United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
WILLIAM L. CARTER, JR., Plaintiff,
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, CONNIE WEISS, and TASHA BARNES, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY United States District Judge
Carter, Jr. filed a pro se lawsuit against the
Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and two of its
employees, Connie Weiss and Tasha Barnes, alleging that they
improperly denied him benefits under the Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families (TANF) program in violation of his
constitutional rights. The Court recruited counsel to
represent Carter but later allowed counsel to withdraw. Weiss
and Barnes have moved for summary judgment on the grounds
that they were not personally responsible for denying
Carter's request for benefits and the denial did not
violate his constitutional rights. For the reasons stated
below, the Court grants the motion and also dismisses
Carter's remaining claim against IDHS.
Weiss and Barnes have moved for summary judgment, disputed
facts must be taken in the light most favorable to Carter.
Carter has not, however, submitted either a statement of
facts or any evidence in support of his response to this
motion. The following summary is therefore taken from
Carter's amended complaint and response to the present
motion, as well as the statement of facts submitted by Weiss
and Barnes. The Court notes any factual disputes between the
is a resident of Illinois who, during the time relevant to
this suit, lived in a shelter. On September 4, 2013, Carter
visited a family community resource center in Chicago to
apply for TANF benefits on behalf of himself and his two
children. According to Carter, he met with Weiss, a
caseworker, and submitted a TANF application. Although Carter
says he completed his application, he also alleges that Weiss
failed to provide him with a second party acknowledgment form
and contends that this form is a prerequisite to receiving
TANF benefits. In his amended complaint, Carter asserts that
Weiss then denied his TANF application. In his response to
the motion for summary judgment, he states that Weiss could
not have submitted his application because of her failure to
provide all of the paperwork.
this encounter, Carter returned to the center multiple times
over the following weeks per Weiss's instructions to
discuss the status of his application. Carter states that he
again applied for TANF benefits on September 25, 2013.
According to Weiss and Barnes, Carter returned on September
25 to complete his original application, not to re-apply. On
this day, Carter met with Barnes, who Carter alleges also
failed to provide him with the necessary paperwork. The
parties agree that Barnes then referred Carter to Rochelle
Colston, the human service caseworker manager. Colston made
an appointment for Carter to return to the center to attend a
required TANF orientation on October 3.
returned to the center on October 3, 2013 for his scheduled
orientation. He alleges, however, that at the beginning of
the orientation, Colston indicated that it was intended only
for pregnant women and parents with children under the age of
one. Because Carter does not belong to either of these
categories, he left before the orientation ended.
to Colston, she began the orientation by explaining the
expectations, policies and procedures, and benefits of the
TANF program. She then instructed the applicants that they
had to complete the entire orientation, at the end of which
they would all sign responsibility and service plans (RSPs).
TANF applicants are required to sign an RSP in order to
receive benefits. Because Carter left the orientation before
it was over, he did not sign an RSP. After the orientation
ended, Colston instructed a different caseworker not named in
this suit to deny his application.
filed suit against IDHS, Weiss, and Barnes, alleging that by
denying his application for TANF benefits, they deprived him
of a constitutional right in violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1983. IDHS moved for judgment on the pleadings on the ground
that it is immune under the Eleventh Amendment from
Carter's claim for damages. In July 2015, the Court
granted the motion and dismissed Carter's claims against
IDHS. In June 2016, Carter filed an amended complaint naming
the same three defendants and requesting a declaratory
judgment, compensatory and punitive damages, and
attorneys' fees and costs.
and Barnes have moved for summary judgment. They contend that
Carter has failed to present evidence that they were
personally involved in denying his application for TANF
benefits. They also argue that, even if they were personally
involved, Carter cannot show that this denial was a
deprivation of a constitutional right.
considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court
construes the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and makes all reasonable inferences in his
favor. Wilson v. Warren Cty., 830 F.3d 464, 468 (7th
Cir. 2016). Where the movant has supported his motion with
evidence, the non-moving party must come forward with
evidence of his own; argument alone is insufficient.
Beatty v. Olin Corp., 693 F.3d 750, 754 (7th Cir.
2012). Summary judgment is appropriate where the evidence
shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and
that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Hussey v. Milwaukee Cty., 740 F.3d 1139, 1142 (7th
and Barnes argue that they were not personally involved in
the denial of Carter's application and therefore they
cannot be held liable for a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
based on this denial. Carter appears to argue that they were
involved in two ways. First, he asserts that both Weiss and
Barnes were the IDHS employees who actually denied his
request for benefits. See Am. Compl. ¶ 12
("At all times relevant, Defendants wrongfully denied
Carter TANF cash benefits."). He also contends that
Weiss and ...