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Ramirez v. Dart

March 30, 2010

JOHN A. RAMIREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS J. DART, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS; TODD H. STROGER, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PRESIDENT OF THE COOK COUNTY BOARD; COUNTY OF COOK, ILLINOIS, A UNIT OF JUDGE JAMES B. ZAGEL LOCAL GOVERNMENT; SALVADOR GODINEZ, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; DANIEL BROWN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; AND UNKNOWN OFFICERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Detainee Plaintiff brings his first amended complaint pursuant to Title 42 Section 1983 alleging that Defendants deprived him of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by implementing and enforcing polices and practices in the Department of Corrections that caused another inmate to attack and injure Plaintiff. Defendants Todd Stroger ("Stroger") and Cook County now move to dismiss the amended complaint against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

I. BACKGROUND

In February 2008, while Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Department of Corrections in Cook County, he was assigned to the same area as an inmate named Woods. Plaintiff alleges that Woods was known by inmates to have a violent disposition and harass other inmates by forcing them to relinquish their possessions. According to Plaintiff, Woods harassed him by attempting to force Plaintiff to turn over his food and possessions. In reaction to Woods' harassment, Plaintiff made repeated requests for transfer to various unknown officers. On June 21, 2008, Woods attacked Plaintiff when he refused to turn over his personal possessions. As a result of this attack, Plaintiff sustained severe eye and facial injuries.

Less than one month after Plaintiff was transferred from the Department of Corrections, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice released a report concluding that the levels of violence in the Cook County Jail were unacceptable, and that there was severe overcrowding and inadequate supervision. See REPORT OF THE FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION AND THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE INTO CONDITIONS AT THE COOK COUNTY JAIL (July 11, 2008) www.justice.gov/usao/iln/pr/chicago/2008/pr0717_01a.pdf. (the "Report").*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that as a result of these conditions, Woods was permitted to harass his fellow inmates and physically attack Plaintiff.

In Count II of his first amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Dart, Stroger, Cook County, Salvador Godinez and Daniel Brown violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights through express policies and widespread practices of: (1) failing to employ sufficient officers to protect inmates; (2) failing to develop and implement security procedures to protect inmates; (3) allowing the Department of Corrections to become overcrowded with inmates; (4) allowing Correctional Officers to "cross watch"; (5) failing to implement and enforce policies to adequately supervise prisoners; and (6) failing to implement and administer an adequate inmate grievance policy.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) requires that I analyze the legal sufficiency of the complaint, and not the factual merits of the case. Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir.1998). I must take all facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of Plaintiff. Caldwell v. City of Elwood, 959 F.2d 670, 671 (7th Cir.1992). Plaintiff, for his part, must do more than solely recite the elements for a violation; he must plead with sufficient particularity so that his right to relief is more than a mere conjecture. Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must plead his facts so that, when accepted as true, they show the plausibility of his claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Plaintiff must do more than plead facts that are "consistent with Defendants' liability" because that only shows the possibility, not the plausibility, of his entitlement to relief. Id. (internal quotations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants Stroger and Cook County argue that they should be dismissed from this complaint because neither has the legal responsibility to ensure that the policies and practices of administrative departments comply with the United States Constitution. Instead, it is the Sheriff and his employees who have the responsibility of administering the jail. Moy v. County of Cook, 640 N.E.2d 926, 929 (Ill. 1994). Defendants argue that they should be dismissed because the County cannot be held liable for the conduct of its sheriff under a theory of respondeat superior.

Id. at 929. Plaintiff, however, does not argue a respondeat superior theory of liability. Instead, Plaintiff attempts to hold Defendants liable for their alleged failure to provide adequate staffing at the Department of Corrections, which Plaintiff claims was a proximate cause of his injury.

Plaintiff argues that because Stroger and Cook County recommend and provide funding for the Department of Corrections, they are responsible for the inadequate staffing that contributed to Plaintiff's injury and thus are appropriate defendants in this cause of action. Indeed, Illinois statute provides that the "County Board must appropriate and provide funds for the necessary ordinary and contingent cost incurred by the office of the Sheriff in the performance of its powers, duties and functions." 55 IL. COMP. STAT. § 5/3-15-15. Plaintiff submits in his response brief that Cook County and Stroger annually formulate, recommend and approve a budget for the Department of Corrections, that the Cook County Board and its President, Stroger, recommend the amount of funding to be provided to the Department of Corrections, and that they specifically recommend the number of correctional officers to be stationed in each division of the Department of Corrections. Plaintiff argues that because Cook County and Stroger formulate annual staffing recommendations and provide funding for staffing at Division II of the Department of Corrections, the division where Plaintiff was injured, they are liable for his injury.*fn2 In his response, Plaintiff provides a copy of Stroger's "Executive Budget Recommendation" as submitted to the Committee on Finance of Cook County Government for the year 2009. Plaintiff asks that I take judicial notice of this document.*fn3

To obtain Section 1983 relief, a plaintiff must establish that the defendants deprived him of a constitutional or federal right, and that the defendants acted under color of state law. Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 606 (7th Cir.2005). A plaintiff may only bring a Section 1983 claim against those individuals personally responsible for the constitutional deprivation. Doyle v. Camelot Care Centers, Inc., 305 F.3d 603, 614 (7th Cir. 2002). A plaintiff may not rely on the doctrine of respondeat superior to hold a supervisor liable for the misconduct of his subordinates, but rather the supervisor must have had some personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation, essentially directing or consenting to the challenged conduct. Id. at 614-15. Nor may a plaintiff rely on negligent supervision of subordinates as an authorized ground of liability under Section 1983. Wilson v. City of Chicago, 6 F.3d 1233, 1241 (7th Cir.1993).

Plaintiff claims that he was deprived of both his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law when Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the consequences of their policies which caused his injuries. As an initial matter, the Eighth Amendment does not apply to pretrial detainees in the context of cruel and unusual punishment. The Fourth Amendment applies at the time of arrest and through the Gerstein probable cause hearing, the Fourteenth Amendment due process principles govern a pretrial detainees' conditions of confinement after the judicial determination of probable cause, and the Eighth Amendment applies after conviction. Lopez v. ...


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