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Castaneda v. Dart

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

December 9, 2019

Maximino Roman Castañeda #Y-29932, Plaintiff,
Sheriff Thomas Dart, Defendant.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Maximino Roman Castañeda, currently an Illinois state prisoner, brings this pro se civil rights action purportedly pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Thomas Dart, the Sheriff of Cook County, violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by denying him access to the courts when he was a pretrial detainee because the jail's divisional law libraries had no books in Spanish. Currently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment [R. 70]. Plaintiff's motion “to support the demand against Thomas Dart” [R. 81] is granted, but for the reasons discussed in this order, the Court grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         II. Plaintiff's Pro Se Status

         Due to Plaintiff's professed language barrier, pro bono counsel was recruited to represent him in the early stages of this lawsuit. See R. 4, Order of May 30, 20178 (Pallmeyer, J.). However, the Court permitted counsel to withdraw based on his assertion that, after thoroughly investigating the matter, he was unable to litigate Plaintiff's claims consistent with his professional obligations under Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. (R., 10, Order of August 8, 2018 (Pallmeyer, J.). Consequently, Plaintiff has pursued this lawsuit without the assistance of counsel. Having reviewed the summary judgment record, the Court is satisfied that pro bono representation would not have altered the outcome of this case.

         III. Legal Standards on a Motion for Summary Judgment

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Hanover Ins. Co. v. Northern Bldg. Co., 751 F.3d 788, 791 (7th Cir. 2014). In determining whether factual issues exist, the Court must view all the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Weber v. Univ. Research Assoc., Inc., 621 F.3d 589, 592 (7th Cir. 2010). The Court does not “judge the credibility of the witnesses, evaluate the weight of the evidence, or determine the truth of the matter. The only question is whether there is a genuine issue of fact.” Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)).

         To survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must make a sufficient showing of evidence for each essential element of his case on which he bears the burden at trial. Blow v. Bijora, Inc., 855 F.3d 793, 797-98 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Blythe Holdings, Inc. v. DeAngelis, 750 F.3d 653, 656 (7th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). “A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Johnson v. Manitowoc Cty., 635 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Faas v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 532 F.3d 633, 640-41 (7th Cir. 2008)).

         IV. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         Local Rule 56.1 (N.D. Ill.) governs the procedures for filing and responding to motions for summary judgment in this judicial district. “Under the Local Rules of the Northern District of Illinois, a party filing a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 must serve and file ‘a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Judson Atkinson Candies, Inc. v. Latini-Hohberger Dhimantec, 529 F.3d 371, 382 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). The opposing party must then 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.'” Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing N.D.Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)); Fabiyi v. McDonald's Corp., No. 11 CV 8085, 2014 WL 985415, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2014) (aff'd 595 Fed.Appx. 621 (7th Cir. 2014)). The opposing party may also present a separate statement of additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008).

         If a party fails to respond to a L.R. 56.1 statement of uncontested facts, then those facts are deemed admitted to the extent they are supported by the evidence in the record. Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012); Parra v. Neal, 614 F.3d 635, 636 (7th Cir. 2010); L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) (N.D. Ill.) (“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.”). A plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with these rules. Morrow v. Donahoe, 564 Fed.Appx. 859, 860 (7th Cir. 2014) (unpublished opinion) (citing Pearle Vision, Inc. v. Romm, 541 F.3d 751, 758 (7th Cir. 2008) (inter alia)).

         However, a non-movant's failure to respond to a summary judgment motion, or failure to comply with L.R. 56.1, does not automatically result in judgment for the movant. Keeton, 667 F.3d at 884; Love v. Rockford Illinois Mun. Police Dep't, No. 08 CV 50254, 2013 WL 159246, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 15, 2013). The movant must still demonstrate that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Keeton, 667 F.3d at 884; Love, 2013 WL 159246, at *1. And the Court still views all the facts asserted by the moving party in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Keeton, 667 F.3d at 884; Love, 2013 WL 159246, at *1.

         Consistent with the Local Rules, Defendant filed a Statement of Material Facts along with his motion for summary judgment. (R. 72, Defendant's Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement.) Each substantive assertion of fact in Defendant's Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement is supported by evidentiary material in the record. Also in accordance with the Local Rules, Defendant filed and served on Plaintiff a Local Rule 56.2 Notice, which explained in detail the requirements of Local Rule 56.1. (R. 74, “Defendant's Local Rule 56.2 Notice to Pro Se Plaintiff.”) The notice warned Plaintiff that a party's failure to controvert the facts as set forth in the moving party's statement results in those facts being deemed admitted. See also Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). In addition, pursuant to the Court's directive, the Clerk specifically mailed Plaintiff a copy of Local Rule 56.2. See R. 66, Minute Entry of August 13, 2019 (Pallmeyer, J.).

         Despite those admonitions, Plaintiff did not file a formal response to Defendant's Statement of Facts or attempt to provide a statement of additional facts. See Local Rule 56.1(b)(3). Rather, he largely devotes his relatively cursory motion in support of his claims to attacking the trial court and Public Defender's handling of his state criminal prosecution. Those few facts that Plaintiff does include in his motion lack proper citations to the evidentiary record. See, e.g., Almy v. Kickert Sch. Bus Line, Inc., No. 08 CV 2902, 2013 WL 80367, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 7, 2013) (“[C]ourts are not required to ‘wade through improper denials and legal arguments in search of a genuinely disputed fact'”) (citation omitted).

         Nevertheless, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court has interpreted his response generously and has construed the additional facts as favorably as the record and Local Rule 56.1 permit. See Thomas v. Williams, 822 F.3d 378, 385 (7th Cir. 2016). The Court has also taken into account Plaintiff's unsupported factual assertions to the extent that he could properly testify about the factual matters asserted. See Hanners v. Trent, 674 F.3d 683, 691 (7th Cir. 2012); Sistrunk v. Khan, 931 F.Supp.2d 849, 854 (N.D. Ill. 2013); Fed.R.Evid. 602, 701, 702. In addition, the Court has considered Plaintiff's documents captioned “More Evidence” (R. 84, 85) even though he did not seek the Court's leave to file a surreply.

         That said, the parties' respective versions of the events underlying this action diverge only slightly. The Court notes the single discrepancy below, and has otherwise incorporated Plaintiff's additional facts into this opinion. The Court finds that the following facts, all supported by the record, are undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion:

         V. Background

         A. Uncontested Facts

         Plaintiff Maximino Roman Castañeda, currently an Illinois state prisoner, was a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail at all times relevant to this action. (R. 72, Defendant's Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement of Material Facts, ¶¶ 1, 2.) Defendant Thomas Dart is the Sheriff of Cook County. (Id., ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff was born in Mexico. (Id., ¶ 4.) He completed a high school education in Mexico. (Id., ¶ 13.)

         In February 2013, Plaintiff was booked into the Cook County Jail pending disposition of state criminal proceedings, (Id., ¶¶ 7, 8.) Plaintiff spent time in housing divisions 1, 9, 10, and 11, while incarcerated at the jail. (Id., ¶ 9.)

         The trial court originally assigned Assistant Public Defender Monica Mapp (who is not a Defendant in this action) to represent Plaintiff in his criminal case. (Id., ¶ 10.) In August 2015, Plaintiff advised the trial court that he wanted a different public defender because he did not believe that Ms. Mapp was providing effective representation. (Id., ¶ 11.) Plaintiff and his attorney apparently disagreed over trial strategy-specifically, whether and how best to seek suppression of his confession to police. (R. 81, Plaintiff's Motion in Opposition to Summary Judgment, at p. 1.) The trial court denied Plaintiff's request for a new attorney. (Deft's SOF, ¶ 11.)

         In September 2015, Plaintiff once again requested new counsel. (Id., ¶ 12.) The court denied Plaintiff's renewed request for another lawyer, admonishing him that he was not entitled to a public defender of his choosing. (Id.) The court also assured Plaintiff that Ms. Mapp was well-qualified to represent his interests. (Id.) The court did, however, grant Plaintiff's alternate request to represent himself. (Id., ¶ 14.) Accordingly, the trial court allowed Plaintiff's public defender to withdraw from the case. (Id., ¶ 15.)

         At a hearing in December 2015, the court offered to appoint Plaintiff another public defender because Ms. Mapp had been promoted to a new position within the Public Defender's Office. (Id., ¶ 16.) Plaintiff accepted the assignment of new counsel. (Id., ¶ 17.) Therefore, the court re-appointed the Public Defender's Office. (Id., ¶ 19.) Plaintiff also spoke to a supervisor in the Public Defender's Office that day. (Id., ¶ 18.) Plaintiff's new, court-appointed attorney (non-Defendant Deirdre McGuire) entered an appearance on Plaintiff's behalf in January 2016. (Id., ¶ 20.)

         In August 2016, Plaintiff asked for new counsel again, explaining that he was having a disagreement with Ms. McGuire, and that he was dissatisfied with her performance. (Id., ΒΆ 21.) The trial court gave Plaintiff the option of ...

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