Goka v. Bobbitt

Decision Date21 December 1988
Docket NumberNo. 87-1981,87-1981
Citation862 F.2d 646
PartiesVincent GOKA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Paul BOBBITT, Officer, Acting Sergeant, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Lawrence C. Marshall, Asst. Prof. of Law, Northwestern Univ. Law School, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

Karen Michaels Caille, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellees.

Before CUMMINGS and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges, and GRANT, Senior District Judge. *

GRANT, Senior District Judge.

Vincent Goka, a former inmate at the Stateville Correctional Center, brought suit against several guards and two prison officials under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 after he was assaulted by another inmate. Goka alleges a violation of his rights, under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, to be secure from assault by other inmates. Goka also raises two pendent state negligence claims.

On defendants' motion, the district court granted summary judgment with respect to Goka's Section 1983 claim, and dismissed the pendent state claims for lack of jurisdiction. Goka appeals the entry of summary judgment. For the following reasons, we now reverse the judgment of the district court.

FACTS

In 1983, Goka was an inmate at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. Gregory Williams, a member of the notorious "Vice Lords" gang, was also incarcerated at Stateville and resided in the cell next to Goka's. Defendants Paul Bobbitt, Carl Jordan, Bobby Parker and Travis Wheaton were all prison guards of various rank assigned to the unit in which Goka and Williams resided. Defendants Michael O'Leary and Richard DeRobertis were assistant warden and warden respectively at the time.

Several times throughout the summer of 1983, Williams purportedly harassed threatened and assaulted Goka. Goka maintains that he reported these incidents both orally and in writing to defendants Bobbitt and Jordan and requested their protection. The parties now dispute however whether any measures were actually taken to protect Goka.

On September 23, 1983, Williams left his unlocked cell and struck Goka in the eye with the handle of a broom which he had been allowed to keep in his cell.

Under a "tool control policy" in effect at the prison, all tools, defined as "any instrument of manual operation, minor equipment or implements," were to be controlled by prison staff when not in use. The policy specifically provided that maintenance tools that were used on a daily basis were to be locked in a storage chest at the end of each day and stored when not in use.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS: Goka was proceeding pro se when he filed his original complaint. His request for appointed counsel, however, was subsequently granted, and an amended complaint was filed. The amended complaint alleges that defendants Bobbitt and Jordan knew that Goka was in immediate and substantial danger of assault by Williams and yet failed to take appropriate action to protect him; that they failed to enforce the tool control policy and allowed Williams to keep a broom in his cell; and that their actions demonstrated a deliberate indifference to, and callous disregard of, Goka's constitutional right to be protected from assault by other inmates. With respect to the remaining defendants, Goka alleges that they either knew, or "recklessly failed to learn," that the tool control policy was not being enforced; and, that their failure to enforce the policy demonstrated deliberate indifference and callous disregard for Goka's safety. Goka further alleges that the conduct of each of the defendants constitutes negligence.

The defendants opposed the amended complaint in what the district court (J. Aspen) referred to as a "de facto motion to dismiss" arguing that Goka had failed to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment; and, that the pendent state claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. On December 5, 1985, the district court (J. Aspen) denied the motion to dismiss and granted Goka leave to file the amended complaint. Goka v. Bobbitt, 625 F.Supp. 319 (N.D.Ill.1985).

Shortly thereafter, the cause was transferred to Judge Leinenweber, and the matter was set for trial. One week prior to trial, however, Goka became dissatisfied with his appointed counsel and fired him. The district court granted counsel leave to withdraw and gave Goka until November 7, 1986 to retain new counsel.

Discovery, including the depositions of defendants Bobbitt and Jordan and the production of incident reports from the prison for the period beginning January 1982 and ending September 1983, had all been completed when counsel was given leave to withdraw. During the course of their depositions, both Bobbitt and Jordan denied any knowledge of prior assaults by Williams upon Goka, and that they had taken any action against Williams prior to the incident of September 23. While the incident reports were apparently lost, it appears from the record that there were at least thirteen incidents between January 1982 and September 1983 in which a prisoner had employed a broom handle as a weapon.

On at least two occasions prior to the November 7 deadline set by the court, Goka requested that new counsel be appointed to represent him. Those requests were still pending when defendants filed their motion for summary judgment contending that "there [were] no genuine issues of material fact as to plaintiff's claims and as a matter of law defendants [were] entitled to summary judgment." In support of their motion, defendants submitted a portion of Goka's deposition in which he states that he had complained to Bobbitt and Jordan about Williams' harassment, and that Jordan had given three warnings to Williams in response to those complaints. A copy of the Administrative Directive from the Illinois Department of Corrections regarding the use and control of tools within correctional facilities (the "tool control policy") was also attached to the motion.

Goka made his third and final request for appointment of counsel after the motion for summary judgment was filed. The district court summarily denied that request finding that the representation provided by Goka's prior court-appointed counsel had been "exemplary".

Goka filed his pro se response on March 2, 1987. 1 On May 28, 1987, the district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on Goka's claims under Section 1983, and dismissed the pendent state claims for lack of jurisdiction. The district court found that defendants Bobbitt and Jordan had been "responsive" to Goka's complaints as Goka himself acknowledged in his deposition when he stated that Williams was given three verbal warnings; and that no "culpable refusal" to prevent the harm could be inferred from the defendants' failure to prevent it. While the district court acknowledged that the defendants' failure to enforce the tool control policy may have arguably constituted negligence, it found that Goka had failed to allege any facts demonstrating the conscious and culpable refusal to prevent impending harm proscribed by the Eighth Amendment, or the abusive governmental conduct which the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to prevent.

THE LAW

Originally designed to protect federal prisoners from barbarous treatment at the hands of their jailors, the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment has been expanded under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to impose upon both federal and state correctional officers and officials the obligation to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from violence at the hands of other inmates. See Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27, 104 S.Ct. 3194, 3200, 82 L.Ed.2d 393 (1984); Archie v. City of Racine, 847 F.2d 1211, 1222-23 (7th Cir.1988) (en banc); Richardson v. Penfold, 839 F.2d 392, 395 (7th Cir.1988); Anderson v. Gutschenritter, 836 F.2d 346, 349 (7th Cir.1988); Duckworth v. Franzen, 780 F.2d 645, 651 (7th Cir.1985), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 816, 107 S.Ct. 71, 93 L.Ed.2d 28 (1986). 2 When a correctional officer or prison official intentionally exposes a prisoner to a known risk of violence at the hands of another prisoner, he breaches the duty imposed upon him and deprives the victim of the security to which he is constitutionally entitled, and thus subjects himself to suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. Smith-Bey v. Hospital Administrator, 841 F.2d 751, 758 (7th Cir.1988); Richardson, 839 F.2d at 394-95; see also Duckworth, 780 F.2d at 652. Negligence, or even gross negligence, on the part of a prison official will not establish a constitutional violation. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332-33, 106 S.Ct. 662, 665-66, 88 L.Ed.2d 662 (1986); Smith-Bey, 841 F.2d at 759; Duckworth, 780 F.2d at 653. The official's actions must be deliberate or reckless in the criminal sense. Duckworth, 780 F.2d at 652-53. See also Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 1084, 89 L.Ed.2d 251 (1986) ("only the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' ... constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment"); Archie, 847 F.2d at 1222 ("the state must protect one prisoner from another, at least when it acts (or stands by) deliberately or with indifference to the prisoner's plight"). Recklessness, in the pertinent sense, "implies an act so dangerous that the defendant's knowledge of the risk can be inferred," Duckworth, 780 F.2d at 652, and reflects an extreme or complete indifference to the value of human life. Archie, 847 F.2d at 1219.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The defendants' burden on summary judgment was set out in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986):

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,...

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