TENNY v. BLAGOJEVICH (August 25, 2011)

An Illinois statute regulates prison commissaries’ sale of goods to inmates. Except for tobacco products, it prohibits any markup over cost in excess of 25%. A 2006 Illinois Inspector General audit concluded that the Illinois Department of Corrections was violating the statute and recommended corrective action. The Department rejected the recommendations and maintained its pricing. Several inmates at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet filed grievances. The grievances were denied. The inmates filed two separate lawsuits in federal district court pursuant to § 1983, alleging violations of their Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights and violations of the Illinois Constitution. Judges Norgle and Pallmeyer (N.D. Ill.) dismissed the complaints for failure to state a claim. Plaintiffs appeal.

In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Manion, Wood, and Hamilton affirmed and remanded. A procedural due process claim requires that the plaintiff allege a protected property interest, or legitimate claim of entitlement, under state law. Here, the Court assumed, without deciding, that the Illinois statutory cap created such a property interest. Even if there is a property interest, the inmates are not entitled to pre-deprivation review if it would be ineffectual. The Court concluded that no "process" would have prevented the Department from imposing its allegedly unlawful pricing policy. In this situation, an adequate post-deprivation remedy may satisfy due process. The inmates have not even alleged the inadequacy of a post-deprivation remedy. In fact, the Court concluded that the prison grievance procedures, a possible Court of Claims claim, and the availability of a state court claim were adequate post-deprivation remedies. Because both district courts dismissed the complaints with prejudice but neither district court addressed the state constitutional claim, the Court remanded the cases for dismissals of the state claims without prejudice.