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Leonard Williams v. Executive Director S. Godinez

August 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:


Plaintiff Leonard Williams, a former pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail, has brought a pro se lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. Williams claims that Cook County, Sheriff Tom Dart, the Jail's executive director Salvador Godinez, assistant director Ramiro, and Division Nine Superintendent Thomas violated his constitutional rights during his confinement. Specifically, Williams alleges that in 2008-09, the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the fact that the light in his cell repeatedly malfunctioned, leaving the cell dark for extended periods, and that from January through July 2009, he repeatedly sought medical care for vision problems and severe headaches but was ignored until early July 2009.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment. Their motion, however, addresses only Williams' claim regarding the light in his cell; they do not challenge his medical care claim. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendants' motion, but the case survives based on the claim for denial of medical care.


Because the defendants have moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to Williams and draws reasonable inferences in his favor.

Williams was held at the Jail while awaiting disposition of criminal charges against him. In November 2008, Williams was housed in cell 1362 in Tier 1-C of Division Nine. The lights went out in his cell and the neighboring four cells in his gallery. He and other detainees complained to correctional officers, who said they would put in work orders to have the problem corrected. Approximately eight days later, electricians came to the tier, and the lights were restored. However, the lights went out again two days later in the same five cells.

Sometime in December 2008, Williams and his cell mate were moved to cell 1359 due to the lighting problem in cell 1362. The move did not solve the problem; Williams says that the lights in his cell went out twelve to fifteen times over the next four to five months. Each time the lights went out, he complained, correctional officers said they would put in a work order, and the lights stayed out from one ti three weeks, until an electrician eventually came to restore the generator and the lights came back on.

Williams alleges that during this period, he repeatedly asked for grievance forms but was told none were available. He says that in January 2009, he wrote a letter to executive director Godinez and one to assistant director Ramiro in which he explained the problems he was experiencing and claimed that his constitutional rights were being violated. Williams also says that in December 2008, while still housed in Tier 1-C, he spoke to defendant Thomas, the superintendent of Division Nine, about the lighting problem on the tier. Thomas told Williams that he would talk to the correctional officers about putting in work orders. Williams concedes that he did not follow up with Thomas, Godinez, or Ramiro.

Williams says that there was only one light bulb in his cell. The "day room" for detainees on the tier had its lights on all day, but Williams says that his cell did not get light from that source, because the only opening was the chuck hole in the cell door. He was, however, allowed to leave his cell each day for two hours to go to the day room. Williams says that was also able to read books everyday in his cell -- presumably during daylight hours.

On April 28, 2009, Williams and his cell mate were moved from cell 1359 to a cell on tier 1-A, so that an electrician could go through every cell on tier 1-C to determine what the problem was. That same day, Williams says, he learned that the lights had finally gone back on in his previous cell and that the electricians discovered that there was a short circuit in wiring that was inside the cell walls.

Williams says that starting in or about January 2009, he began to experience what he refers to as temporary blindness for a couple of minutes when he woke up each morning. Beginning in January 2009, Williams alleges, he repeatedly asked the correctional officers on his tier for medical care for his eye problems. He also asked a couple of lieutenants for medical care, and they told him to submit a "medical slip." Williams says, however, that he was unable to submit a medical request slip because none were available on the tier. Williams finally saw a doctor on July 3, 2009. The doctor prescribed him caffeine pills and Ibuprofen.

During the relevant time period, Williams was going back and forth to court. He did not mention the lighting problem to his lawyer, judge, assistant's state's attorney, or the deputy that transferred him from Division Nine to court. Williams also filed a grievance on January 19, 2009, while housed in cell 1359, concerning an incident where he was sprayed with a fire extinguisher. This grievance made no mention of a lighting issue in Williams' cell.

On April 14, 2010, after he was transferred to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Williams saw Dr. Brian Ross, an optometrist, at Lawrence Correctional Center. Dr. Ross treated Williams on five separate occasions. Dr. Ross says in an affidavit that Williams did not complain that his blurry vision was a result of the lighting problem in his cell at the Cook County Jail. Dr. Ross diagnosed Williams with "corneal guttata" as the cause of his blurred vision and testified that nothing from his diagnosis or treatment of Williams indicated that he suffered from an eye condition due to his stay at Cook County Jail.

Williams has filed a motion to compel discovery in which he seeks an order compelling defendants to produce the following records: work orders for tier 1-C from June 2008 through June 2010; log books for the tier from June 2008 through June 2009; documents relating to procedures to be followed for complaints of inadequate lighting; the names of officers who worked in Division 9 on March 12, 2009, when he claims he was forced back into a dark ...

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