Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Judge Posner Admonishes District Court for Dismissing Prisoner's Complaint After Telephonic "Hearing"

The Seventh Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Posner, has ended the "unlawful" practice apparently followed in the Central District of Illinois of the district judge conducting a telephonic "merit-review hearing" shortly after the filing of a civil complaint by a pro se prisoner.  In this case, a prisoner filed a pro se §1983 complaint alleging a failure of jail officials to prevent other prisoners from assaulting him.  On the basis of the telephonic "hearing" with the prisoner, which was not transcribed, the district court dismissed the prisoner's complaint for failure to state a claim, stating that the plaintiff had "no evidence that the guards . . . had any knowledge of any threat made by the inmate who assaulted him."

Remarking that the "the procedure employed by the judge was inquisitorial" and had "no basis in American law other than in proceedings before some administrative agencies," the court reversed. Williams v. Wahner, No. 12-1886 (7th Cir. Oct. 1, 2013).

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