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Hallom v. Bowens

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

July 31, 2018

John Hallom, Plaintiff,
v.
Officer Bowens, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge

         Plaintiff John Hallom, formerly a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail, brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff contends that Cook County Jail employee Officer Bowens violated his rights under the First Amendment by failing to accommodate his request to attend group Baptist religious services while he was in protective custody. Defendant's motion for summary judgment [35] is currently before the Court. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         When addressing a summary judgment motion, this Court derives the background facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 Statements, which assist the Court by “organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side propose[s] to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence.” Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000). Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, Defendant served him with a “Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment” as required by N.D.Ill. Local Rule 56.2 [38]. The notice explains the consequences of failing to properly respond to a motion for summary judgment and to the undisputed facts stated in movant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement. (Id.) A litigant's failure to respond to a statement of fact in a Local Rule 56.1 Statement results in the statement being considered admitted. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006).

         Consistent with this court's local rules, in support of his motion, Defendant filed a Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Material Facts [36], citing evidentiary material in support of each statement. Plaintiff filed a five-paragraph response to the summary judgment motion [42]; however, he did not directly respond to Defendants Rule 56.1 statements of material fact. Some of the statements in Plaintiff's response cite to the record and, liberally construed, this pleading could be considered Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 response. However, Plaintiff's response does not specifically address the statements in Defendant's Rule 56.1 Statement. See Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) (an opposing party's response to a Rule 56.1 statement must include “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”).

         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). “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.'” 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”). Accordingly, the Court will consider Defendant's Rule 56.1 statements, to the extent they are supported by the record, admitted. See N.D.Ill. L.R. 56. 1 (b)(3)(C) (“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.”); see also Raymond, 442 F.3d at 608. The Court notes that, even if it considered Plaintiff's response as a proper response in accordance with Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B), the record still establishes that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment.

         II. Facts

         The following facts are set forth as favorably to Plaintiff as the record and Local Rule 56.1 permit. See Hanners v. Trent, 674 F.3d 683, 691 (7th Cir. 2012). Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee at the Cook County Department of Corrections (“CCDOC”) from October, 2015 to March, 2017. (Dkt. 36, ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was housed in protective custody, in Division 6, from October 9, 2015 through January 15, 2017. (Id.) Plaintiff was housed in Division 3 Annex of the CCDOC beginning on January 15, 2017, and remained there until March 30, 2017. (Id.) Defendant Officer Bowens is a Correctional Officer of the Cook County Department of Corrections. (Id. at ¶ 2.)

         Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on July 3, 2017, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act against Defendant Bowens. (Id. at ¶ 3.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was not able to attend Baptist church services in a chapel while he was housed in Division 3 Annex. (Id. at ¶ 4.)

         Division 3 Annex houses a number of different inmate populations and gangs, including rival gangs, which requires a certain number of security measures including disciplinary segregation, protective custody, and special incarceration units. (Id. at ¶ 5.) At the time of the allegations, Plaintiff voluntarily requested to be placed in protective custody. (Id. at ¶ 6.) In Division 3 Annex, Plaintiff had access to religious request slips where he could request to see a minister should one come to the area. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff completed two request slips and a grievance seeking access to Baptist services while in protective custody. (Id.) Plaintiff testified that he wished to go to church and worship with people “from the outside.” (Id.)

         At the Cook County Jail, Baptist instruction and guidance are provided by volunteers from the Baptist community. (Id. at ¶ 8.) The volunteers are not employees of the Cook County Sheriff's Office or the CCDOC employees. (Id.) The volunteers must be screened to ensure the safety of inmates and staff, and only screened volunteers can enter the CCDOC to conduct services. (Id. at ¶ 9.)

         The CCDOC provides the detainees with the ability to practice their religion as freely as possible consistent with the operational requirements and safety concerns of the correctional institution. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Division 3 Annex staff allows any minister, who is otherwise in compliance with security regulations, to meet with a detainee and to hold religious services. (Id. at ¶ 11.)

         From January 2017, through March 2017, Division 3 Annex detainees did not have access to a Baptist volunteer or to Baptist services because no volunteer was available. (Id. at ΒΆ 12.) In spite of unavailability of Baptist volunteers, Plaintiff was able to practice his faith with his Bible, which he was able to keep with him at all times; through ...


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