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Jackson v. Dart

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

September 26, 2016



          Joan B. Gottschall, United States District Judge

         This case raises an unresolved issue concerning the meaning and scope of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a): whether the Act's exhaustion requirement applies to an individual who, after filing but not appealing a grievance which has been referred to the Office of Professional Review (“OPR”) for further investigation, is found not guilty and is released from imprisonment, obtains a lawyer who prepares a suit based on the subject of the grievance, but is then rearrested on an unrelated charge hours before his attorney files his lawsuit. This court concludes that whether or not plaintiff was a “prisoner” within the meaning of that term for exhaustion purposes, the failure of the defendants to show that plaintiff's exhaustion remedies were still available to him after he was acquitted, released and two weeks later rearrested on another charge, dooms the defendants' summary judgment motion.

         Plaintiff Michael Jackson (“Jackson”) filed suit against Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, Cook County Correctional Officers Lt. Young (Badge # 209), Sgt. C. Daily (Badge #926), Officer Starks, Officer Dearman (Badge # 8528), and other unknown Cook County correctional officers (collectively, “defendants”), alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 based on defendants' alleged use of excessive force, battery, and failure to provide medical attention while he was incarcerated at the Cook County Department of Corrections (“CCDOC”). Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the ground that Jackson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing his complaint. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied.


         The following facts are undisputed.[1] Jackson entered the CCDOC on January 1, 2013, after being charged with Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon in case number 13 CR 223701. [Defs. 56.1 Statement of Facts (“SOF”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 47.] Jackson alleges that on August 14, 2013, while incarcerated at CCDOC, he was involved in an altercation with another detainee. [Id. ¶ 2.] After the altercation, Jackson alleges that Lt. Young and other correctional officers used excessive force against him, fracturing his jaw. [Id.] Jackson further alleges that after the officers fractured his jaw, they failed to provide him with medical attention. [Id. ¶ 3.]

         The CCDOC had an established grievance procedure available to detainees. [Id. ¶ 9.] The Cook County Sheriff's Office (“CCSO”) has 15 days to determine whether a grievance is sustained or not sustained and assign a remedy if appropriate. A detainee who wishes to appeal the decision on his grievance must file his or her appeal within 14 calendar days from receipt of the grievance response. [Id., Ex. E, §VIII, Part D.]

         Jackson timely submitted a grievance on August 20, 2013. [Id. ¶ 4.] The grievance was processed by CCDOC and given the control number of 2013x3250. [Id. ¶ 5.] A response was generated to that grievance but the response failed to indicate whether the grievance was found sustained or not sustained. Rather, the response stated that Jackson's “report has been directed to OPR [“Office of Professional Responsibility”] for review and/or investigation.” Jackson received and signed the response on September 5, 2013, indicating his receipt of the response. [Id. ¶ 7.] Jackson did not appeal the response. [Id. ¶ 8.] He contends that he was unaware that he was required to appeal a referral to the OPR in order to satisfy the requirement that he exhaust all administrative remedies. [Pl. 56.1 Add'l Facts ¶ 2, ECF No. 55.] Rather, Jackson took no action while the OPR referral was pending. On October 10, 2013, prior to receiving results of the OPR investigation (or any decision on his grievance), Jackson was acquitted of the Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon charge and was released from CCDOC custody. [Defs. SOF ¶ 14.]

         Two weeks later, on October 28, 2013, at 12:01 a.m., Jackson was arrested by the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) for Attempted Aggravated Vehicular Hijacking. [Id. ¶ 15.] Jackson was transported to the District 003 CPD Lockup at 4:14 a.m. that same day. [Id. ¶ 16.] Several hours later, at 11:56 a.m., Jackson was transported from District 003 Lockup to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for a probable cause hearing. [Id. ¶ 17.] After the court found probable cause, it set Jackson's bond at $450, 000. [Id. ¶ 18.] Jackson was then transported to CCDOC and booked into the Cook County Jail at 3:55 p.m. [Id. ¶ 19.]

         Jackson's counsel filed his complaint in this case, complaining of the events about which Jackson had earlier grieved, on the same day of Jackson's arrest, October 28, 2013, at 2:40 p.m., while Jackson was in the custody of either the police or the Sheriff's courtroom deputies, but before he was booked into the County Jail. [Pl. 56.1 Add'l Facts ¶ 6.]


         Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence shows that there is “no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party seeking summary judgment has the “initial responsibility” to show that there is no genuine issue of material fact, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986), but the court must view all facts and make all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). The court views all evidence and draws all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and may enter summary judgment only if the record as a whole establishes that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of III., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir.2000).


         The defendants argue that Jackson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this suit. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) mandates that “no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. §1983, or any other federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a). The PLRA was enacted in an attempt to stem the flow of prisoner filings in federal district courts. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 94, n. 4, 126 S.Ct. 2378, 165 L.Ed.2d 368 (2006); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 203, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007). “Requiring exhaustion allows prison officials an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into court. The exhaustion requirement has the potential to reduce the number of inmate suits, and also to improve the quality of suits that are filed by producing a useful administrative record.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 203-204, 127 S.Ct. 910. The Seventh Circuit has stated that “prisoners encounter a uniquely low opportunity cost relative to the typical litigant.” Opportunity costs rise following a prisoner's release, “'diminishing the need for special precautions against weak suits.'” Witzke v. Femal, 376 F.3d 744, 750 (7th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).

         The Seventh Circuit takes a “strict compliance approach to exhaustion, meaning that the prisoner must properly use the prison's grievance system.” Santiago v. Anderson, 496 Fed.Appx. 630, 636 (7th Cir. 2012). See also, Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). The defendants bear the burden of proving ...

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