other inmates provided corroborating evidence by stating that it was a good move to lock up the plaintiff. N.T. II, 128, 9. These facts clearly indicate that there was some evidence of sufficient quantity and quality upon which Ms. Kleiman could constitutionally base her decision. Her findings were neither without support or arbitrary. Hill, 472 U.S. at 457.
Although the procedural, as well as personal, significance of this decision is great, and the court acknowledges and approves of the rarity in which a jury verdict is overturned, it is the duty of the court so to do when the facts and the law so require. I do not attempt to speculate about how the jury reached it decision,
but only note that it was not its job to perform its own hearing and reach its own conclusions. Nor was the jury to independently question the credibility of the concealed informants or the witness, Lt. Barone. Hill 472 U.S. at 455. The jury was only to determine whether Ms. Kleiman had the required amount and quality of evidence before her. With the standards established in both Hill and Helms clear and controlling, this court, as a matter of law, can only find that the evidence before Ms. Kleiman clearly satisfied the legal standards and the verdict against her shall be overturned.
The jury also found that defendants Barone, Williams, and Dohman had violated the plaintiff's due process and first amendment rights by (1) causing him to be unconstitutionally disciplined, and (2) retaliating against him for engaging in expressive activity. I will address these issues in turn.
First, in dealing with the jury's finding that plaintiff's due process rights were violated, I look to the wording of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which premises recovery on a showing that the defendant subjected or "caused to be subjected" the defendant to a deprivation of a constitutional right. In this case, the violation was the alleged failure of a hearing examiner to independently assess the credibility and reliability of a confidential informant. Plaintiff does not allege, nor is there any evidence or testimony to suggest, that defendants Dohman and Williams were involved in the investigation that led to the filing of the misconduct charges or the misconduct hearing itself. Further, no facts were brought to light at trial to support a finding that they caused the alleged deprivation. In addition, having concluded that there was no deprivation of due process, Dohman and Williams may not be liable for that which did not occur.
Nor did Lt. Barone cause Mr. Cook to be deprived of due process. At trial, Ms. Kleiman stated that she did not accept his testimony without question; indeed she weighed it against that given by the plaintiff before reaching a decision. Her independent judgment on the matter, in effect, broke the causal chain between Barone and the discipline she imposed upon Cook. See. e.g. Baker v. Lyles, 904 F.2d 925, 929 (4th Cir. 1990); Hanrahan v. Lane, 747 F.2d 1137, 1140-41 (7th Cir. 1984); Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 324 (2d Cir. 1986).
Defendants argue that I must grant judgment as a matter of law on the first amendment verdict as well. The jury found that the defendants retaliated against Mr. Cook because he engaged in expressive activity protected by the first amendment. I shall address this issue without dealing with the yet-to-be decided question of whether a prison protest is expressive activity protected by the first amendment.
Because the scrutiny to which I must subject the decisions of prison officers which infringe upon first amendment rights is less rigorous behind prison walls than on the outside, I find that the decisions to place Mr. Cook in restrictive housing was appropriate. Although the clanging of the prison gates does not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the constitution, incarceration brings with it a necessary curtailment of constitutional rights. Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822, 94 S. Ct. 2800, 41 L. Ed. 2d 495 (1974).
Contained within a prison's walls are people whom society has determined need to be segregated from the citizenry at large. The crimes they have committed often involve violence. The concentration of such people in one institution brings with it the ever-present possibility of confrontation and conflict. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 561-62. Accordingly, the Supreme Court will defer to those decisions of prison officials which, while aimed at protecting internal security, order, and official authority within the prison, also affect protected first amendment rights, so long as those decisions are "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 413-14, 104 L. Ed. 2d 459, 109 S. Ct. 1874 (1989) , citing, Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89, 96 L. Ed. 2d 64, 107 S. Ct. 2254 (1987).
In this case, every time the plaintiff was placed in restrictive confinement, it was in response to some present or threatened prison disturbance. There was, therefore, a danger that security in the jail could be compromised. "Responsible prison officials must be permitted to take reasonable steps to forestall such a threat[.] [Their] informed discretion . . . that there is potential danger may be sufficient for limiting [prisoner's first amendment] rights." Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 131 n.9, 53 L. Ed. 2d 629, 97 S. Ct. 2532 (1977).
In this instance, I defer to the sound discretion of the correctional officers. They had reason aplenty to believe that Cook might be a threat to prison order and security. He had spearheaded a successful protest against medical care in the prison which could have led prison officials to fear that he had achieved leadership status among the inmates. That his underlying motive may have been beneficent is ultimately not the point here. The point is that the prison officials have a highly proper concern that the prison arena not disrupt into riot, a situation known to cause mayhem and death.
Under the circumstances, the courts may not second-guess the informed decision of correctional officers whose legitimate concern was that plaintiff was set on a course that would foster trouble. Because I find that defendants' actions were reasonable in the light of legitimate penological interests, I shall grant judgment as a matter of law in favor of all defendants on the first amendment verdict.
An order follows.
AND NOW, this 27th day of July, 1994, it is ORDERED that:
(1) Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law is GRANTED.
(2) Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for a New Trial is DENIED as MOOT.
(3) The court's order of March 24, 1993, entering Judgment against the defendants is amended to reflect the fact that the jury verdict did not support a judgment against Donald Vaughn, and that summary judgment was granted in favor of Joseph Lehman.
BY THE COURT:
Robert S. Gawthrop, III, J