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Heck Rule Fails to Prevent Parolee From Filing Under § 1983

Heck Rule Fails to Prevent Parolee From Filing Under § 1983

The Northern District Court of Illinois determined that the Heck rule does
not prevent a state parolee from proceeding with a civil action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983.

Paul Knox, an Illinois state parolee, had been in and out of prison for
twenty years. In 1976 Knox had been convicted of two counts of rape. He
had completed both sentences. Knox was subsequently convicted of a new
offense for possession of a controlled substance. He received a one-year
sentence and, at some point, was given mandatory supervision.
Knox was to be closely monitored while on parole. Because Knox's apartment
did not have a phone, his parole officer required him to walk to a local
store and call in every two to four hours. Knox's parole officer
eventually had him arrested and his parole revoked for failure to follow
her exact time schedule.

A little over thirty days later Knox was once again released to mandatory
supervision, to the same location, and was given the same parole officer.
He was told he must phone in every two hours and register as a sex
offender. Again, she eventually had Knox arrested and his parole revoked.
Knox filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting that
he was deprived of his 4th and 14th Amendment rights. He claimed that he
was denied due process when he was arrested and detained for allegedly
violating conditions of his parole without probable cause. Defendants
moved for summary judgment based on Heck v. Humphrey, 114 S.Ct 2364
(1994). Defendants claimed Knox was given a fair revocation hearing both
times and therefore could not file a claim under § 1983 unless he reversed
his revocations.

The District Court held that, under Heck, a claim that necessarily
implicates the invalidity of a plaintiff's conviction generally may not
proceed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless and until the conviction itself is
invalid. However, the court also noted an exception to the rule. Heck does
not extend to § 1983 actions based on an allegedly unreasonable search
under the 4th Amendment that could succeed without necessarily implying
that a plaintiff's conviction was unlawful.

Knox's claim did fall under the exception to the Heck rule, but the court
determined that he failed to raise a material issue of fact and granted
summary judgment in favor of the defendants. See: Knox v. Donahue, 232
F.Supp.2d 842 (ND Ill. 2002).

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Related legal case

Knox v. Donahue

KNOX v. DONAHUE, 232 F.Supp.2d 892 (N.D.Ill. 11/25/2002)

[1] United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

[2] No. 00 C 4825

[3] 232 F. Supp.2d 892

[4] November 25, 2002


[6] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur, United States District Judge


[8] Paul Knox ("Knox") initially filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") action against six Illinois Department of Corrections ("Department") employees: Parole Agent Deborah Smith ("Smith"), Community Service Department Supervisor Melvin Walker ("Walker"), Field Services Officer Sena Landreth ("Landreth"), Department Director Donald Snyder, Jr. ("Snyder"), Community Services Department Deputy Director George DeTella ("DeTella") and Department legal counsel Kent Steinkamp ("Steinkamp"). Knox charges that he was deprived of his constitutional rights under the Fourth*fn1 and Fourteenth Amendments when on two separate occasions he was arrested and detained for violating the conditions of his mandatory supervised release without probable cause.

[9] This Court's April 4, 2001 oral order held that Landreth, Steinkamp and Snyder lacked the requisite personal involvement in the alleged deprivations and dismissed Knox's claims against those defendants. That left Smith, Walker and DeTella, who have now filed a joint Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56 summary judgment motion, pursuant to which both sides have complied with this District Court's LR 56.1.*fn2

[10] K. Mem. 7 n. 4 says Knox has decided not to pursue his claims against DeTella because discovery has revealed that DeTella also had no personal involvement in Knox's arrests (see Whitford v. Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 530-31 (7th Cir. 1995) (per curiam)). Knox's claim against DeTella is therefore also dismissed. As for the joint Smith-Walker motion, for the reasons set out here it is granted in part and denied in part.

[11] Summary Judgment Standards

[12] Familiar Rule 56 principles impose on parties moving for summary judgment the burden of establishing the lack of a genuine issue of material fact (Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). For that purpose this Court must "consider the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party . . . and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor" (Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002)). And Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001) has echoed the teaching of Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)


A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."

[14] As with any summary judgment motion, this Court accepts nonmovant Knox's version of any disputed facts, but only so long as it is supported by record evidence. What follows in the Background section is culled from the parties' submissions in those terms.

[15] Background

[16] Over the past 20 years Knox has been in and out of Department custody for a variety of offenses, including a 1976 conviction for two counts of rape (S-W. St. ¶ 8). After Knox had completed the sentences for his earlier convictions, in 1999 he was serving a one year sentence for possession of controlled substances.*fn3 In the spring of 1999 plans were made to place him on mandatory supervised release (also called "parole") (id. ¶ 9; S-W. Ex. G) a status that required him to remain under intensive supervision and to reside at a host site with his brother and ailing mother in Robbins, Illinois (S-W. St. ¶ 10).

[17] On two separate occasions during the period of that parole arrangement, a warrant was issued and Knox was arrested for violating conditions of his release. Because Knox claims that both of those arrests violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure, this opinion examines each episode and its ensuing arrest in some detail.

[18] On April 1 Knox signed a Parole or Mandatory Release Agreement ("Agreement") that, among other conditions, required that he comply with the instructions of his parole agent (S-W. St. ¶¶ 11-l2). Knox also signed a reporting instruction form stating that he was required to register as a sex offender, but he did not sign the Electronic Home Detention Rules form or the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act form (id. ¶ 13). On April 2 Knox was released on parole (id. ¶ 21).

[19] That afternoon Smith, assigned as Knox's parole agent, met with Knox at the host site (S-W. St. ¶ 21). Because Knox was living in an apartment adjacent to his brother's apartment and did not have regular access to a telephone as required for home monitoring, Smith instructed him to call the toll free number for Automated Management Systems ("AMS")*fn4 from a nearby pay phone every two hours (id. ¶ 23). According to Smith, she also requested that he register as a sex offender and gave him a window of time within which to do so (id.). Knox disputes the latter, stating that Smith instructed him to remain home and gave him permission to leave only to use the pay phone to call AMS (K. St. ¶ 6).

[20] During that host site visit Smith called AMS, and the AMS record reflects her instructions to Knox to call in. But neither the AMS record nor Smith's violation report mentions that she gave Knox permission to leave home to register (K. St. ¶ 7). Because Smith told AMS that Knox did not have access to a telephone, a technician was not sent to his home to hook up the electronic monitoring system (S-W. R. St. ¶ 14).

[21] As recorded by AMS, Knox called in at 8:13 p.m. and 11 p.m. on April 2, but he did not check in again until 2:32 p.m. the following day (S-W. St. ¶ 25). During that morning lapse AMS paged Smith, who then requested that a warrant be issued for Knox as a parole violator (id. ¶¶ 26-28). Smith's violation report says that Knox committed the offense of unauthorized movement or absence, noting that he did not check in as directed and that he failed to register as a sex offender. Smith's supervisor Walker issued a parole violator warrant on April 3 (id. ¶ 29).

[22] Unaware of that warrant, Knox continued to call AMS approximately every two to four hours (S-W. Ex. J) until April 9, when the warrant was executed and Knox was retaken into Department's physical custody (S-W. St. ¶¶ 29-30). On May 3 Knox was notified of the charges against him and waived his preliminary hearing (id. ¶¶ 31-32). After a full revocation hearing, a May 11 Prisoner Review Board order declared that Knox had violated his mandatory supervised release but ordered that plans should be made for his continued parole (id. ¶ 33; S-W. Ex. L).

[23] On May 28 Knox was again released on parole to the same host site. Knox signed an Agreement with the Board that contained the same conditions as his prior release and that also specifically required him to comply with the Sexual Offender Registration Act ("Act," 730 ILCS 150/1 to 150/12) and to attend sex offender counseling (S-W. st. ¶¶ 35-39). Again Knox signed his reporting instructions requiring that he go directly to his host site and call AMS, but once more he failed to sign the Electronic Home Detention Rules (id. ¶ 39).

[24] Upon arriving at his host site on the night of May 28, Knox called to check in with AMS. According to a call recorded by AMS, early the following morning a technician attempted to install the home monitoring electronic equipment at the host site, but Knox's mother and brother refused to allow the hookup because Knox would not be allowed access to that telephone (S-W. Ex. O at 25).

[25] At 1 p.m. May 29 AMS paged Smith because Knox had not called in since the previous evening and attempts to reach him at the host site's telephone number had been rejected by Knox's brother, who said he did not know Knox's whereabouts (K. Reap. St. ¶ 46). Smith responded by asking AMS to page her supervisor to request that a warrant be issued on Knox (K. St. ¶ 19), and at 2 p.m. a warrant was issued for Knox as a parole violator (id. ¶ 22).

[26] There is a disagreement as to the extent of interaction between Smith and Knox on May 29. Smith testifies that Knox was absent from the host site at the time of her initial visit on that day, but that she found him and did not report his unauthorized absence because he had not previously been notified that he would be on electronic home monitoring status (K. St. ¶ 23). Smith also states, and Knox himself seemingly confirms (S-W. R. St. ¶ 22), that she met with Knox at the host site on May 29 and told him to call AMS from the pay phone every two hours and to register as a sex offender (S-W. St. ¶ 42). Smith's violation report says that during that May 29 visit she learned that Knox would not be allowed access to a telephone and issued the alternative call-in instructions (S-W. Ex. P). Smith's report goes on to assert that Knox violated his parole because he "absconded and failed to call as instructed" (id.). But the AMS report for that day has no record of Smith's visit to Knox on May 29 or of any instructions that she gave him at that time about calling AMS or registering as a sex offender (K. Resp. St. ¶ 41; K. St. ¶ 22).

[27] On June 22 the May 29 parole violation warrant for Knox was executed, and he was then arrested and returned to prison (K. St. ¶ 21). After Knox was presented with a notice of his charges and waived his right to a preliminary hearing, on August 3 the Board found that Knox had not been in violation of his parole, and he was again released on parole (S-W. St. ¶¶ 51-53).

[28] Section 1983 Claims

[29] Knox contends that his arrests on both April 9 and June 22 were unreasonable seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that his confinement following each arrest deprived him of his liberty without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Smith and Walker move for summary judgment on several grounds, urging that:

[30] 1. Knox's challenge to his April 9 arrest is precluded by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

[31] 2. Walker is absolutely immune from suit.

[32] 3. Both arrests were constitutional and protected by qualified immunity.

[33] 4. Knox received all of the process he was due under the Fourteenth Amendment.

[34] Those arguments are addressed in turn.

[35] Heck v. Humphrey

[36] Under Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87 a claim that necessarily implicates the invalidity of a plaintiff's conviction may not proceed under Section 1983 unless and until the conviction itself is invalidated. But Heck, id. at 487 n. 7 expressly noted that bar would not extend to Section 1983 actions based on an allegedly unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment that could succeed without necessarily implying that the plaintiff's later conviction was unlawful.

[37] In light of that Heck footnote, our Court of Appeals has consistently held that the requirement of a prior favorable result does not apply to a Section 1983 claim for damages resulting from an unreasonable search or seizure, because such an alleged violation of the Fourth Amendment would not necessarily impugn the validity of a conviction (see, e.g., Copus v. City of Edgerton, 151 F.3d 646, 648-49 (7th Cir. 1998); Booker v. Ward, 94 F.3d 1052, 1056-57 (7th Cir. 1996)). As Booker, id. at 1056 explained, because "one can have a successful wrongful arrest claim and still have a perfectly valid conviction," such a claim "would not necessarily undermine the validity of his conviction."

[38] Knox's claim that Smith did not have a reasonable basis to issue the parole violation warrant that led to his arrest is essentially analogous to the claim of wrongful arrest without probable cause addressed in Booker. As in Booker, such a claim can proceed independently of whether the Board's ultimate determination that Knox violated his parole may stand. Unlike the authority on which Smith and Walker rely, Knox's claim falls squarely in the category of cases to which Heck is inapplicable (Snodderly v. R.U.F.F. Drug Enforcement Task Force, 239 F.3d 892, 897 (7th Cir. 2001), explaining that Heck's requirement of favorable termination was "categorically" inapplicable "to all § 1983 claims for false arrest").

[39] Walker's Absolute Immunity

[40] Walker next argues that he is absolutely immune from suit because of his limited involvement in issuing the parole violator warrants. Although accorded only for limited functions akin to judicial or prosecutorial acts, absolute immunity also cloaks a parole officer who is sued for "issu[ing] an arrest warrant against a parolee so long as []he does not participate in gathering the evidence forming the basis of the warrant" (Copus, 151 F.3d at 649, citing Walrath v. United States, 35 F.3d 277, 282 (7th Cir. 1994)).*fn5

[41] Here Walker performed an adjudicative function by making an independent determination to issue the warrant based on evidence provided by Smith. Although Walker was Smith's supervisor, Knox offers no evidence to show that Walker was directly involved in gathering evidence against Knox or otherwise personally investigated Knox's compliance with the conditions of his parole. Rather Walker's knowledge of the case came entirely from Smith, who prepared her report and discussed the case with Walker "in order to convince him that [Knox] had, in fact, violated his parole agreement and that a warrant should be issued" (K. St. ¶ 27). In short, Walker made a discretionary decision on the basis of information provided by Smith and is accordingly entitled to absolute immunity.*fn6

[42] Qualified Immunity

[43] Both defendants next argue that their decisions to initiate Knox's arrests for violating his parole were protected by qualified immunity. Because Walker has already been insulated from suit in absolute immunity terms, what follows will focus on Smith alone.

[44] Qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages. To overcome that defense Knox must show*fn7 that the officials violated "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known" (Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201-02 (2001) teaches that a court conducting that inquiry must consider two questions in sequence:


1. whether the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the injured party, show that the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right; and


2. if so, whether that right was so well established that it "would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted."

[47] To be sure, a parolee does not enjoy "the absolute liberty to which every citizen is entitled but only [a] conditional liberty properly dependent on observance of special parole restrictions" (Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480 (1972)). Because of that conditional liberty, parolees are subject to greater scrutiny by state parole officials and are not entitled to the full range of constitutional protections afforded to criminal defendants (see Faheem-El v. Klincar, 841 F.2d 712, 720 (7th Cir. 1988) (en banc)). But it is also clear that a parolee retains at least some Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures (Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868, 873 (1987), holding that the search of a probationer's home was subject to review under the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness standard).*fn8

[48] Despite Knox's status as a parolee, then, the Fourth Amendment applies to each of his arrests, mandating consideration of whether these seizures were reasonable. For each incident Knox argues that Smith did not have a reasonable basis to conclude that he had violated his parole when she requested the warrant leading to his arrest, because she did not give him a reasonable opportunity to comply with his parole requirements and she failed to follow established procedures.

[49] In reliance on the reasoning in Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155-56 (1978), our Court of Appeals has held that a police officer is liable under Section 1983 for violating the Fourth Amendment if he seeks an arrest warrant (1) solely on the basis of "statements he knew to be false or would have known were false had he not recklessly disregarded the truth" (Olson v. Tyler, 771 F.2d 277, 281 (7th Cir. 1985)) or (2) "through the intentional or reckless omission of material facts" that would negate probable cause (Id. at 281 n. 5; see also Olson v. Tyler, 825 F.2d 1116, 1118 (7th Cir. 1987)).*fn9 To analogize Olson to this case,*fn10 Knox must raise a reasonable inference that Smith acted unreasonably by either knowingly or recklessly disregarding the truth when she requested the warrants that led to Knox's arrests for violating his parole. This opinion turns to the circumstances of each arrest in those terms.