Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Appeals court upholds dismissal of Menard Correctional Facility inmate's complaint

By Glenn Minnis | Sep 4, 2017

MOUNT VERNON – The Fifth District Appellate Court has affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a Menard Correctional Facility inmate’s complaint for mandamus that named Illinois Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin and the administrative review board and two of its members as defendants.

A mandamus is an order to a lower court requiring it to properly fulfill official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.

Jason Hoots first filed a grievance in February 2014 after he was found guilty of assault following an altercation with a Menard Correctional Facility guard. About a month later, Hoots signed off on an offender grievance claiming that that his disciplinary report was not properly submitted to the hearing investigator for review and that the person identified in the report as a witness was not one, according to the court's order.

Hoots further stipulated that even though his grievance was dated "'3/14/14,' it was time stamped by the grievance office with having been received on June 17, 2014," the court's Aug. 17 order states.

After Hoots' grievance was quickly dismissed, he filed an appeal to the director of corrections later that month, which was also ultimately denied, with administrative review member Debbie Knauer checking the box "not submitted in the timeframe outlined in Department Rule 504” as one of the causes.

In his motion for leave to file complaint for mandamus filed in Randolph County Circuit Court in July 2015, Hoots also named Knauer and fellow administrative review board member Terri Anderson as defendants. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss in September 2015 stating that Hoots failed to state a claim. Hoots amended the complaint in October 2015, and the defendants again alleged in a December 2015 motion to dismiss that he failed to state a claim. The same month, Hoots filed an affidavit in opposition to the motion, another motion was filed by the defendants in February 2016, and the circuit court dismissed the matter with prejudice in March 2016. It then came before the appellate court.

The appellate court noted "mandamus is an extraordinary civil remedy that will be granted to enforce, as a matter of right, the performance of official non-discretionary duties by a public officer. ... A mandamus action is not an appropriate means for seeking judicial review of an administrative proceeding."

The court also stipulated where matters like that involving Hoots are concerned, the director of corrections “shall determine whether the grievance requires a hearing before the Administrative Review Board, and to advise the offender in writing if the grievance is meritless or can be resolved without a hearing. ... Prison regulations such as those in the Administrative Code and the Code are intended to guide prison officials in the administration of prisons and do not confer rights on inmates.”

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Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court