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Walker v. Dart

August 19, 2010

RICKY WALKER (#2007-0066070), PLAINTIFF,

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

Hon. James F. Holderman


The plaintiff, a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claims that the defendants, jail officials, have violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by subjecting him to inhumane conditions of confinement and by interfering with the exercise of his religious beliefs. More specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the air vents are dust-contaminated, that the facility is infested with pests, and that Muslim religious services were suspended for nine months. [Previously, by Memorandum Opinion and Order of February 19, 2010, the court dismissed all other claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).] This matter is before the court for ruling on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is granted.

Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Vision Church v. Village of Long Grove, 468 F.3d 975, 988 (7th Cir. 2006). In determining whether factual issues exist, the court must view all the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Walker v. Northeast Regional Commuter Railroad Corp., 225 F.3d 895, 897 (7th Cir. 2000). The court does not "judge the credibility of the witnesses, evaluate the weight of the evidence, or determine the truth of the matter. The only question is whether there is a genuine issue of fact." Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2009), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).

However, Rule 56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Sarver v. Experian Information Solutions, 390 F.3d 969, 970 (7th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).


The defendants filed a statement of uncontested material facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 (N.D. Ill.). Together with their motion for summary judgment, the defendants included a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment" [document no. 41], as required by circuit precedent. That notice clearly explained the requirements of the Local Rules and warned the plaintiff that a party's failure to controvert the facts as set forth in the moving party's statement results in those facts being deemed admitted. See, e.g., Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). The notice specifically provides:

Local Rule 56.1(b) requires a party opposing a motion for summary judgment to file:

(3) a concise response to the movant's statement that shall contain

(A) a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon, and

(B) a statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts that require denial of summary judgment, including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.

L.R. 56.1(b).

The district court may require strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Serv., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004); Bordelon v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir 2000) (strict compliance with the local rules governing summary judgment is upheld given the importance of local rules that structure the summary judgment process). Although pro se plaintiffs are entitled to lenient standards, compliance with procedural rules is required. Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006); see also Koszola v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 385 F.3d 1104, 1108 (7th Cir. 2004). "We have . . . repeatedly held that a district court is entitled to expect strict compliance with [Local] Rule 56.1." Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., L.L.C., 401 F.3d 803, 809 (7th Cir. 2005).

Despite these admonitions, the plaintiff's response to the defendants' statement of uncontested facts merely argues or clarifies certain points; the plaintiff does not cite any authority for any of the factual propositions he makes. The defendants object, with good reason, to the plaintiff's response to their Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts.

Because the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court will grant him some leeway and consider the factual assertions he makes in his summary judgment materials. However, the court will entertain the plaintiff's factual statements only to the extent that he could properly testify about the matters asserted. Among other things, a witness may not testify to a matter unless evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter. Fed. R. Evid. 602. In addition, a layperson may not testify about matters involving medical, technical, or other specialized knowledge. See Fed. R. Evid. 701, 702.

Consequently, the following facts, gathered from the defendants' essentially uncontroverted Statement of Facts and other supporting evidence, are deemed undisputed for purposes of this motion [the court has also inserted additional facts based upon the plaintiff's deposition testimony]:

The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail. (Complaint, p. 2.) The plaintiff has been in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections (hereinafter, "the jail") from September 2007 to the present. (Defendants' Exhibit 1, Deposition of Ricky Walker, at p. 9.) The plaintiff has been housed in the facility's Division One, a maximum security division, throughout his incarceration. (Ibid.)

The jail's maintenance staff does not routinely clean Division One's vent system. (Plaintiff's Dep., p. 10.) The plaintiff is able to wipe the dust only from the face of the vent that carries air to his cell. (Id., p. 11.) At night, the plaintiff can see dust particles blowing from the vents. (Id., pp. 10-11.) One can also hear inmates hacking and coughing throughout the night. (Ibid.)

The plaintiff coughs and "carries on" all night long. (Id., p. 12.) On occasion, the plaintiff has awakened spitting up blood. (Ibid.) The plaintiff has sought medical attention for his cough, but cannot be sure that the dust in the air has caused his breathing problems. (Id., pp. 12-13.) The plaintiff does not have asthma and has never passed out because he could not breathe. (Id., p. 13.) The plaintiff has no medical reports diagnosing him with respiratory problems. (Id., p. 14.)

Cockroaches, mice, and rats inhabit the plaintiff's housing unit. (Plaintiff's Dep., pp. 14-15.). These pests run around and do "what mice and roaches do." (Id., p. 15.) The plaintiff has never been bitten by any of the pests. (Ibid.) The plaintiff has never become sick on account of the pests. (Ibid.) However, the plaintiff has lost his appetite at the sight of vermin and lost money due to commissary purchases that he felt were contaminated. (Ibid.; Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Statement of Facts, p. 14.)

The plaintiff converted to Islam in 1999. (Plaintiff's Dep., p. 16.) The plaintiff purchased a Quran, the holy book of the Muslim faith, and is able to read it daily. (Id., p. 17.) The plaintiff's Quran has never been taken from him. (Ibid.) There are certain times of day, based on the position of the moon, that are times of prayer for followers of the Muslim faith. (Id., p. 18; Plaintiff's Resp. to Statement of Facts, p. 14.) The plaintiff is able to stop what he is doing and pray at these times. (Plaintiff's Dep., p. 18; Plaintiff's Resp. to Statement of Facts, p. 14.)

Muslim leaders from the outside community perform religious services at the jail. (Defendants' Exhibit 3, Affidavit of Superintendent Michael Miller, ¶ 6.) Muslim leaders are supposed to visit jail detainees once a week. (Plaintiff's Dep., p. 19.) Representatives of the Muslim faith who go to the jail are volunteers and are not employed by Cook County or the jail. (Id., pp. 19, 26; Miller Affidavit, ¶ 6.) The plaintiff has never asked family members or other visitors to contact a representative from the Nation of Islam to visit him. (Plaintiff's Dep., p. 21.) The ...

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