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Isaac v. Cockrell

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

February 12, 2018

HAROLD D. ISAAC, JR., Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on plaintiff Harold Isaac's[1] motion for the Court to “Provide Remedial Just Order” (#96) and motion to enter a document into the record (#98). Defendants Dana Cockrell and Timothy Holsten's motion for summary judgment (#67) is also before the Court. The matters are fully briefed. Isaac's motions to “Provide Remedial Just Order” and to enter a document into the record are denied. Summary judgment is granted in favor defendant Cockrell, and the parties are ordered to submit supplemental briefing as explained below.

         I. Background

         The events giving rise to this lawsuit happened while Isaac was an inmate at the Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”). Back on November 24, 2015, Isaac was removed from the general prison population and taken to the restrictive housing unit for allegedly sending a threatening letter to the Deputy Warden. He denies making these threats, and after obtaining the allegedly threatening letter through discovery in this case, Isaac now claims the Deputy Warden herself inserted the threats in his letter (#96). Isaac also claims prison officials lost his laundry bag when they moved him from general population to the restrictive housing unit, and as a result, he was forced to sleep on dirty bedding for months.

         Around this same time, Isaac was also trying to file an Informal Resolution Request (“IRR”) because he believed prison officials opened privileged legal mail outside his presence, in violation of prison policy, and removed part of the letter's contents. Specifically, he claims that defendant Holsten, an SECC case manager, delivered an already-opened letter from the Law Library of Congress. The letter mentioned documents that were included in the envelope, but Isaac could not find these other documents. So he assumed that Holsten stole them. Additionally, Isaac claims the prison staff blocked him from using the IRR process during November and December 2015.

         A little more than a week after being removed from the general population, Isaac had an initial restrictive housing unit review before three prison officials. Neither defendant Cockrell, another SECC case manager, nor Holsten was part of the initial review committee. About two weeks later, Isaac was moved to a “stipulated program wing” and assigned to Phase 5. Inmates assigned to this wing must complete all of the program's “phases” before they are eligible to return to the general prison population.

         After two more weeks, on December 29, 2015, Isaac had a thirty-day restrictive housing unit review before another committee of three prison officials. Both Cockrell and Holsten were part of the committee. At this hearing conducted at Isaac's cell, Cockrell asked Isaac if he had a statement for the committee. Isaac responded by asking “why are so many black people in here.” Cockrell wrote down Isaac's statement on a classification hearing form (#69-5 at 14) and slid the form into Isaac's cell for his signature. Isaac refused to sign the form because Cockrell misquoted his statement: Cockrell quoted Isaac saying “why were so many black people in here, ” while Isaac claims he said “why are so many black people in here.” Isaac returned the unsigned form, and the committee moved on to the next hearing.

         As the committee was walking to the next hearing, Isaac yelled “they gave a white boy ten days['] room restriction for a knife.” Holsten identified Isaac as the person who yelled, and Cockrell then instructed officers to “take him back to the other side.” Isaac's classification hearing form had recommended keeping him in Phase 5. Presumably after Isaac's outburst, the committee crossed out this recommendation and instead suggested assigning Isaac to Phase 2-a demotion-because he was “disruptive, argumentative[, and] very angry during his hearing and while conducting other hearings.” (#69-5 at 14.) All three committee members signed the hearing form recommending that Isaac be assigned to Phase 2. The Deputy Warden eventually signed off on the committee's recommendation.

         A few days later, on January 3, 2015, Isaac gave a kite with three requests to Holsten. He wrote on the kite: “I need an IRR to file on missing legal mail . . . This is my 4th request! And I need a law library request form. And I've been without a laundry bag since 11-24-15-the staff lost it!!!” Holsten stamped “denied” on the kite and returned it to Isaac the next day.

         Isaac brings this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that Cockrell violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him in extending his time in the restrictive housing unit because he asked about the racial composition of the stipulated program wing. He also claims that Holsten violated his right to substantive due process of law.[2]

         II. Motion for Remedial Just Order (#96)

         Isaac asks this Court to provide a “remedial just order” before ruling on defendants' motion for summary judgment, because he now believes the Deputy Warden, a previous defendant who was dismissed from this case (#21), inserted the threats in the letter that led to his removal from the general prison population.

         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may:

(1) defer considering the motion or deny it;
(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take ...

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