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STRANDELL v. JACKSON COUNTY
September 3, 1986
ALEX STRANDELL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
JACKSON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foreman, Chief Judge:
This matter is before the Court on defendants' Motion to
Dismiss in Part and for Partial Summary Judgment. On April 17,
1986 this Court granted in part and denied in part defendants'
motion to dismiss plaintiffs' initial complaint. Prior to the
Court's ruling on April 17, plaintiffs filed their first
amended complaint, which defendants now move to dismiss. The
Court then issued an Order, which stated that its rulings on
the initial complaint were applicable to the amended
complaint, and which also allowed defendants to file another
motion "as to any part of the amended complaint that raises
new issues." The primary purpose of entering that Order was to
inform defendants that they could not object, in a later
motion to dismiss, to any matters already ruled on by this
Plaintiffs argue that defendants have waived the defenses
they now raise since those defenses were available, but were
not asserted, in defendants' first motion to dismiss. The
Court first notes that defendants raised the defense of
failure to state a claim in their original motion to dismiss,
although the particular issues they now raise, with respect to
that defense, were not asserted in their original motion. In
any event, the defenses raised in defendants' pending motion
are asserted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), and are not waiveable.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(1) & (2). Although the proper procedure
for raising the defenses now at issue is in a motion for
judgment on the pleadings, "since the objection [of failure to
state a claim] is so basic and is not waived, the Court might
properly entertain the second motion [to dismiss] if convinced
that it is not interposed for delay and that the disposition of
the case on the merits can be expedited by so doing." 2A
Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 12.22 at 12-192. In the instant
case, the Court finds that defendants' motion is not interposed
for delay and that disposition of the case will be expedited by
reaching the merits of defendants' motion. The specific issues,
therefore, are addressed below.
This case involves the death of Michael Strandell, who
committed suicide while confined at the Jackson County Jail on
March 17, 1984. The facts of the case are fully set forth in
this Court's prior opinion and will not be repeated here.
See Strandell v. Jackson County, Illinois, 634 F. Supp. 824
I. Liability Of Jackson County
Defendants request this Court to reconsider its earlier
ruling that plaintiffs have stated a claim for relief against
Jackson County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Municipal liability may
only be imposed for unconstitutional actions that are inflicted
pursuant to a governmental "policy or custom." Monell v. New
York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98
S.Ct. 2018, 2037, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Defendants argue that
Jackson County's liability is premised upon allegations of
inadequate staffing, overcrowding, inadequate training, and
failure to adopt procedures for the screening and treatment of
intoxicated and suicidal pretrial detainees. Such allegations,
defendants contend, constitute "negative" policies, and as
such, are insufficient to support a Monell claim of
governmental liability. Defendants cite City of Oklahoma City
v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 105 S.Ct. 2427, 85 L.Ed.2d 791 (1985)
in support of their argument. Defendants also note that the
United States Supreme Court has granted a writ of certiorari to
determine whether "negative" policies state a claim against a
municipality under section 1983. See City of Springfield v.
Kibbe, cert. granted, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 1374, 89 L.Ed.2d
In the plurality opinion in Tuttle, the Supreme Court stated:
[T]he word "policy" generally implies a course of
action consciously chosen from among various
alternatives; it is therefore difficult in one
sense even to accept the submission that someone
pursues a "policy" of "inadequate training,"
unless evidence be adduced which proves that the
inadequacies resulted from conscious choice
— that is, proof that the policymakers
deliberately chose a training program which would
Tuttle, 105 S.Ct. at 2436. In a more recent decision, the
Supreme Court also suggested that the word policy implies "a
deliberate choice to follow a course of action. . . ." Pembauer
v. City of Cinncinnati, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 1292, 1299, 89
L.Ed.2d 452 (1986).
In the present case, however, plaintiffs allege, for
example, that defendants "have refused to alter the in-take
and processing system for intoxicated pre-trial detainees,"
and "have refused to establish a detoxification unit . . . in
which to treat and house intoxicated pre-trial detainees"
despite recommendations by architects and jail consultants
that such arrangements be established, and despite the history
of similar suicides and suicide attempts at the jail.
(Plaintiffs' Complaint, ¶¶ 41-49). Plaintiffs, in effect,
allege that defendants were aware of the need to improve the
operation of the jail, but nevertheless deliberately chose to
operate the jail in a manner that endangered the health and
safety of pretrial detainees. Plaintiffs have, therefore,
adequately alleged a "policy" as defined by the Supreme Court
in Tuttle and Pembauer, and their allegations are thus
sufficient to withstand defendants' motion to dismiss. See also
Anderson v. City of Atlanta, 778 F.2d 678, 686 (11th Cir. 1985)
(conscious decision by city officials not to increase jail
staff, when officials knew that failure to do so would impair
the delivery of proper medical care to detainees, constituted a
"policy" for purposes of establishing municipal liability).
Additionally, as noted by plaintiffs, "local
governments . . . may be sued for constitutional deprivations
visited pursuant to governmental `custom' even though such a
custom has not received formal approval through the body's
official decision-making channels." Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91,
98 S.Ct. at 2036. Thus, "[a] § 1983 plaintiff . . . may be able
to recover from a municipality without adducing evidence of an
affirmative decision by policymakers if able to prove that the
challenged action was pursuant to a state `custom or usage.'"
Pembauer, 106 S.Ct. at 1299 n. 10 (emphasis added). See also
Anela v. City of Wildwood, 790 F.2d 1063, 1069 (3d Cir. 1986)
(longstanding practice of maintaining inadequate jail
facilities constituted a city custom or usage). Plaintiffs
allege that Jackson County's policies and customs subjected the
decedent to a deprivation of his constitutional rights. Under
Monell and Pembauer, such allegations are sufficient to state a
claim against the County.
The Court further notes that in several post-Tuttle decisions
also involving jail house conditions, deaths and suicides,
other courts have sustained claims against municipalities based
on allegations very similar to those in the present case. See,
e.g., Partridge v. Two Unknown Police Officers of the City of
Houston, 791 F.2d 1182 (5th Cir. 1986); Anela v. City of
Wildwood, 790 F.2d 1063 (3d Cir. 1986); Anderson v. City of
Atlanta, 778 F.2d 678 (11th Cir. 1985); Garcia v. Salt Lake
County, 768 F.2d 303 (10th Cir. 1985). Therefore, for the
reasons stated above, defendants' motion for reconsideration as
to Jackson County's liability is denied.
The Illinois County Jail Standards provide, in section 8-8:
Compliance: All requirements of a physical nature
shall be complied with by the following dates:
(A) Jails built in 1950 or before shall be in
compliance by January 1, 1986.
Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that the Jackson County
Jail was built in 1926, but have failed to address defendants'
argument that the jail standards regulating the physical
condition of the jail were inapplicable at the time Michael
Strandell died. Since defendants were given until January,
1986 to comply with the standards regarding physical
conditions, and since Michael Strandell's death occurred on
March 17, 1984, the Court agrees with defendants that no
liberty interest may be premised on those standards. As noted
in Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091 (7th Cir. 1982), no liberty
interest is created where prison officials are given discretion
under state law to act or not act. Id. at 1100. "The existence
of such discretion `preclude[s] the implication of a liberty
interest deserving of due process protection.'" Id. (citations
Defendants contend that even those standards not governing
physical requirements fail to give rise to a liberty interest.
(The Court previously held that the jail standards created a
liberty interest in an expectation of treatment that protects
the safety, health and well-being of pretrial detainees.
See Strandell, 634 F. Supp. at 828-29). The Court disagrees with
defendants' assertion. Dezort v. Village of Hinsdale, 35 Ill. App.3d 703,
342 N.E.2d 468 (1976), a case cited by defendants
in support of their claim that the jail standards create no
entitlement to have those standards followed, was concerned
with the legal duty owed by jailors in a negligence case.
Dezort is simply irrelevant to the question of whether a
protectable liberty interest has been established.
Likewise, the Court disagrees with defendants' contention
that because an individual inmate cannot, under state law,
demand compliance with the jail standards, there is no "claim
of entitlement" to have those standards followed. (Under
Illinois law, the State Department of Corrections is given the
right to enforce compliance with the jail standards.)
Defendants cite no authority for their proposition that "[i]n
order to assert a claim of entitlement to compliance with the
Jail Standards, it is necessary to analyze whether Illinois
law recognizes an individual inmate's right to demand
compliance with those standards." (Defendants' Reply
Memorandum, p. 11). As noted by plaintiffs, the determination
of whether a liberty interest exists is not dependent upon the
"intricacies of state law enforcement mechanisms."
(Plaintiffs' Sur-Reply, p. 11).
Therefore, defendants' motion for reconsideration is granted
only insofar as the Court holds that Michael Strandell had no
liberty interest in an expectation of certain ...