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Koger v. Dart

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

July 6, 2015

GREGORY KOGER, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS J. DART, Sheriff of Cook County; and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Gregory Koger, Plaintiff: Mark G. Weinberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Chicago, IL; Adele D. Nicholas, Nicholas Law Office, Chicago, IL; Zisl Taub Edelson, Edelson Law, Chicago, IL.

For Thomas J. Dart, Sheriff of Cook County, Defendant: Brenden Rae Bryant, LEAD ATTORNEY, Anthony E. Zecchin, Conor Thomas Fleming, John M. Power, Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago, IL; Martin D Syvertsen, Cook County State's Attorney, Chicago, IL; Michael L. Gallagher, Cook County States Attorney's Office Daley Ctr., Chicago, IL.

For Cook County, Illinois, Defendant: Brenden Rae Bryant, LEAD ATTORNEY, Anthony E. Zecchin, Conor Thomas Fleming, John M. Power, Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago, IL; Martin D Syvertsen, Cook County State's Attorney, Chicago, IL.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, United States District Judge.

Gregory Koger has sued Cook County and its Sheriff Thomas Dart under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Koger alleges that the Cook County Jail's absolute ban on newspapers is unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and he requests an injunction, declaratory relief, and nominal damages. Both sides have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that Koger's request for an injunction is moot and therefore grants defendants' motion for summary judgment as to that relief. The Court concludes that the jail's newspaper ban is unconstitutional and therefore grants Koger's motion for summary judgment on his First Amendment claim and awards a declaratory judgment and nominal damages.

Background

Gregory Koger is a member of a group called the Ethical Humanist Society. In 2009, he was arrested while videotaping the remarks of a speaker who had cancelled a meeting with the group. Koger was sentenced to 300 days in jail for misdemeanor criminal trespass, simple battery, and resisting arrest. A committee of supporters provided Koger with a legal defense and other assistance during his incarceration.

Between July and October 2013, Koger served the last portion of his sentence in the Cook County Jail. While there, Barbara Lyons, one of Koger's supporters, sent him letters, books, magazines, an issue of Revolution Newspaper, and an issue of the Chicago Tribune. Although Koger received the books, letters, magazines, and even Revolution Newspaper, the jail returned the Chicago Tribune to Lyons with a form marked " no newspapers."

The issue of the Chicago Tribune was refused pursuant to the jail's absolute ban on newspapers, which has been in place since 1984. The no-newspaper policy applies regardless of content; newspapers with local news, national news, international

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news, political commentary, and entertainment news are all banned. The policy also applies regardless of origin; that is, it applies even if the newspaper is sent directly from the publisher. It applies to entire newspapers and newspaper clippings. And it applies throughout the jail.

Although inmates may not possess newspapers, they are permitted to possess paper bags, notepaper, drawing pads, books, magazines (including magazines made from the same material as newspapers), envelopes, legal materials, greeting cards, playing cards, religious texts, letters and photos sent from outside the jail, toilet paper, extra undergarments, and bedding. These possessions, however, must fit into a property box that measures 21" long, 8.5" deep, and 15.5" wide. Thus, the jail imposes a strict limit on how much property an inmate may possess at any given time.

In August 2013, Koger filed a grievance demanding that the jail rescind its newspaper policy. The grievance went unanswered. Koger filed suit against Cook County and Sheriff Thomas Dart on October 4, 2013, twenty days before he was released from jail. He alleges that the jail's newspaper policy violates the First Amendment and requests an injunction, declaratory relief, and nominal damages

Discussion

The parties have cross-moved for summary judgment on Koger's First Amendment claim, which is his only claim. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the court assesses whether each movant has satisfied the requirements of Rule 56. See Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Nw. Nat'l Ins. Co., 427 F.3d 1038, 1041 (7th Cir. 2005). A party is entitled to summary judgment if it shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is inappropriate " if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Srail v. Vill. of Lisle, 588 F.3d 940, 943 (7th Cir. 2009).

A. Mootness

Defendants contend that Koger's request for injunctive relief is moot. Article III of the Constitution restricts federal court jurisdiction to " live cases and controversies." Goldman v. Gagnard, 757 F.3d 575, 581 (7th Cir. 2014); U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. " A case is moot, and thus falls outside of the judicial power conferred in Article III, if the outcome will no longer settle an active dispute about the parties' rights." Goldman, 757 F.3d at 581. " The requirement that a case have an actual, ongoing controversy extends ...


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