LENEA v. LANE Nos. 88-1653, 88-1734, 88-2407 and 88-2436.
882 F.2d 1171 (1989)
Paul Frederick LENEA, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant, v. Michael P. LANE, et al., Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Decided August 11, 1989.
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. § 1983, claiming defendants
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
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:
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.
A. Admissibility of Polygraph Test Results.
It is well-settled that prison disciplinary proceedings "are sui generis, governed
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,
In light of the prison disciplinary hearing's unique setting and the general acceptance of polygraph evidence in such cases, we decline to adopt a blanket prohibition on the admission of polygraph results, and now expressly hold that polygraph test results are admissible in prison disciplinary proceedings. As the district court noted, a prison's need to maintain institutional security, to avoid burdensome administrative requirements that might be susceptible to manipulation, and to preserve the disciplinary process as a means of rehabilitation, all militate in favor of this court's deference to the disciplinary committee's decision to admit the results of polygraph exams.
B. Whether There Was "Some Evidence" of Lenea's Guilt?
Prison disciplinary board conclusions must be supported by "some evidence." Superintendent v. Hill,
Although "some evidence" is not much, and obviously ranks far below what would be sufficient in a criminal or civil trial, it still must point to the accused's guilt. In Viens v. Daniels, for example, inmate Perruquet was found guilty of an escape attempt based on an informant's statements implicating Perruquet, a polygraph examination corroborating the informant's statements, and testimony from Perruquet's treating physician tending to discredit Perruquet's defense. 871 F.2d at 1335. Freitas v. Auger,
Here defendants argue "some evidence" exists of Lenea's guilt, pointing to (1) Lenea's presence in the prison chapel on the day of the escape; (2) Lenea's admission that he knew the escapees; (3) (unidentified and nonrecord) material contained in Lenea's master file; and (4) the results of Lenea's polygraph test.
Indeed, we strongly doubt whether these facts even amount to evidence of an opportunity to aid the escape (see supra n. 7). And in no sense is this evidence comparable to that in Superintendent v. Hill. There a guard heard an assault occurring in a prison walkway. Upon entering the walkway, he saw an injured prisoner and three inmates running from the scene. Although hardly convincing beyond a reasonable doubt, this evidence did tend to show that one of the fleeing inmates committed the assault. By contrast, Lenea was not shown to be in the area of the escape, nor was he otherwise shown to be the only inmate with an opportunity to aid the escape. Compare Superintendent v. Hill. The "evidence" here falls short of even the minimal evidence necessary under Superintendent v. Hill.
The question thus becomes whether the polygraph exam alone could be "some evidence" of Lenea's guilt. Defendants, however, did not argue that it could be; instead, they insisted here, as they did in the district court, that other evidence of Lenea's guilt (Lenea's presence in the chapel, etc.) existed besides the polygraph exam. But as we have seen, this was not the case. Thus, the district court's conclusion that the polygraph results alone were the only evidence of guilt relied upon, and that those results were insufficient to support a finding of guilt, goes unchallenged; and without challenge, it stands unchanged. At any rate, in this case, we would agree with the district court that polygraph evidence was relevant only on the question of Lenea's credibility. Absent any other evidence pointing to Lenea's guilt, this simply was not enough to find him guilty of aiding and abetting the escape. We do not, however, decide whether polygraph exams in all cases are insufficient by themselves to establish "some evidence." But while we don't decide the issue, we do note that the threshold question (when the issue is properly before the court) will be the exam's reliability, Viens v. Daniels, 871 F.2d at 1335 (evidence relied upon by disciplinary board "must bear sufficient indicia of reliability"), which necessarily will entail a detailed inquiry into polygraph examinations. Cf. Peranzo v. Coughlin,
Lenea sought compensatory and punitive damages, expunction of his record (regarding the disciplinary action), reinstatement to his chapel job, and backpay. The district court ordered that Lenea's record be expunged, but denied all other relief except attorneys' fees.
We agree that defendants enjoy the protection of qualified immunity. "The doctrine of qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages." Conner v. Reinhard,
Lenea has the burden of demonstrating that defendants violated a constitutional right that was clearly established in early 1983. Conner, 847 F.2d at 388. As the Supreme Court explained:
Anderson v. Creighton,
847 F.2d at 388.
As the district court recognized, to define the right broadly, for example, the right not to be found guilty in a prison disciplinary proceeding unless there is "some evidence" of guilt, is to deny defendants immunity because that right was "clearly established" by 1983. (While Superintendent v. Hill was not decided until 1985, its result was compelled by the Court's earlier decisions. See, e.g., Wolff v. McDonnell, supra.) But phrasing the right so broadly would be contrary to Anderson's instruction. In Anderson, suit was brought against an FBI agent for damages resulting from a warrantless search of a home. The court of appeals described the right at issue as the right to be free from warrantless searches absent probable cause and exigent circumstances. The Supreme Court, however, rejected such a broad characterization of the right. The Court explained that:
Id. 107 S.Ct. at 3038-39. Ignoring the particular action at issue and the specific facts of the case at hand in favor of a standard which simply alleged a "violation of extremely abstract rights" would, the Court recognized, "convert the rule of qualified immunity that our cases plainly establish into a rule of virtually unqualified liability." Id. at 3039. This "would destroy `the balance that our cases strike between the interests in vindication of citizens' constitutional rights and in public officials' effective performance of their duties,' by making it impossible for officials `reasonably [to] anticipate when their conduct may give rise to liability for damages.'" Id. (quoting Davis v. Scherer,
It follows from all this that the proper question here is whether, in 1983, defendants should have known that relying solely on the results of a failed polygraph exam to establish a prisoner's guilt in committing a disciplinary offense was probably unlawful. The answer is no. To our knowledge, the district court in this case is the first to have decided that it would be unlawful. Indeed, by 1983 there had not been even a "closely analogous" decision. True enough, Varnson, supra, decided in 1985, casts considerable doubt on whether polygraph exams alone can be considered "some evidence" of guilt in prison disciplinary proceedings, but it did not decide the issue and neither do we. Regardless, for obvious reasons, Varnson cannot be used to conclude that a reasonable official would have known in 1983 that finding a prisoner guilty of a disciplinary offense solely on the basis of a failed polygraph violated that prisoner's constitutional rights. That polygraphs (occasionally) are held inadmissible in judicial and administrative proceedings does not change our conclusion. As discussed above, prison disciplinary proceedings differ considerably from judicial and administrative hearings, and what is acceptable in one is not necessarily acceptable in the other. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 560-61, 94 S.Ct. at 2076-77; see also Baxter, 425 U.S. at 319-20, 96 S.Ct. at 1558-59. In 1983, defendants were operating in uncharted waters when it came to the permissible uses of polygraph exams in prison disciplinary proceedings. Accordingly, they are entitled to qualified immunity.
Nonetheless, Lenea argues he still may obtain equitable relief in the form of backpay and reinstatement. Lenea seeks backpay against the individual defendants in their individual capacities. But they have no power to pay his back wages. Burt v. Board of Trustees,
At any rate, the "backpay" which Lenea seeks from the individual defendants
We also do not think reinstatement is proper in this case. First, as a practical matter, the individual defendants cannot in their individual capacities reinstate Lenea to his chapel job. Burt, 521 F.2d at 1204. And even if reinstatement is permissible against the state as prospective injunctive relief under the Eleventh Amendment, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. at 337, 99 S.Ct. at 1143, it is not mandatory. Granting equitable relief under § 1983 is within the district court's sound discretion; and its decision will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. See Peery v. Brakke,
Lenea does not argue there was an abuse of discretion; instead, he merely says "[t]his case is an appropriate one for ordering Defendants to reinstate Plaintiff...." We are not told why this is an "appropriate" case for reinstatement, or, more important, how the district court abused its discretion. Regardless, though, there was no such abuse here. The expunction of Lenea's record, as the district court ordered, sufficiently protects Lenea from future prejudice in obtaining work assignments and transfers, Chapman v. Kleindienst,
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the district court.
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