Volkman v. Ryker

Federal 7th Circuit Court
Civil Court
First Amendment
Case Number: 
No. 12-1778
Decision Date: 
December 2, 2013
Federal District: 
C.D. Ill.
Dist. Ct. did not err in finding after bifurcated bench trial that defendants-prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity in plaintiff’s section 1983 action alleging that defendants violated his First Amendment rights when they suspended him from his prison job in retaliation for plaintiff contacting local State’s Attorney to comment on pending criminal prosecution of co-worker for violations of Illinois Law and prison’s policy prohibiting employees from bringing cell-phones into prison. While Dist. Ct. found that plaintiff spoke to State’s Attorney as private citizen on matter of public concern, plaintiff still failed to establish viable cause of action, where record showed that, in view of paramilitary context of prison setting, prison officials’ interest in maintaining order and security in workplace outweighed plaintiff’s interest in expressing opinion on work-related prosecution. Ct. further found that, for purposes of defendants’ invocation of qualified immunity, plaintiff had failed to present sufficient case law to establish that his constitutional right of free speech within instant prison employment setting was clearly established at time of adverse act.