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Centrell Gee R-24227 v. Dart

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

October 19, 2017

Centrell Gee R-24227, Plaintiff,
v.
Tom Dart, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE, District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Centrell Gee, now a prisoner at Lawrence Correctional Center, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Division 1 of the Cook County Jail from November 2014 to March 2015. Defendant Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart moves for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and that his claim fails on the merits. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant's motion as to the failure to exhaust, and as such need not address Defendant's argument as to the merits of Plaintiff's claim.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, Defendant served him with a Local Rule 56.2 “Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment, ” as required by Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.2. (Dkt. No. 48.) That notice explains how to respond to a motion for summary judgment, and in particular how to respond to a statement of facts. It also explains that failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 and Local Rule 56.1 will result in the Court assuming the truth of the Defendant's factual assertions. (See id.)

         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 and that entitles the moving party to judgment as a matter of law.” Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(a)(3)). “The opposing party is required to file ‘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.'” Id. (citing N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)). The non-moving party also may submit his own statements of facts, to which the moving party must similarly reply. N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(C). The Court may consider true a moving party's Rule 56.1 factual statement that is supported by the record and that is not properly addressed by the opposing party. See Id. (“All 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.”). The same rule applies for facts submitted by a non-moving party that are not contested or responded to by the moving party. See Koursa, Inc. v. manroland, Inc., 971 F.Supp.2d 765, 770-71 (N.D. Ill. 2013) (citing N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(a) (providing that if additional facts are submitted by the opposing party, the movant may submit a concise reply, and the failure to do so will result in the additional facts being deemed admitted).

         Generally, the purpose of Local Rule 56.1 statements and responses is to identify the relevant admissible evidence supporting the material facts, not to make factual or legal arguments. See Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006) (holding that pro se plaintiff's statement of material facts did not comply with Rule 56.1 as it “failed to adequately cite the record and was filled with irrelevant information, legal arguments, and conjecture.”). “When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by the rule, those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the motion.” Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632; see also Frey Corp. v. City of Peoria, Ill., 735 F.3d 505, 513 (7th Cir. 2013).

         A district court may insist on strict compliance with its local rules regarding summary judgment. Metropolitan Life Ins. v. Johnson, 297 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2002). Although Plaintiff is pro se, he was nonetheless obligated to comply with Local Rule 56.1. See Cady, 467 F.3d at 1061 (“even pro se litigants must follow rules of civil procedure”). Defendant submitted a Statement of Material Facts in accordance with Local Rule 56.1. (Dkt. 46.) Plaintiff has not responded to Defendant's 56.1 factual statements, and thus the Court will consider them true to the extent they are supported by the record. See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 880, 884 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Plaintiff has submitted a Statement of Additional Material Facts to which Defendant has responded. (See Dkt. Nos. 64, 73.) Most of Plaintiff's facts are not supported by citations to the record, and many consist of legal argument. Nevertheless, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will consider the factual assertions in his summary judgment materials about which he would be able to competently testify at a trial. See Fed. R. Evid. 602; Williams v. Saffold, No. 15 C 3465, 2016 WL 1660527, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 27, 2016); Hill v. Officer Phillips, No. 12 C 9404, 2014 WL 626966, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 18, 2014). The Court observes, however, that the facts as to exhaustion are really not in dispute. Rather, the parties dispute whether exhaustion was required. With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the facts of this case.

         II. Factual Background

         This lawsuit arises from Plaintiff's allegations that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Division 1, Tier A2 of the Cook County Jail, where he was housed from November 24, 2014, to sometime in March 2015. (Def.'s Stmt. (Dkt. No. 46) at ¶¶ 4, 5.) Plaintiff alleges conditions including mice in his cell, a lack of hot water in his cell and in the shower, mold in the shower that caused a rash, broken windows, and a leaking toilet. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-20). The parties disagree about the severity of these conditions and Defendant's responsibility for creating them or allowing them to persist. As noted above, however, the Court declines to address the merits of the dispute.

         Regarding exhaustion, Plaintiff did not file a grievance about the conditions in his cell. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Plaintiff acknowledged in his deposition testimony that he received an inmate handbook upon entry to the Cook County Jail, and that he was aware of the grievance procedure at the jail. (Id. at ¶ 22; see Pl.'s Dep., Dkt. No. 46-2, at 36:23-37:7.) Plaintiff described the procedure as allowing detainees to submit complaints against officers for unjust conditions. (Id.) Plaintiff filed a grievance about the location of the showers in the dayroom and the fact that detainees did not have privacy while showering. (Id. at ¶ 23.) That was the only grievance he could recall filing. (See Pl.'s Dep. at 37:24-38:2.) (Pl.'s Stmt. (Dkt. No. 64) at pg. 2, ¶ 1 under subheading “Exhaustion.”) Plaintiff further states that Cook County Jail inmates have been filing grievances since at least 2010 with no improvement in the conditions, although he again cites no evidence in support of this statement. (Id. at pg. 3, ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff refers to a 2010 Department of Justice report describing conditions at the jail that he states are similar to the conditions in his lawsuit. (Id.) He does not attach a copy of the report. As Defendant surmises, this is likely a reference to a report created in advance of United States v. Cook County, No. 10 C 2946, which resulted in the entry of a consent decree requiring Sheriff Dart to implement remedial measures to ensure constitutional conditions of confinement at the jail. The consent decree was terminated as to Sheriff Dart earlier this year after the Sheriff's Office demonstrated sustained compliance with its provisions. (See United States v. Cook County, No. 10 C 2946, at Dkt. Nos. 358, 361.)

         Plaintiff also states that as of 2017, the Department of Justice released another report about Cook County Jail inmates having been subjected to unconstitutional practices, and as a result Division 1 was condemned. (Pl.'s Stmt. at pg. 3, ¶ 4 under subheading “Exhaustion.”) It is unclear, however, to what report Plaintiff is referring, and he does not provide it. Plaintiff further questions why he had to exhaust his administrative remedies at all given that there's “an[] ongoing suit about the conditions of Cook County Jail.” (Id. at ΒΆ 5.) It is unclear whether ...


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