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Wieczorek v. Slivia

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 5, 2015




John Wieczorek sued Officer Sliva, [1] a Cook County corrections officer, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that, while Wieczorek was a detainee at the county's corrections department, Sliva violated Wieczorek's civil rights by grabbing his throat and banging his head against a glass wall without provocation. Sliva moves for summary judgment on the ground that Wieczorek failed to exhaust administrative remedies, as required by federal law. Because there is an issue of fact as to whether Wieczorek ever submitted a grievance form, and thus attempted to exhaust his administrative remedies, the court denies Sliva's motion and orders a Pavey hearing.


On March 2, 2012, Cook County admitted Wieczorek to the Department of Corrections. Wieczorek was examined at Cermak hospital facilities on March 28th for complaints about wrist pain. Wieczorek stated in his deposition that after his exam, he was handcuffed in a hallway when Sliva grabbed his throat from behind. Dkt. # 51-6 at 2-3, 6-7. Wieczorek related that Sliva said he was going to kill Wieczorek and "kick [his] ass." Id. at 4. According to Wieczorek, Sliva then banged Wieczorek's head against a glass wall. Id. The parties agree that a county investigator was unable to find any incident reports involving a confrontation between Wieczorek and Sliva on March 28, 2012.

The principal issue at this stage in the case is whether Wieczorek ever submitted a grievance form to department officials. The department's Rules and Regulations for Detainees provide:

Upon completion of the Inmate Grievance Form, sworn personnel will collect inmate grievances, Monday through Friday, in sealed grievance envelopes. These sealed enveloped will be delivered to the [correctional rehabilitation worker (CRW)] in the respective division.... Please be reminded and assured that when the grievance is received in a sealed envelope during the collection process, the procedure is confidential, and the only authorized person to receive, process and forward the grievance is the CRW assigned to the division where the inmate is housed. Dkt. # 51-8 at 10.

Wieczorek acknowledged in deposition that he received a copy of the Rules when he entered the corrections department and that he is aware of the detainee grievance process. Dkt. # 51-5 at 51.

The day after Wieczorek's alleged incident with Sliva, Wieczorek met with Dr. Joseph Thomas, a mental-health specialist, about the incident. Thomas noted in his report that Wieczorek expressed his intent to file a grievance against Sliva. Dkt. # 54-1 at 4. Wieczorek stated in his deposition that, one day later, he did complete a grievance and submitted it to Sergeant Ardolino. Dkt. # 51-6 at 23-26. (Wieczorek indicated in response to an interrorgatory, however, that he gave the grievance to a Sergeant Villanova on the date of the incident. Id. at 46-47; Dkt. # 51-7 at 76.) Wieczorek stated he was aware that he was supposed to submit the grievance to a department social worker but that a social worker told him to submit the grievance to "the sergeant." Dkt. # 51-5 at 33-34; Dkt. # 51-6 at 27. He also stated that he was under the impression that submitting the grievance directly to the sergeant would allow for speedier processing. Dkt. # 51-6 at 27. Ardolino and Villanova both deny ever receiving a grievance from Wieczorek in 2012. Dkt. # 51-9 at ¶¶ 7-8; Dkt. # 51-11 at ¶ 5. Wieczorek explained that when he did not receive a response to his initial grievance, he wrote a second grievance and submitted it in early April 2012 to the on-duty sergeant. Dkt. # 51-6 at 27-29. Wieczorek maintains that he also never received a response to the second grievance and that he subsequently "gave up on it." Id. at 29.

According to county officials, multiple reviews of county records did not indicate that Wieczorek filed any grievances in late March or early April. Dkt. # 51-8 at ¶ 10; Dkt. # 51-10 at ¶ 10. The parties agree that Wieczorek properly filed other grievances while he was a detainee. A county official testified that an independent investigation into Sliva's conduct by the office of professional review found no evidence supporting Wieczorek's allegations. Sliva has brought this motion for summary judgment based on Wieczorek's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.


The court must grant summary judgment if the moving party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and if that party "is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court, when determining whether summary judgment is proper, views the record in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254-55 (1986); accord Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014).


Federal law does not permit Wieczorek to bring an action "with respect to prison conditions" before he exhausts "administrative remedies." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). This requirement obligates Wieczorek to use a prison's "internal administrative grievance system" before "filing a claim." Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 1999). Exhaustion also requires prisoners to "follow the rules governing filing and prosecution of a claim." Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1002, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002). These rules include the "procedures" mandated by "the prison grievance process itself." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007).

Here, the parties dispute whether Wieczorek, as a matter of historical fact, ever properly filed a grievance about the alleged incident with Sliva. ...

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