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CHAVEZ v. ALBRIGHT

March 14, 2003

RAUL CHAVEZ, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SERGEANT ALBRIGHT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On December 20, 2001, plaintiff, Raul Chavez, Jr. ("Chavez"), filed a § 1983 complaint against Sergeant Albright ("Albright") alleging that a ten-day confinement in a medical isolation cell and the failure to return Chavez's personal property violated Chavez's Fourteenth Amendment rights. On January 21, 2003, Albright moved, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Albright's motion is granted.

STATEMENT OF FACTS*fn1

Considering the facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs favor, in January 2000, plaintiff Chavez, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, was a pretrial detainee in Cook County Jail Division 8, also known as the residential treatment unit ("RTU"). He was awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge, of which he ultimately was convicted. While at Cook County Jail, Chavez had a lawsuit pending against the City of Chicago, arising out a prior incident with the Chicago Police Department Further, during Chavez's time in RTU, Albright harassed Chavez, including conducting prolonged property and strip searches of Chavez.

On January 6, 2000, Albright transferred Chavez, by wheeling him, to the medical isolation division of RTU.*fn2 A Cook County Jail transfer order, dated January 7, 2000, was entered on a prescription form, which bears Chavez's name and inmate number, and states: "MRSA isolation please."*fn3 Infection Control Nurse Bryan Ranchero ("Ranchero") wrote and signed the order, which also contains another signature, purported by Albright to be Dr. Mohamed Mansour's ("Dr. Mansour"). However, as discussed below, Dr. Mansour made it clear at his deposition that he did not sign the transfer order.

The isolation cell in which Chavez was held segregated from other inmates for ten days made it difficult for Chavez to use the toilet and impossible for him to shower. During Chavez's ten days of isolation, nurses and doctors treated him. The isolation cell, however, did not have bars to assist a wheelchair-bound inmate in using the toilet, and the entrance to the shower had a twelve-inch step up, thereby preventing an inmate in a wheelchair from accessing the shower. In fact, Chavez fell numerous times, causing bruises to his knees and head, and had feces and urine splatter on his lower body, bedding, and wheelchair.

Prior to transferring Chavez to the isolation unit, Albright ordered him to gather his personal belongings and bring them to the isolation cell. Upon reaching the isolation unit, Albright refused to allow Chavez to bring his property inside the cell with him. Albright placed Chavez's belongings in a plastic bag and left them on the floor outside the door of the isolation cell. Albright never saw Chavez's property again. Albright, however, told Chavez that a doctor threw away Chavez's property because it could have been contaminated. After being released from isolation, Chavez's property was not returned to him. In fact, some of Chavez's belongings were found later in various other inmates' cells in Cook County Jail.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the nomnovant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the nonmovant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). This court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.

A party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue, however, may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). There is no issue for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

Generally, the nonmoving party must identify with reasonable particularity the evidence upon which that party relies, and it is not the function of this court to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment Bombard v. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir. 1996). However, because Chavez is proceeding pro se, this court will consider his affidavit and the other evidence in the record to which he does not specifically cite in his Local Rule 56.1(b) Response. See Hawkins v. Poole, 779 F.2d 1267, 1269 (7th Cir. 1985).

Although some nonmaterial factual disputes exist, even accepting as true all of Chavez's facts supported by admissible evidence, i.e., viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, defendant Albright is still entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

ANALYSIS

Chavez alleges that Albright punished Chavez by placing him in isolation and failing to return his property, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the state from punishing a pretrial detainee. Zarnes v. Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 289 (7th Cir. 1995). To succeed on this claim, Chavez has the burden of showing: "(1) [that] the harm to the plaintiff was objectively serious; and (2) that the official was deliberately indifferent to [plaintiffs] health or safety." Cavalieri v. Shepard, No. 01-3745, 2003 WL 464868, at *3 (7th Cir. Feb. 24, 2003). To establish "deliberate indifference," Chavez must prove that Albright "acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm." Id. at *4; see Butera v. Cottey, 285 F.3d 601, 605 (7th Cir. 2002) ("A finding of deliberate ...


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