University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Silagy v. Thompson CJ-IL-0002
Docket / Court 1:90-cv-05028 ( N.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
On August 28, 1990, Charles Silagy, a death-sentenced inmate at the Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois, filed a class-action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Illinois Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiff alleged that ... read more >
On August 28, 1990, Charles Silagy, a death-sentenced inmate at the Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois, filed a class-action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Illinois Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiff alleged that his constitutional rights would be violated by the use of a barbituate, a paralytic agent, and potassium chloride in a non-continuous sequence during the lethal injection process, and he asked the court to order the defendants to insure that enough barbiturate is given to render him insensate before the other chemicals are administered.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Judge James Block Zagel) declined to certify the class, reasoning that the class was not so numerous and dispersed as to require a class action, and that the plaintiff did not seem to be a good class representative. The plaintiff appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision.

Following the Seventh Circuit ruling, Silagy decided that he wanted to opt out of the case, and another death-sentenced inmate, Ronald Barrow, expressed a wish to take Silagy's place as plaintiff. On February 7, 1991, the District Court (Judge Zagel) granted Silagy's motion to dismiss his suit and well as Barrows' motion to join the case as plaintiff. The court then addressed the plaintiff's concerns as follows:

1) The plaintiff argued that procedural due process is denied when a prison is executed by a method not prescribed by statute, meaning that the statute creates an enforceable right to execution in a set manner, and that this right cannot be taken away without due process of law. The court held this argument to be without merit, finding that the statute prescribing lethal injection was not intended to benefit the one to be executed, noting that a statute does not create an enforceable right unless the provision in question is intended to benefit the plaintiff.

2) The plaintiff argued that substantive due process is denied by a method of execution not expressly authorized by law. The court held this argument to be without merit, finding that cases which do not offend the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution cannot present separate questions of substantive due process.

3) The plaintiff argued that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The court held this argument to be without merit, finding that a few minutes of pain has never been held to render a method of execution unconstitutional, and holding that the state does not have a duty to make its chosen method of execution as painless as possible.

In light of these considerations, the court dismissed the complaint. Silagy v. Thompson, No. 90-5028, 1991 WL 18418 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 7, 1991). The plaintiff appealed, and the defendants asked the Seventh Circuit to dismiss the case. On November 1, 1991, the Seventh Circuit (Judges William Joseph Bauer, Richard Allen Posner, and Michale Stephen Kanne) dismissed the case.

Our Pacer docket, which is accurate as of September 3, 2007, ends here, and we have no further information on the case.

Kristen Sagar - 09/03/2007


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Death Penalty
Lethal Injection - General
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Illinois Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description all death-sentenced prisoners of the State of Illinois
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 1991
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:90-cv-05028 (N.D. Ill.) 11/25/1991
CJ-IL-0002-9000 PDF | Detail
91-1470 (U.S. Court of Appeals) 11/25/1991
CJ-IL-0002-9001 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion 04/16/1987 (507 N.E.2d 830)
CJ-IL-0002-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[Denial of Certiorari] 10/05/1987 (484 U.S. 873)
CJ-IL-0002-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion and Order 02/07/1991 (1991 WL 18418) (N.D. Ill.)
CJ-IL-0002-0002 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Judges Zagel, James Block (FISC, N.D. Ill.)
CJ-IL-0002-0002 | CJ-IL-0002-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Atschuler, Stuart (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000 | CJ-IL-0002-9001
Bailinson, James P (Maine)
CJ-IL-0002-9000 | CJ-IL-0002-9001
Bradford, David J (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000 | CJ-IL-0002-9001
Chessen, Rick Charles (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000
Donatelli, Jack (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-0001
Furlow, Brenda Swierenga (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000 | CJ-IL-0002-9001
Graham, Scott (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-0001
Harrop, Blake Lee (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000 | CJ-IL-0002-9001
Hirshman, Harold C. (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9001
Millner, Robert B (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000
Rotert, Mark L (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-0001
Stewart, Roma J. (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-0001
Villarreal, Elpidio R (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000 | CJ-IL-0002-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Ficaro, Michael Andrew (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000 | CJ-IL-0002-9001
Finke, Jeffrey Wayne (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000
Hartigan, Neil F. (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-0001 | CJ-IL-0002-9000
Madsen, Terence (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9000
Novak, Rita (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9001
Ryan, James E. (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-9001
Yuhas, Daniel D. (Illinois)
CJ-IL-0002-0001
Other Lawyers None on record

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