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Lacy v. Dart

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

April 30, 2015

JOHNATHAN LACY, KENNETH FARRIS, MARQUIS BOWERS, MAURICE BOSTON, KEVIN DAWSON, individually and for all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
THOMAS DART, SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, SGT. JOHNSON, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER NAWARA, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER LOPEZ, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER WILSON, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Jonathan Lacy, Kenneth Farris, Marquis Bowers, Maurice Boston, and Kevin Dawson, [1] filed a putative class action amended complaint against defendants Thomas Dart, Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois (the "Sheriff"), Cook County, Illinois, and correctional officers Nawara, Lopez, and Wilson, [2] alleging violations of section 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court held an extensive evidentiary hearing on plaintiffs' request for preliminary injunctive relief, and oral arguments are scheduled. Plaintiff has also moved under Fed. R. Civ. P 23(b)(2)[3] to certify a class defined as: "all persons presently confined at the Jail who have been classified by Jail officials as requiring a wheelchair."[4] Defendants oppose class certification. For the reasons described below, the court grants plaintiffs' motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are five wheelchair using detainees at the Cook County Jail ("Jail"), who seek, individually and on behalf of the proposed class, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, preventing "defendants from continuing to deprive wheelchair bound detainees of rights secured by" section 202 of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Specifically, plaintiffs contend that, like all Jail detainees, they attend court each month in connection with their underlying criminal cases at either the Leighton Criminal Courthouse ("Leighton") or one of five suburban courthouses: Maywood; Markham; Skokie; Rolling Meadows; and Bridgeview. Plaintiffs complain that as wheelchair using detainees they are subject to numerous ADA and Rehabilitation Act violations in connection with their criminal court appearances.

A. Trip to Courthouse

1. Transport Vans - Suburban Courthouses

Plaintiffs and other wheelchair using detainees are transported from the Jail to suburban courthouses by correctional officers employed by the Sheriff using transport vans. According to plaintiffs, Cook County, which provides the vehicles, "has failed to provide defendant Sheriff with a sufficient number of handicap vans.'" Plaintiffs also complain that even when appropriate handicap vehicles are used, Sheriff's employees fail to properly strap and secure wheelchair using detainees into the van, resulting in detainee injuries.

2. Leighton Courthouse

Plaintiffs also allege that their rights under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act are violated when they are transported from their living quarters at the Jail to the Leighton courthouse. According to plaintiffs, before traveling to the Leighton building, wheelchair using detainees are staged at the entrance to the tunnel connecting the Jail to the Leighton courthouse. Plaintiffs complain that whereas non-wheelchair using detainees are held in holding cells with accessible toilets and sinks while awaiting transport to the Leighton building, wheelchair using detainees are forced to sit in their wheelchairs in the basement hallway without access to an accessible toilet or sink.

B. Ramps

Upon arrival to the suburban courthouses, Sheriff's employees unload wheelchair using detainees in the loading dock areas of the respective courthouses. According to plaintiffs, despite a policy to the contrary, wheelchair using detainees often must propel themselves up non-ADA compliant ramps, without assistance, to access the courthouse from the loading dock. Plaintiffs allege that when returning to the vans for transport back to the Jail, wheelchair using detainees also must maneuver unassisted down the non-ADA compliant loading dock ramps.

C. Holding Cells

At both the Leighton and suburban courthouses, detainees are held in basement holding cells prior to being brought up to their respective courtrooms. Plaintiffs allege that these holding cells are not accessible, and that defendants fail to provide accommodations necessary to overcome physical barriers in the cells. According to plaintiffs, the basement holding cells do not have accessible toilets or sinks.

Plaintiffs also allege that wheelchair bound detainees are held in holding cells outside of their respective courtrooms prior to their cases being called. Plaintiffs complain that as with the basement holding cells, the holding cells adjacent to the courtrooms do not have accessible toilets or sinks, and that defendants ...


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