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Elizarri v. Sheriff of Cook County

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

March 31, 2015

LEONCIO ELIZARRI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Plaintiffs have sued defendants Sheriff of Cook County and Cook County, Illinois, for maintaining policies and practices that cause detainees' personal property to be lost, abandoned, or stolen in violation of their constitutional right to due process. Defendants now move for summary judgment, contending that their policies for receiving, maintaining, and returning detainee personal property are adequate. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiffs Leoncio Elizarri, Ronald Richardson, and Grzegorz Zawadowicz (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring suit under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against the Sheriff of Cook County in his official capacity and the County (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs are each former prisoners in the Cook County Jail. When they were admitted to the jail, they had personal property taken from them; upon their request for the return of their property, they were informed that the property was lost or stolen. Plaintiffs allege that Cook County Jail personnel have a practice of losing, destroying or stealing prisoners' personal property. Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants' deliberate indifference to this practice caused deprivation of property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification on January 24, 2011 for "[a]ll persons who, on or after June 6, 2005, made a timely request for the return of property taken from them upon admission to the [Cook County] Jail and were informed that the property had been lost or stolen. A request by a person who was released before July 27, 2007 was timely if it was made within 120 days of his/her release. A request by a person who was released on or after July 27, 2007 was timely if it was made within 90 days of his/her release." (Order, ECF No. 101, at 2 (internal quotation marks omitted).)

On September 29, 2014, the court denied Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. Now before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

B. Plaintiffs

On October 26, 2005, Leoncio Elizarri entered the Cook County Jail with identification and jewelry. In his deposition, Elizarri states that he also had a watch and wallet, but Defendants correctly note that his signed intake form does not list these items. Elizarri left the jail on September 29, 2006 to serve 61 days in the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). When Elizarri returned to the jail on December 7, 2006 to retrieve his property, jail personnel informed him that they could not find his property and provided him with a lost property claim form and instructions for filing a suit against the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC").

Ronald Richardson submitted a declaration in this case stating that he placed a watch, diamond ring, identification, and birth certificate into a bag when he was admitted to the Cook County Jail on July 31, 2006. Defendants dispute this assertion, as Richardson's signed intake form indicates that he had no personal property when he entered the jail. Richardson remained in the jail through May 21, 2010. On the day of his release, Richardson went to the property window at the jail and requested his property. A jail employee told Richardson that the jail did not have his property and that his only recourse was to file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

On August 5, 2006, Grzegorz Zawadowicz was processed into the Cook County Jail. Zawadowicz submitted a declaration in this case stating that he surrendered his clothes, keys, wallet, watch, identification, and jewelry when he was processed. Defendants dispute this assertion, as Zawadowicz's signed intake form indicates that the only property he surrendered was cash. Following Zawadowicz's release from jail, he sought the return of his property. He was informed that his property was at a warehouse and that he should call to learn when his property had been returned to the jail. Zawadowicz made repeated inquiries about his property. In July 2009, in response to Zawadowicz's third inquiry, a correctional officer told him that the property had been lost.

C. Cook County's Procedures for Receipt and Care of Detainee Property

The CCDOC has written general orders that members of the Sheriff's correctional staff must follow. General Order 14.21 requires detainees entering the jail to surrender their personal property and civilian clothing. Since 1987, the CCDOC has issued multiple General Orders that prescribe the procedures for receiving, storing, and returning detainees' personal property and investigating claims of property loss or theft. ( See Pls.' Ex. 59 (summarizing historical development of CCDOC's written policies concerning detainee property).) Other written orders or policies are reflected in "Post Orders, " "Divisional Procedures, " "Notices, " ...


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