Figgs v. Dawson, 15-2926

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Citation829 F.3d 895
Docket NumberNo. 15-2926,15-2926
PartiesLivell Figgs, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Alex Dawson and Lori Fishel, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date25 July 2016

Sean Morales–Doyle, Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan, Chicago, IL, for PlaintiffAppellant.

Christina T. Hansen, Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL, for DefendantsAppellees.

Before Posner and Flaum, Circuit Judges, and Alonso, District Judge.*

Alonso, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Livell Figgs, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). He served the latter part of his sentence at Logan Correctional Center and was released on June 28, 2012 after having survived summary judgment in his state-court mandamus proceeding in which he alleged that his release date had been miscalculated. Figgs then brought this § 1983 action against prison officials at Logan, alleging, among other things, that they had been deliberately indifferent to the possibility that he was being held unlawfully. Figgs now appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On July 21, 1989, Figgs was arrested on a drug offense. He committed a murder on August 5, 1990 while on bond for the drug offense. After pleading guilty to the drug offense, Figgs was sentenced on April 23, 1991 in the Circuit Court of Cook County to a 4-year term of incarceration with credit for 201 days he had already served. On March 24, 1992, Figgs was arraigned in the Circuit Court of Cook County on a charge for the August 1990 murder. On December 4, 1992, Figgs completed his prison term on the drug sentence and began his term of Mandatory Supervised Release (“MSR”). Because he had been charged with murder, however, he was transferred that day from IDOC custody directly into Cook County custody pending trial.

On September 11, 1993, a jury convicted Figgs of first-degree murder. He was sentenced on October 25, 1993 to 40 years' imprisonment with credit for time served in custody since January 16, 1991, with the sentence to run consecutive to the sentence on the drug offense. On November 5, 1993, Figgs returned to IDOC custody.

On November 16, 1993, Figgs received a “Violation Report” from IDOC indicating that on December 4, 1992 (the date his MSR began on the drug conviction), he had violated the terms of his MSR by committing the murder for which he was serving the 40-year sentence. Figgs signed this report and acknowledged receiving it. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board (“PRB”) entered an order on the same date, declaring that Figgs had violated his MSR as of December 4, 1992 by committing the murder. The PRB's order also stated: “Offender contends that he was incarcerated on the violation date (12/4/92). He subsequently pleaded guilty to poss of controlled subst. and was found guilty of murder.” The form order did not have the box checked indicating that Figgs's parole or release was revoked, nor did it indicate the consequences of the determination that Figgs had violated his MSR. The order also did not indicate whether a hearing had been conducted or would be scheduled. The violation report and the PRB's order were entered in error; the murder occurred well before Figgs's conviction in the drug case, at a time when he was not on MSR.

After the PRB issued its order, IDOC's chief record officer sent multiple letters to the Cook County State's Attorney requesting that he review the mittimus (the order directing jailers to carry out the judgment) for Figgs's murder conviction. The letters noted that Figgs had completed his sentence for the drug offense on December 4, 1992 and was released on a two-year MSR term, which had not been revoked at the time he was sentenced on the murder conviction. The chief record officer explained that she sought clarification regarding whether the circuit court intended for Figgs's 40-year sentence to “run consecutive to any mandatory supervised release violation time the inmate is required to serve as a consequence of the Prisoner Review Board's order revoking mandatory supervised release,” and if so, asked the State's Attorney to ensure that a corrected mittimus was issued. The record does not reveal what prompted the requests or why the chief record officer sought clarification of Figgs's sentence from the State's Attorney, as opposed to seeking clarification directly from the court or from the PRB about the basis for its order.

While the chief record officer awaited a response to her letters, Figgs requested a transfer to a medium-security facility (at the time, he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center). In October 1994, an IDOC official, the assistant deputy director of adult institutions, responded in a letter stating that Figgs was ineligible for transfer and that his projected release date was January 16, 2011.

Two months later, on December 19, 1994, the circuit court issued a “corrected mittimus” in Figgs's murder case, which stated that Figgs's 40-year sentence was “to run consecutive to any sentence imposed after a violation of mandatory supervised release” in the drug case. It is not clear why the corrected mittimus was phrased this way, but the document evidently perpetuated the mistaken belief within IDOC that Figgs had violated his MSR term on the drug offense.

IDOC sentence calculations are prepared at the facility to which an inmate is first assigned. When an inmate is transferred to a different prison, the record office at the new prison does not usually perform a new calculation but simply checks the previous calculation for accuracy. If questions arise about an inmate's sentence, the record office at the facility where the inmate is housed will review the sentence calculation, or it may refer the matter to the IDOC chief record office in Springfield, Illinois, which oversees each institution's record office. Each inmate's master file is kept at the facility at which the inmate is housed.

In January 1995 and again in May 1996, before Figgs was transferred to Logan, IDOC employees prepared handwritten sentence-calculation worksheets pursuant to the December 1994 “corrected mittimus.” The calculations were prepared on a form used specifically for inmates who had been declared to have violated MSR. Figgs's projected release date, according to these worksheets, was November 3, 2013. It appears that this release date was computed by adding to the 40-year sentence a 2-year term resulting from the (assumed) revocation of MSR in the drug case and then adjusting for time served and good-time credit. The same calculation was repeated on subsequent sentence worksheets prepared in December 2001 and May 2003, although the projected release date changed due to later adjustments of good-time credit.

Figgs arrived at Logan in 2005. He says that he became aware in 2009 that Logan officials had miscalculated his sentence and projected release date. In the months leading up to January 2011 and thereafter, Figgs submitted several inmate request slips to various officials at Logan, including defendants Lori Fishel, who was the record office supervisor, and Alex Dawson, who was the warden, complaining about a miscalculation of his projected release date. Copies of these slips are not in the record, but it is undisputed that Figgs submitted them.

Fishel looked at Figgs's existing sentence calculation and believed that it was correct because in her view, Figgs was on MSR when he was sentenced for murder, so it appeared that he had violated MSR. Fishel understood the “corrected mittimus” as ordering Figgs to serve his 40-year sentence after the (nonexistent) two-year term for violating MSR. Because the matter seemed complex and Figgs raised “so many questions” in his complaints to her, she “didn't do too much with it” and instead let the IDOC's chief record office in Springfield handle it. Fishel referred the matter to Ona Welch, who was then the assistant chief record officer. Although Fishel sent some of the pertinent documents to Welch, including an inmate request slip, the corrected mittimus, the PRB's order, and a sentence calculation worksheet completed prior to Figgs's arrival at Logan, Fishel did not send Figgs's entire master file, nor did Welch request it.1 According to Fishel, Welch told her that the current calculation was correct, and therefore Fishel informed Figgs of this determination. Although Figgs's projected release date changed during his incarceration due to the revocation of good-time credits, all of Figgs's previously-revoked good time credits were restored as of August 25, 2011.

On October 20, 2011, Figgs filed a petition for habeas corpus against Dawson in the Logan County Circuit Court. In that petition, Figgs alleged that he had “never had a[n MSR] revocation hearing or ... been told that he violated mandatory supervised release” in the drug case. He also alleged that IDOC had erred in “starting his sentence credit to run after this alleged [MSR] violation.”

On October 31, 2011, Figgs filed a formal IDOC grievance, marking it as an emergency and asserting that he should have been released from custody on January 16, 2011. He further asserted that the corrected mittimus for the murder conviction ordered his 40-year sentence “to run consecutive to ANY sentence imposed after a violation of mandatory supervised release” in the drug case, but there “was never a parole revocation or violation of [MSR]. Accordingly, there is no [MSR] violation to run this sentence consecutive too [sic].” A counselor discussed Figgs's concerns with Fishel, who reported that she had previously looked into the calculation of Figgs's release date and determined that it was correct. Fishel did not recalculate Figgs's sentence at this point or check again with the chief record office. The counselor indicated that the sentence calculation appeared to be correct because Fishel had stated that [MSR] time stopped when [Figgs]...

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