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Dyke v. Barnes

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

March 24, 2017

CHRISTEL VAN DYKE, Plaintiff,
v.
DAWN BARNES; and LINDA FULTZ and MELISSA JOHNSON, individually and officially as employees of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Christel Van Dyke is the maternal grandmother and former foster parent of K.C. In 2013, when K.C. was three years old, employees from Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) came to Plaintiff's home, and K.C. was removed. Plaintiff alleges that, after K.C.'s removal, LSSI employees decreased the amount of time that Plaintiff was allowed to visit and speak with K.C.

         Based upon these events, Plaintiff has sued Defendants Linda Fultz and Melissa Johnson, two LSSI employees, and Defendant Dawn Barnes, a DCFS employee. Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth and First Amendments, alleging that Defendants unreasonably searched her house upon K.C.'s removal and retaliated against her for exercising her right to free speech. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant Fultz and Johnson's motion for summary judgment [145] is denied. Defendant Barnes's motion for summary judgment [146] is granted.

         Local Rule 56.1

         Motions for summary judgment in the Northern District of Illinois are governed by Local Rule 56.1. “The obligation set forth in Local Rule 56.1 ‘is not a mere formality.' Rather, ‘[i]t follows from the obligation imposed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) on the party opposing summary judgment to identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial.'” Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 924 (7th Cir. 1994)). The Seventh Circuit has “routinely held that a district court may strictly enforce compliance with its local rules regarding summary judgment motions.” Yancick v. Hanna Steel Corp., 653 F.3d 532, 537 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Schmidt v. Eagle Waste & Recycling, Inc., 599 F.3d 626, 630 (7th Cir. 2010)).

         Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires a party moving for summary judgment to file “a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law.” LR 56.1(a)(3). Local Rule 56.1(a) further specifies that this statement of facts “shall consist of short numbered paragraphs, including within each paragraph specific references to affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon to support the facts set forth in that paragraph.” LR 56.1(a). In addition, Local Rule 56.1(a) explicitly warns that “[f]ailure to submit such a statement constitutes grounds for denial of the motion.” Id.

         In turn, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) requires the nonmovant to file “a concise response to the movant's statement that shall contain . . . 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.” LR 56.1(b)(3)(B). Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) further requires the nonmovant to file a response that contains a separate “statement . . . of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment.” LR 56.1(b)(3)(C). The nonmovant's failure to comply with these requirements carries significant consequences. In particular, “[a]ll material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.” LR 56.1(b)(3); see also Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“We have consistently held that a failure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”).

         In moving for summary judgment, Fultz and Johnson have failed to file a statement of material facts as required by Local Rule 56.1(a)(3). Although they acknowledge that they have not complied with Local Rule 56.1(a)(3), they argue that their noncompliance is not fatal to their motion, on the ground that their supporting brief includes a “Facts section . . . supported by the record and attached exhibits.” Fultz & Johnson's Reply at 1, ECF No. 164.

         The Court is unpersuaded that Fultz and Johnson's inclusion of a “Facts section” in their brief warrants lenient enforcement of Local Rule 56.1(a). First, not all of the factual statements in Fultz and Johnson's brief are supported with citations to the record. See Fultz & Johnson's Mot. Summ. J. at 2-7, ECF No. 145. “Factual allegations not properly supported by citation to the record are nullities.” Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 583 (N.D. Ill. 2000). Moreover, by failing to file a statement of facts, Fultz and Johnson have precluded Plaintiff from filing a response as required by Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B). The Court therefore cannot determine, based on the record before it, which material facts are disputed between the parties. For these reasons, strict enforcement of Local Rule 56.1(a) is appropriate in the present case. Fultz and Johnson's motion for summary judgment is accordingly denied for failure to file a statement of facts under Local Rule 56.1(a).[1]

         The filings relating to Barnes's motion for summary judgment also involve a Local Rule 56.1 violation, although of a different nature than Fultz and Johnson's. In support of her motion, Barnes filed a statement of facts as required by Local Rule 56.1(a)(3). Plaintiff, however, failed to file a response to Barnes's statement of facts as required by Local Rule 56.1(b)(3).[2] Because Plaintiff has failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1(b)(3), all facts in Barnes's Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement are deemed admitted for purposes of Barnes's motion for summary judgment. See LR 56.1(b)(3); Smith, 321 F.3d at 683.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff is the former foster mother and maternal grandmother of a minor named K.C. Barnes's LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 1, ECF No. 148. At the time of the events in question, Defendant Barnes worked as a child protection investigator for DCFS. Id. ¶ 2. Defendant Fultz worked as a case worker for LSSI. Id. ¶ 3.

         DCFS took protective custody of K.C. in November 2011, after K.C. became the subject of juvenile court proceedings in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, Illinois. Id. ¶ 7. K.C. was two years old at the time. Id. DCFS contracted with LSSI to provide child welfare services to K.C. Id. ¶ 8. Accordingly, LSSI placed K.C. in foster care with Plaintiff in December 2011. Id. ¶ 9.

         In June 2012, while K.C. was still under Plaintiff's care, the Circuit Court of Winnebago County adjudicated K.C. a neglected minor. Id. ¶ 11. The DCFS Guardianship Administrator was thus appointed as K.C.'s legal guardian and custodian. Id. In addition, the DCFS Guardianship Administrator was given the discretion to place K.C. in the care of his mother, a responsible relative, or a foster parent. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that, during the time K.C. was under her foster care, he reported to her that his biological father, R.C., was sexually abusing him during his visitation hours. 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 13, ECF No. 115. Plaintiff further alleges that she reported this sexual abuse to Defendants, the DCFS child abuse hotline, and the police, and that she also petitioned the ...


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