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Ayoubi v. Dart

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

January 31, 2017

Firas M. Ayoubi (#2012-1207168), Plaintiff,
Thomas Dart, John Murphy, Tyree Currie, and Sgt, Nanos, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Firas Ayoubi, a Muslim pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail, brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000cc-l ("RLUIPA"). Ayoubi contends that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and three Cook County Jail employees violated his rights under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause by limiting his ability to attend group Islamic religious services, refusing to provide him with post-Ramadan-fast meal trays in 2013, rejecting his requests for a diet containing Halal meat, and prohibiting him from using a prayer rug and wearing a head garment. Defendants* motion for summary judgment is currently before the Court. Ayoubi has not responded, and the time for doing so has passed. For the reasons stated below, Defendants* motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety.

         I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         Ayoubi, an experienced pro se litigator, has filed a total of thirteen civil rights actions in this district, including this one.[1] Because Ayoubi is proceeding pro se, Defendants served him with a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment'" as required by Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.2 [64]. The notice explains the consequences of failing to properly respond to a motion for summary judgment and statement of material facts under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1.

         Local Rule 56.1 "is designed, in part, to aid the district court, 'which does not have the advantage of the parties' familiarity with the record and often cannot afford to spend the time combing the record to locate the relevant information, " in determining whether a trial is necessary." Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citation omitted). Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue." Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009). "The opposing party is required to fde 'a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon."" Ibid. (citing N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)).

         Although courts construe pro se pleadings liberally, see Thomas v. Williams, 822 F.3d 378, 385 (7th Cir. 2016), a plaintiff s pro se status does not excuse him from complying with federal and local procedural rules. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (holding that "we have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel"); Collins v. Illinois, 554 F.3d 693, 697 (7th Cir. 2009) ("even pro se litigants must follow procedural rules'"). Because Ayoubi failed to respond to Defendants' 56.1 Statement of Material Facts and "district courts may enforce their local rules on how the summary-judgment process is structured, " Olivet Baptist Church v. Church Mutual Ins. Co., No. 16-1689, ___ Fed.App'x ___, 2017 WL 129943 (7th Cir. Jan. 13, 2017), the Court accepts all assertions in the Defendants' Statement of Material Facts as true to the extent that they are supported by the record. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C); Apex Digital Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013); Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012).

         II. Facts

         The following facts are set forth as favorably to Ayoubi as the record and Local Rule 56.1 permit. See Hanners v. Trent, 614 F.3d 683, 691 (7th Cir. 2012). Firas Ayoubi is a pre-trial detainee at the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC"). (Defs.' SOF at ¶ 1.) In 2013 and 2014, when the events at issue in this case occurred, he was housed on Tier CF of Division 11 of the CCDOC. (Id. at ¶ 4.) At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Defendant Thomas Dart was the Sheriff of Cook County, Defendant John Murphy was the Acting Executive Director of the CCDOC, Defendant Tyree Currie was the Superintendent of Division 11 of the CCDOC, and Defendant Sargent Nanos was a Sergeant in Division 11 of the CCDOC. (Id. at ¶ 2.)

         Ayoubi alleges that while housed on Tier CF, he was not given adequate access to the Islamic religious services that were provided in Division 11 of the CCDOC, he was not allowed to possess a religious head garment or a prayer rug, and that his religious dietary needs were not accommodated. (Id. at ¶ 5.) He also generally alleges that the Defendants violated RLUIPA. (Id.) Ayoubi has no additional claims. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Specifically, during his deposition, he testified, "I think that's about it .... I believe so, yes, " when asked if he had any other claims and later repeated that to the best of his knowledge, he had "no other claims." (Id., citing Pl.'s Dep. at 66:1 -6; 103:16-24.) He further testified that he was satisfied with the answers he provided at his deposition and had nothing to add. (Id.)

         A. Religious Services

         1. CCDOC Policies

         At the relevant times, CCDOC General Order 14.20 was in effect. (Id. at ¶ 16.) It contains CCDOC's policy allowing detainees to practice their religion as freely as possible consistent with the operational and security requirements of a correctional institution. (Id.) It further provides that it is the responsibility of all CCDOC staff to provide the detainee population with equitable access to the religious services of their preference, within the parameters of the General Order and the safety of the detainees and institution. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

         Superintendents and correctional staff within each division of the CCDOC are responsible for ensuring that the CCDOC's policies, practices, and procedures regarding the availability of religious programming services are properly implemented and that the operational requirements and safety needs of detainees and staff are met. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Religious services are performed by approved volunteers from various religious communities. Neither the Cook County Sheriffs Office nor the CCDOC employs religious volunteers. (Id.) The scheduling of religious services is a coordinated effort between the approved religious volunteer(s), the superintendents of each division, and the CCDOC's Administrative Offices. (Id. at ¶ 18.) The scheduling of religious services is dependent on volunteers' schedules, space availability for services, and the security needs of the various divisions within the CCDOC. (Id. at ¶¶ 18, 23.)

         In 2013 and 2014, if a particular religious service was scheduled, detainees who had their dayroom period at that time were permitted to attend. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Detainees who were in their cells during a dayroom period were not permitted to attend religious services for security reasons. (Id.)

         Divisional lockdowns can occur due to staff shortages and security concerns. (Id. at ¶ 19.) Superintendents and correctional staff in each division assist during divisional lockdowns (a security measure in which all non-essential movement within the division is terminated for the security and safety of the detainees and staff). (Id. at ¶ 19.) During a divisional lockdown, activities that require the movement of inmates within the division, such as linen exchanges, recreation, and religious services, can be cancelled and rescheduled for security and operational reasons. (Id. at ¶ 20.) In 2013 and 2014, divisional lockdowns, staff shortages, or the failure of a registered religious volunteer to appear were the only reasons that the CCDOC did not offer religious programming services for observant detainees. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

         2. Ayoubi's Testimony

         According to Ayoubi, when he was housed in Division 11, CCDOC policies did not require correctional officers to allow him to attend Muslim services with adequate frequency. (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 8.) Ayoubi testified at his deposition that the majority of his claims about access to Muslim religious services occurred in 2013. (Id. at ¶ 6.) During that time, an Imam led services that lasted between 20 and 90 minutes. (Id. at ¶ 7.) He did not recall how many Muslim services he attended in 2013. (Id.) He also could not specify dates or months he had purportedly inadequate access to Muslim religious services, how many times he attended Muslim services, or how many times he was not allowed to attend Muslim services. (Id. at ¶ 9.) At his deposition, when asked to provide a specific number, he testified that he did not get called to attend Muslim services "between two to four months, here and there . . . [s]ometimes it could be consecutive, sometimes it would be sporadic." (Id. at ¶ 9, citing Pl.'s Dep. at 22:5-9.) He agreed that if there were limits on the number of detainees who were permitted to attend Muslim services in 2013, it was because of space limitations or security concerns. (Id. at ¶ 10.)

         In 2014, Ayoubi attended Muslim services more frequently than in 2013. At this time, the CCDOC had a "security list" of detainees who wanted to attend Muslim religious services. (Id. at ¶ 12, citing Pl.*s Dep. at 37:2-12.) He was on the list, but did not know why. (Defs.' SOF at ¶ 12.) Once the list system was on place, detainees housed on his tier whose names were on the list would be called by name to attend the Muslim services when they were offered (e.g., "Inmate X, Inmate Y, and Inmate Z" would be called, as opposed to a general announcement of "Muslim Services"). (Id. at ¶ 13.) Inmates on the list could refuse to attend services; if so, they would have to sign the list to acknowledge their refusal. (Id.) Ayoubi refused to attend Muslim services in 2014 when he needed to call his attorney or family, and indicated his reason for doing so on the list. (Id., citing Pl.'s Dep. at 41:15-20.)

         Ayoubi testified that during the time period at issue, he was able to "practice his faith, " pray in his cell and in the dayroom, and pray five times a day. (Id. at ¶ 14, citing Pl.'s Dep. at 50:24-51:3.) As he put it, "I pray when I need to pray." (Id., citing Pl.'s Dep. at 68:12-17.) He also prayed and discussed spirituality "all the time" with other Muslim inmates living on his tier in 2013 and 2014. (Id., citing Pi's Dep. at 44:8-12.) In addition, Ayoubi was able to speak with his Imam while he was housed on Tier CF. (Id. at ¶ 15.) He testified that he did not discuss this case with his Imam, and his Imam never told him that he thought his access to Muslim services was inadequate. (Id.)

         B. Prayer ...

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