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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fight on Conduct Credit Revocations Is Now Moot

CHICAGO (CN) - Illinois does not have to face a lawsuit over its policy of revoking good-conduct credits from inmates who file frivolous court motions, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Paul Eichwedel, an inmate at Dixon Correctional Center, brought a number of claims against prison officials in 2001, and then twice sought sanctions when Illinois moved to dismiss.

Eichwedel said he thought sanctions were warranted since his complaint already survived screening. His legal conclusion apparently stemmed from a mistaken reading of a notice he read in the prison library on the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

U.S. District Judge Harold Baker rejected both motions as frivolous.

Section 5/3-6-3(d) of the Illinois Compiled Statute 730 allows the Illinois Department of Corrections to take away up to 180 days of good-conduct credits if "the court makes a specific finding that a pleading, motion, or other paper filed by the prisoner is frivolous."

Exercising this authority, the Prisoner Review Board revoked six months of Eichwedel's good-conduct credits.

Eichwedel filed another lawsuit, this time challenging the constitutionality of his credit revocation.

U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard dismissed the challenge, but the 7th Circuit breathed some life back into the claims last August, asking the Illinois Supreme Court to determine what evidence is statutorily required to support a frivolous determination.

But before the state's highest court could act, the Illinois Department of Corrections restored three months' of Eichwedel's good-conduct credits and placed him on supervised release.

Eichwedel's suit had sought only restoration of the three months of credit relating to his second frivolous motion. Because he has received all of the relief sought, the court found that this development rendered the case moot.

The 7th Circuit rejected Eichwedel's claims that he suffered collateral consequences from the prison's disciplinary action, finding no proof that he would have been released sooner even with the additional credits.

"The fact remains that he is now released and the amount of time that he spent in prison cannot be undone," Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote for the three-judge panel.

Eichwedel's case also does not fall into the mootness doctrine exception for disputes "capable of repetition yet evading review," according to the ruling

"While the underlying situation indeed may occur again and may not be resolved before a prisoner's release date, the chance of this situation happening to Mr. Eichwedel is simply too speculative to constitute a continuing controversy," Ripple wrote.

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