United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CHARLES E. THORNTON Y-19115, Plaintiff,
M. LAKE, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JORGE ALONSO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Charles E. Thornton, currently a prisoner at Menard
Correctional Center, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action
against defendant Ms. M. Lake, Supervisor of the Law Library
Services at the Cook County Department of Corrections.
Plaintiff alleges that, while he was an inmate at the Cook
County Jail, defendant Lake treated him unfairly with respect
to his use/access to the law library. Before the Court is
defendant's motion for summary judgment . For the
following reasons, the Court denies in part and grants in
part defendant's motion.
Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1
Rule 56.1 governs the procedures for filing and responding to
motions for summary judgment in this Court. Local Rule
56.1(a) requires the moving party to provide “a
statement of material facts as to which the moving party
contends there is no genuine issue” for trial. See
Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809,
817 (7th Cir. 2004). “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.” Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C). The party
opposing summary judgment also shall submit “a
statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any
additional facts that require the denial of summary
defeat summary judgment, the opposing party “must file
a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving
party's statement” of fact. Schrott v.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir.
2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). In the case of any
disagreement, the opposing party must reference
“affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting
materials.” Id. “[M]ere disagreement
with the movant's asserted facts is inadequate if made
without reference to specific supporting material.”
Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). If
the opposing party's response provides only extraneous or
argumentative information, the response will not constitute a
proper denial of the fact, and the fact will be admitted.
See, e.g., Graziano v. Vill. of Oak Park, 401
F.Supp.2d 918, 936-37 (N.D. Ill. 2005). A plaintiff's
pro se status does not excuse him from complying
with Local Rule 56.1. See Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of City
of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001); Cady
v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006).
with the Local Rules, defendant filed a statement of material
facts (Dkt. 111-1) along with her motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. 111). Also consistent with the Local Rules, defendant
filed and served on plaintiff a Local Rule 56.2 Notice (Dkt.
113), which explained in detail the requirements of Local
response, plaintiff filed a one hundred and twenty-one-page
document entitled “Response to Defendant Local Rule
56.1(a) Statement of Material Facts and Statement of
Additional Facts” (Dkt. 115). This document is
comprised of a nineteen-page “Memorandum in Opposition
to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment” and
seventy-five pages of exhibits. The first fifteen pages of
plaintiff's submission correspond to defendant's
thirty-two-paragraph Statement of Facts, so the Court
construes this portion of plaintiff's submission as a
response to defendant's Statement of Facts. See
Loc. R. 56.1(b)(3). For the most part, plaintiff does not
admit or deny defendant's factual statements in his
response; instead, he objects to the factual statements on
grounds of relevancy. As noted above, 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”); Wilson v. Kautex, Inc., 371
Fed. App'x. 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2010) (“[S]trictly
enforcing Local Rule 56.1 was well within the district
court's discretion, even though Wilson is a pro
se litigant.”) (citation omitted); Collins v.
Illinois, 554 F.3d 693, 697 (7th Cir. 2009) (“even
pro se litigants must follow procedural
rules”). Thus, the Court disregards plaintiff's
unresponsive, evasive, or argumentative denials in his
response and deems defendant's corresponding (and
properly-supported) facts admitted. See Flores v.
Giuliano, No. 12 C 162, 2014 WL 3360504, at *2 (N.D.
Ill. July 9, 2014).
has also submitted additional facts (Dkt. 115 at pgs. 16-26)
that include citations to the record and exhibits. Defendant
objects to plaintiff's additional statement of facts on
the grounds that: (1) it contains numerous arguments which
are wholly irrelevant to the claims set out in the
Court's initial screening order; (2) several points are
based on an affidavit plaintiff attached which contains
conclusions, his opinion, and speculation; and (3) it
contains improper argument. (Dkt. 120 at pgs. 3-4.) The Court
has carefully examined each statement for relevancy,
evidentiary support, and admissibility, giving deference to
plaintiff's version of the facts where they are properly
presented and supported by admissible evidence.
the above factors in mind, the Court turns to the facts of
July 2010 until November 2016, plaintiff Charles E. Thornton
was housed in the Cook County Department of Corrections
(“CCDOC”). (Dkt. 111-1 at ¶ 1.) Defendant M.
Lake is and was, at the times relevant to this lawsuit, the
supervisor of the law library at CCDOC. (Id. at
alleges that, between July 15, 2014 and December 20, 2014, he
was treated unfairly while attending the law library.
(Id. at ¶ 3.) Specifically, he alleges that the
judge in his criminal case provided an order permitting him
to have “access to the law library three times per week
for the above-titled case preparation due to the fact that
Thornton is proceeding pro se.” (Id.
at ¶ 4.) Plaintiff alleges that during this time, he
received the wrong case law and that he was not permitted to
access the law library three times per week in compliance
with the Criminal Court Order. (Id. at ¶ 5.) At
his deposition, plaintiff testified that during the entirety
of the time he had the order, he was able to get one day per
week at the law library. (Id. at ¶ 6.)
filed numerous grievances criticizing the unfair treatment he
perceived from the law librarians, specifically Hawkins and
Warren. (Id. at ¶ 7.) At his deposition,
plaintiff testified that he did not appeal “each and
every one” of the responses to his grievances. (Dkt.
122 at p. 105:23.)
also testified at his deposition that there were times that
he was not able to attend the law library twice per week.
(111-1 at ¶ 9.) Plaintiff testified that he was not
permitted to attend the law library three times per week
until he filed “so many grievances . . . eventually
[he] started getting in, but that was way down the line
though.” (Id. at ¶ 10.)
deposition, plaintiff was presented with the Detainees'
Law Library Sign-in Scheduling Log Sheet (“Sign-In
Sheet”). (Id. at ¶ 11.) Plaintiff
testified that his signature on the Sign-In Sheets from July
15, 2014 to October 9, 2015 was true and accurate.
(Id. at ¶ 12.) The Sign-In Sheets show that
between July 14, 2014 and October 9, 2015, plaintiff visited
the law library one hundred and fifty-two times.
(Id. at ¶ 14.) The Sign-In Sheets also show
that on sixteen different dates in 2014-2015, plaintiff was
on the schedule at the law library, but did not sign in.
(Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff testified that he had
been shipped out to Moultrie County for two to three weeks in
2014. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff testified that
he was able to go to the law library when he was in Moultrie
County, although “it was nothing up to par[.]”
(Dkt. 122 at p. 75:18-21.) Thus, between July 14, 2014 and
October 9, 2015, plaintiff was housed at Cook County Jail for
no more than sixty-two weeks. (Dkt. 111-1 at ¶ 17.)
During these sixty-two weeks, plaintiff visited the law
library on one hundred and fifty-two occasions and was
scheduled to visit the law library on sixteen more occasions.
(Id. at ¶ 18.) Thus, plaintiff was scheduled to
visit the law library one hundred and sixty-eight times over
a period of sixty-two weeks. (Id. at ¶ 19.)
alleges that in July of 2015, Law Librarian Hawkins
threatened his court order by saying, “I wouldn't
be surprised if your court order disappear[s].”
(Id. at ¶ 21.) Plaintiff testified that
defendant Lake was not present when he visited the law
library. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff alleges that
his criminal court order was revoked between September 30,
2015 and November 31, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 23.)
deposition, plaintiff acknowledged that defendant Lake
executed a disciplinary report on September 12, 2014 against
Hawkins stating that, “Thelma Hawkins was informed,
that Inmate Charles Thornton . . . had a Court Order for law
library services three times per week. Ms. Hawkins failed to
request to see him three times the weeks of August 15, 2014
and September 5, 2014. If improvements are not made in this
regard, termination may result.” (Id. at
testified that he filed numerous grievances while at Cook
County Jail. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Specifically,
plaintiff filed a grievance on September 18, 2015 wherein he
stated that “Ms. Warren withheld [his] third case
law.” (Id. at ¶ 28.) On page two of this
grievance, defendant Lake responded, thanking him for his
opinion. (Id. at ¶ 29.) Plaintiff signed under
defendant's Response, and did not request an appeal.
(Id. at ¶ 30.) Plaintiff also filed a grievance
on December 22, 2015 wherein he stated that defendant Lake
was “showing discriminatory practice against [him] as a
pretrial detainee through her staff of Div. 9 and Div. 1