United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. Chang, Judge
breaking his foot, Jimmie Lewis used crutches to get around
when he was detained in Cook County Jail. R. 40, DSOF ¶
Lewis alleges that, for his court appearances, he had to walk
up and down two steep ramps in the basement of the Leighton
Courthouse without any help. Id. ¶ 5. He also
asserts that officers took away his crutches when he was
placed in the courthouse lockup, and it was difficult to use
the restroom in the lockup. Id. ¶ 7, 11. So
Lewis brought this suit against Sheriff Thomas Dart and Cook
County for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and
the Rehabilitation Act. See generally, R. 1, Compl.;
42 U.S.C. § 12132; 29 U.S.C. §
794(a). Now, the Defendants move for summary
judgment, arguing that Lewis has not exhausted administrative
remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. 42
U.S.C. § 1997e. For the following reasons, the motion is
granted in part and denied in part.
deciding the Sheriff's motion for summary judgment, the Court
views the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In April 2017,
Jimmie Lewis entered the Cook County Jail as a pretrial
detainee. Compl. ¶ 2; R. 40-1, DSOF Exh. A, Lewis Dep.
Exh. 1, Compl. During the course of his arrest, Lewis had
broken his left foot, and was prescribed crutches to walk,
because the foot could not bear any weight. DSOF Exh. A,
Lewis Dep. 32:11-21; DSOF ¶ 4.
awaiting trial in his criminal case, Lewis had to attend his
court appearances at the Leighton Courthouse. In the
courthouse basement, there are two steep ramps that Lewis had
to climb in order to get to the courtroom. DSOF ¶ 5. His
crutches made it difficult for Lewis to walk up the ramps,
and he frequently complained to officers that the ramps were
too steep. DSOF ¶ 8. This required Lewis to take a lot
of time to carefully go up and down the ramps. Id.
previous litigation, Sheriff Dart and Cook County are aware
that those ramps do not actually comply with the ADA's
slope and landing requirements. PSOF ¶ 1. As a result,
the Sheriff's Office amended its orders to require
officers to provide assistance to wheelchair users
on the ramps. Id. ¶ 2. But that change was
silent as to detainees with other types of ambulatory
disabilities or devices. Id. ¶ 3. The Leighton
Courthouse did post a “Notice-Order” instructing
detainees to wait for an officer to escort them up or down
the ramp, and to ask for assistance if needed. Id.
he had trouble navigating the courthouse ramps, Lewis filed a
grievance with the Jail in May 2017, asking for a wheelchair
to use for his court appearances. DSOF ¶ 13; DSOF Exh.
5, Grievance. In the grievance, Lewis explained that he
had difficulty getting up and down the ramps with his broken
foot and that he had previously asked for a wheelchair to
attend court, but Jail and medical staff refused. DSOF Exh.
5, Grievance. In its response to his grievance, the
Sheriff's Office did not directly address Lewis's
complaint about the ramps, saying only that he had been seen
by the orthopedist, who had recommended crutches. PSOF Exh.
1, Grievance Resp. The same day that he received this
response, Lewis appealed, pointing out that his concern was
not about his everyday ambulatory needs, but that he was only
requesting a wheelchair for court. Id., Grievance
Appeal. But the Sheriff's Office rejected the appeal,
repeating that Lewis had seen the orthopedist and asserting
that Lewis had been told to wean off crutches. Id.
There is no evidence that Lewis ever did receive a wheelchair
to use at court hearings.
addition to his difficulty navigating the courthouse ramps,
Lewis asserts that the holding cell at the courthouse was not
ADA compliant. For each court appearance, officers would take
his crutches and handcuff him when he entered the holding
cell (which is also called the “bullpen”). DSOF
¶ 10. Because he was handcuffed and did not have his
crutches, Lewis had difficulty using the restroom in the
bullpen. Id. ¶ 11. But he never did ask
officers for his crutches back or to help him when trying to
use the restroom in the cell. Id. ¶ 12.
According to at least one correctional officer, the policy to
take away crutches in the bullpen was codified in a general
order of the Sheriff's Office. PSOF ¶ 12;
id. Exh. 6, Payton Dep. at 37:23-38:23, 58:24-59:6.
Lewis also never filed a formal grievance on this complaint.
DSOF ¶ 17. It is true, however, that the grievance form
does specifically explain that an inmate may not grieve about
“non-grievable matters, ” including the
“formulation of departmental policies.” PSOF
¶ 7; DSOF Exh. 5, Grievance. As the Chief of the
Department of the Corrections explained, those matters are
nongrievable because they “relate to procedures the
Department carries out, how the Department operates.”
PSOF ¶ 8; Id. Exh. 5, Johnsen Dep. 26:12-23.
Standard of Review
judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists
if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). (It is
worth noting that if a credibility call was necessary on the
exhaustion defense, then there would not be a jury trial, but
rather an evidentiary hearing, because exhaustion is a
precondition of suit rather than an issue for the jury.) In
evaluating summary judgment motions, courts must view the
facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The Court may not weigh conflicting
evidence or make credibility determinations, Omnicare,
Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th
Cir. 2011), and must consider only evidence that can
“be presented in a form that would be admissible in
evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). The party seeking
summary judgment has the initial burden of showing that there
is no genuine dispute and that they are entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Carmichael v. Village of
Palatine, 605 F.3d 451, 460 (7th Cir. 2010); see
also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986);
Wheeler v. Lawson, 539 F.3d 629, 634 (7th Cir.
2008). If this burden is met, the adverse party must then
“set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
brings several claims under the ADA and the Rehabilitation
Act. Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act
“to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate
for the elimination of discrimination against individuals
with disabilities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). Title
II of the ADA prohibits public entities from discriminating
against persons with disabilities by excluding them from
participation or denying them the benefits of their
“services, programs, or activities.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 12132. Public entities include state and local
governments, as well as any department or instrumentality of
them. 42 U.S.C. § 12131. So Title II does apply to the
Cook County Sheriff's Office.
subject of the pending motion is not the merits of the ADA or
Rehabilitation Act claims. Instead, the question is whether
Lewis exhausted administrative remedies before filing the
lawsuit. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a prisoner
cannot bring a lawsuit “with respect to prison
conditions” under any federal law until after
exhausting available “administrative remedies.”
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)(1); McCoy v. Gilbert, 270
F.3d 503, 507 (7th Cir. 2001). Pretrial detainees are
considered prisoners for purposes of the Prison Litigation
Reform Act because they are in custody while “accused
of … violations of criminal law.” Kalinowski
v. Bond, 358 F.3d 978, 979 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 1915(h)). When contested, exhaustion is a
threshold issue. Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d ...