Rappaport, and William H. London, Asst. Attys. Gen., Office of the Atty. Gen., Chicago, Ill., for Michael P. Lane, et al.

Before CUDAHY and MANION, Circuit Judges, and HENLEY, Senior Circuit Judge. [*]

MANION, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Paul Lenea is an inmate in the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. A prison disciplinary committee and the Department of Corrections Director found him guilty of aiding and abetting an escape. He was placed in segregation for 360 days, had 360 days of good time credits revoked, and was demoted to grade "C" for 360 days. Lenea sued the Illinois Department of Corrections and its Director, Michael Lane, among others, under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, claiming defendants 1 denied him due process by finding him guilty without sufficient evidence. The district court agreed, and ordered the disciplinary action expunged from Lenea's record. We affirm.


On December 31, 1982, two Stateville inmates, Randy Valleff and Patrick Cecconi, went over the wall. The day before, Valleff and Cecconi had obtained bogus chapel passes from a chapel clerk (Lenea's co-worker), permitting them to visit the prison chapel on December 31. According to Valleff (after his apprehension, he provided details of the escape; the report containing those details is part of the record on appeal), he and Cecconi (together with another inmate, Frank Amato, who was part of the plan), visited the chapel on the 31st and left around 2:30 p.m. After that they hid out in a manhole until 6:30 p.m. Sometime between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., they escaped. (Amato tried, but did not make it.)

During the ensuing investigation Lenea, like several other inmates, was asked to submit to a polygraph test. He agreed; and the results showed he had answered two questions deceptively 2 (whether he helped or planned the escape and whether he knew of the escape plans before December 31). On the strength of those results, Lenea was charged with aiding and abetting the escape, and with providing false information to prison officials.

The Institutional Adjustment Committee ("IAC") held a hearing at which Lenea appeared and testified. The IAC found Lenea "guilty as charged," reciting evidence which showed that Lenea knew Valleff (as a prison barber) and Cecconi (who visited the chapel frequently), that Lenea saw Valleff in the chapel on December 31, and that Valleff asked Lenea for a cigarette light and to use a chapel room that day. The IAC concluded:

[T]he investigation report indicates that Res. Lenea was asked 2 direct questions pertaining to his involvement in the escape incident which occurred on December 31, 1982. The polygraph test indicated that the inmate answered untruthful to both questions. Therefore, the [IAC] reasonably feels the inmate [Lenea] was guilty as charged. 3

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The Department of Corrections' Administrative Review Board reviewed the IAC's decision. The Board interviewed Lenea and Stateville personnel, and reviewed Lenea's master file. A majority of the Board voted to overturn the disciplinary report, explaining that it was "their belief that the results of a polygraph examination are insufficient evidence for a finding of guilt." A minority disagreed, and recommended that the punishment be upheld. The minority reasoned that "[i]n consideration of the seriousness of the attempted offense and the results of the polygraph examination indicating Mr. Lenea was untruthful the undersigned is reasonably satisfied that Mr. Lenea committed the [aiding and abetting] violation for which he was cited and that the disciplinary action was appropriate." Director Lane adopted the minority's position without comment.

Lenea moved for summary judgment on February 21, 1986, contending that polygraph results were inadmissible in prison disciplinary hearings, and that without the results, there was not sufficient evidence to support the finding of guilt. Judge Leighton denied the motion, holding that polygraph results were admissible, and that, based on the record, the court could "not conclude there was not 'some evidence' to support the decision of the disciplinary committee." Defendants then moved for summary judgment on January 7, 1987, arguing there was "some evidence" to support the finding of guilt. Judge Leighton denied this motion too, holding that issues of fact still remained on the question of whether "some evidence" existed.

The case was reassigned to Judge Plunkett in December 1987, who treated the parties' earlier (denied) motions as cross-motions for summary judgment, and held that Lenea was denied due process because there was not "some evidence" of his guilt. The court rejected the so-called circumstantial evidence of Lenea's guilt consisting of (1) Lenea's presence in the chapel on the day of the escape, (2) Lenea's admission that he knew Valleff and Cecconi, and (3) material contained in his master file, explaining that it was not evidence of guilt at all. Thus, only the polygraph results remained. But according to the district court, the test results showed only that Lenea had been deceptive when he denied knowing of, or assisting in the escape; thus, they were relevant only on the question of Lenea's credibility, not as to the substantive offense charged. Concluding that the polygraph test results alone were insufficient to constitute "some evidence" of Lenea's guilt, the district court held Lenea was denied due process and ordered that the disciplinary action against Lenea be expunged from his record. Defendants moved to vacate the order on qualified immunity grounds. The district court agreed that defendants were personally immune from damages, finding that "the right not to be found guilty at a prison disciplinary proceeding solely on the basis of a failed lie detector test" was not clearly established in 1983. (This, though, did not change the court's earlier order to the extent it ordered Lenea's record expunged.)

Both sides appeal. Defendants argue that (1) the polygraph results coupled with the other circumstantial evidence, amounted to "some evidence" of Lenea's guilt; and (2) Lenea's suit sounded in habeas corpus, and thus should have been dismissed for his failure to exhaust state remedies. 4 Lenea contends that (1) polygraph test results are inadmissible in prison disciplinary proceedings; (2) defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity; and (3) even if defendants are qualifiedly immune, qualified immunity does not bar reinstatement or backpay.


A. Admissibility of Polygraph Test Results.

It is well-settled that prison disciplinary proceedings "are sui generis, governed

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by neither the evidentiary rules of a civil trial, a criminal trial, nor an administrative hearing." J. Gobert, N. Cohen, Rights of Prisoners, Sec. 8.07, p. 243 (1981). They take place "in a closed, tightly controlled environment peopled by those who have chosen to violate the law and who have been lawfully incarcerated for doing so." Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 561, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2977, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974); see also Ponte v. Real, 471 U.S. 491, 495, 105 S.Ct. 2192, 2195, 85 L.Ed.2d 553 (1985). For that reason we do not "automatically apply procedural rules designed for free citizens in an open society ... to the very different situation presented by a disciplinary proceeding in a state prison." Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. at 560, 94 S.Ct. at 2977. Additionally, prisoners' due process rights are "circumscribed by the necessary 'mutual accommodation between institutional needs and objectives and the provisions of the Constitution that are of general application.' " Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308, 321, 96 S.Ct. 1551, 1559, 47 L.Ed.2d 810 (1976) (quoting Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. at 556, 94 S.Ct. at 2974). Prisoners, for example, have no absolute right of confrontation or to conduct cross-examination at prison disciplinary hearings. Baxter, 425 U.S. at 322, 96 S.Ct. at 1559. And adverse inferences may be drawn from an inmate's silence at a disciplinary hearing, even though unquestionably that would be prohibited in a criminal trial. Id. at 319-20, 96 S.Ct. at 1558-59. Accordingly, whether polygraph test results are admissible here must be decided within the unique context of prison disciplinary proceedings, and not by reference to rules or constitutional guarantees applicable to ordinary civil or criminal disputes.

We are fully cognizant of the debate surrounding the polygraph's acceptance and reliability, and of the fact that some courts and administrative tribunals prohibit the admission of polygraph results. See, e.g., Brown v. Darcy, 783 F.2d 1389, 1395 (9th Cir.1986) (Ninth Circuit overruled prior decisions vesting polygraph admissibility questions in trial court's discretion in light of, among other things, the "questionable reliability" of polygraph evidence); Dowd v. Calabrese, 585 F.Supp. 430, 432-34 (D.D.C.1984) (polygraphs lack scientific acceptability); Kaske v. City of Rockford, 96 Ill.2d 298, 70 Ill.Dec. 841, 450 N.E.2d 314 (polygraph results held inadmissible in administrative hearings), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 960, 104 S.Ct. 391, 78 L.Ed.2d 335 (1983). But not all courts take this view, and their exclusion is not universal. See, e.g., United States v. Rumell, 642 F.2d 213, 215 (7th Cir.1981). See also McCormick on Evidence, Sec. 2.06, p. 629 (3d ed.1984). Indeed, in prison disciplinary hearings, polygraph...

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