Inmate’s retaliation claims can proceed, judge rules

Friday, August 5, 2011

An inmate in Sangamon County, Ill., jail can proceed with his First Amendment retaliation claims, a federal district court judge has ruled.

Larry M. Holmes contended that jail officials subjected him to a series of retaliatory actions for filing grievances against unspecified conditions at the jail. Holmes claimed that officials placed him in a DUI observation cell for more than 10 hours with no mattress or toilet tissue. He also alleged that a jail official paraded him around the booking area, made him strip naked and then jeered him with taunts of “little dick Larry.”

Further, Holmes alleged that prison officials confiscated his writing materials to prevent him from reporting other complaints about jail conditions. In addition to his First Amendment retaliation claims, Holmes contended some of the allegedly abusive conduct violated his 14th Amendment due-process rights.

Jail officials asked the court to dismiss Holmes’ constitutional claims. However, U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough ruled in Holmes v. Williamson that Holmes could proceed with a lawsuit on the claims.

“The Court concludes that Plaintiff states a First Amendment claim for retaliation for filing grievances and otherwise exercising his First Amendment right to complain about the Jail’s conditions,” she wrote in her July 28 opinion. “The federal courts have long recognized a prisoner’s right to seek administrative or judicial remedy of conditions of confinement.”

Myerscough added: “While some of the alleged adverse actions might not rise to constitutional violations on their own, acts which are constitutional become unconstitutional if done in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally protected right.”

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