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Long v. Dart

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

April 15, 2015

KEVIN LONG, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
THOMAS J. DART, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

MARIA VALDEZ, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court is a Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), [Doc. No. 20], filed by defendants Thomas J. Dart and Cook County, Illinois (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiffs Kevin Long ("Long"), Gregory Koger ("Koger"), and Barbara Lyons ("Lyons") (collectively "Plaintiffs"), oppose the motion. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendants' Motion.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiffs are a group composed of two former Cook County Jail ("CCJ") inmates, Long and Koger, and a concerned citizen who corresponds with and sends books to current inmates, Lyons. Together, they now challenge the constitutionality of three policies/practices at the CCJ:

1) the prohibition on inmates having more than three books or magazines in their cells at one time;
2) the "religious exemption" to that prohibition, whereby an inmate may have more than three religious books or magazines; and
3) the alleged arbitrary and inconsistent enforcement of these policies

Beyond being unconstitutional on their face, Plaintiffs claim these policies/practices have violated their First Amendment rights in a variety of ways. In Lyons' case, she claims the three-book limit and the threat of confiscation prevent her from sending as much literature as he wants to current inmates, which amounts to an impermissible restriction on her speech. Long and Koger share a similar story, but experienced the CCJ's policies first-hand: on October 5, 2013 - while they were incarcerated - CCJ staff confiscated over forty books from their respective cells.

These restrictions came as a great surprise to Plaintiffs, particularly because the CCJ mailroom policy, as set forth in the inmate handbook, states that inmates may receive an unlimited number of paperback books and magazines as long as the books arrive in groups of three or less per mailing. Moreover, until October 5, 2013, neither Long nor Koger had ever heard of the three-book limit being enforced during their stay at the CCJ, which, in Koger's case, lasted four years. Accordingly, Plaintiffs filed a one-count Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging, in pertinent part, the following:

The policy limiting inmates to possessing three total books and magazines is overbroad on its face; the confusing and contradictory policies fail to give fair and adequate notice to detainees and individuals who seek to send reading materials to detainees, thereby chilling Plaintiffs' and others from engaging in protected First Amendment speech; and by privileging religious books over non-religious books, the policy violates the mandate for governmental neutrality between religion and non-religion.

(Compl. at 6 [Doc. No. 1].) To remedy these alleged harms, Plaintiffs now seek a declaratory judgment that the CCJ's three-book policy is unconstitutional, a preliminary and permanent injunction barring Defendants and their agents/employees from enforcing the policy, compensatory damages, and nominal damages. Defendants, however, doubt that Plaintiffs have standing to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief, and thus filed the instant Motion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts takes as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the claim first must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation omitted). Second, the factual allegations in the claim must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level, " assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation omitted). However, "[s]pecific facts are not ...


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