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United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

James COURTNEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Kim BUTLER, Jacqueline Lashbrook, and Tim Christianson, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 17-3310

Decided: February 13, 2019

Before DAVID F. HAMILTON, Circuit Judge, AMY C. BARRETT, Circuit Judge, MICHAEL B. BRENNAN, Circuit Judge Edward King Poor, Matthew A. Sloan, Attorneys, Quarles & Brady LLP, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant Kwame Raoul, Attorney General, State of Illinois, David L. Franklin, Solicitor General, Katelin B. Buell, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Civil Appeals Div., Chicago, IL, for Illinois Attorney General Party-in-Interest


James Courtney challenges the district court’s dismissal of his complaint. Courtney alleged that Illinois officials and prison administrators were deliberately indifferent to his detention past his parole-release date. A condition of parole for sex offenders like Courtney is that they can reside only at a location approved by the Department of Corrections. 730 ILCS § 5/3-3-7(b-1)(1). In his second amended complaint Courtney alleged that he proposed a suitable residence months before his scheduled release but never received a reply. On his scheduled release date he was told that the Chief of Parole, Tim Christianson, determined that he had violated the housing condition of his release and he was returned to custody. He wrote to Warden Kim Butler, Assistant Warden Jacqueline Lashbrook, and prison field services and received no answers. Courtney was eventually released a year later. Courtney argued that Christiansen prolonged his detention by wrongly charging him with violating the housing condition of his release, and that Butler and Lashbrook knew about this prolonged confinement but did nothing. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to allege the defendants’ personal involvement in any constitutional violation.

This court recruited counsel to represent Courtney and invited the Illinois Attorney General, who did not participate in the district court proceedings, to file a responsive brief. The parties submit that Courtney stated a claim that Butler and Lashbrook violated his Eighth Amendment rights when he alleged that they knew he was being unlawfully held past his release date and did nothing in response. They also conclude that Courtney stated a claim against Christiansen when he alleged that he made the decision to return him to custody on his release date. We agree. A plaintiff states an Eighth Amendment claim “if he is detained in jail for longer than he should have been due to the deliberate indifference of corrections officials.” Childress v. Walker, 787 F.3d 433, 439 (7th Cir. 2015). And “prisoner requests for relief that fall on 'deaf ears' may evidence deliberate indifference.” Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 782 (7th Cir. 2015).

Because Courtney has stated an Eighth Amendment claim, the Attorney General asserts that there is no reason to direct the district court to also consider “the more generalized notion of ‘substantive due process’ ” on remand. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 273, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994). But in Werner v. Wall, 836 F.3d 751, 766 (7th Cir. 2016), we acknowledged but did not resolve the “difficult question” whether the treatment of a detained individual not subject to a sentence of incarceration is appropriately analyzed under the Eighth Amendment or substantive due process. Because this question remains unsettled, the district court should determine whether Courtney’s claims are more appropriately analyzed under the substantive due process clause or the Eighth Amendment.

The district court’s judgment is REVERSED and this case is REMANDED to the district court for further proceedings on Courtney’s Eighth Amendment and substantive due process claims.

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