Armstrong v. Cook County, Illinois et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order. Signed by the Honorable Milton I. Shadur on 10/13/2016.mailed notice(rm, ) (Docket Text Modified by the Clerk's Office on 10/14/2016) (rm, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
IAN CHARLES ARMSTRONG
COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, TOM DART,
Case No. 16 C 9215
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pro se prisoner plaintiff Ian Charles Armstrong ("Armstrong") has utilized the
Clerk's-Office-supplied printed form of "Complaint Under the Civil Rights Act, Title 42 Section
1983" ("Complaint") to sue Cook County, its Sheriff Thomas Dart, Cook County Board President
Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board of Commissioners and several staff people at the Cook
County Department of Corrections ("County Jail"), charging that he was forced to endure
unconstitutional conditions of confinement while in custody at the County Jail. Armstrong has
accompanied his Complaint with two other Clerk's-Office-supplied forms: an In Forma Pauperis
Application ("Application") and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel ("Motion").
To comply with our Court of Appeals' directive in such prisoner lawsuits, this Court must
first address the Application. Because almost a full month elapsed between Armstrong's
August 29, 2016 signing of the Application and the September 23 date on which Armstrong's
papers arrived in the Clerk's Office, 1 the printout of all transactions in Armstrong's trust fund
For some unexplained reason or reasons, such gaps of varying lengths are encountered
with great frequency in pro se prisoner filings. That of course often creates substantial problems
account at the Cook County Jail spanned only five months of the six-month period called for by 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). 2 Both this Court's law clerk and one of the District Court's staff attorneys
assigned to prisoner litigation requested and have obtained the missing information to enable this
Court to calculate the average monthly deposits to Armstrong's account during the entire
six-month period ending September 20 (see Section 1915(b)(1)(A)) as amounting to $221.67,
20% of which (id.) comes to $44.33. Accordingly the Application [Dkt. No. 3] is granted in
Section 1915(b) terms, Armstrong is assessed an initial partial filing fee of $44.33 plus 20% of any
deposits to Armstrong's trust fund account there since September 20, and the Cook County Jail
trust fund officer is ordered to collect that amount from that account and to pay it directly to the
Clerk of Court ("Clerk"):
Office of the Clerk
United States District Court
219 South Dearborn Street
Chicago IL 60604
Attention: Fiscal Department.
After such payment the trust fund officer at Cook County Jail (or at any other correctional
facility where Armstrong may hereafter be confined) is authorized to collect monthly payments
from his trust fund account in an amount equal to 20% of the preceding month's income credited to
in identifying the "filing " date of such actions in terms of the "mailbox rule" articulated in
Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988). But in this instance Armstrong's handwritten
September 16 date on his Affidavit included in the Complaint, coupled with the September 23 date
of the Clerks' Office stamped receipt, confirms that September 20 is appropriate to use as the
mailbox rule "filing" date.
Further references to subparts of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 will simply take the form
"Section --," omitting the prefatory "28 U.S.C. §."
the account. Monthly payments collected from the trust fund account shall be forwarded to the
Clerk each time the amount in the account exceeds $10 until the full $350 filing fee is paid. Both
the initial payment and all future payments shall clearly identify Armstrong's name and the
16 C 9215 case number assigned to this action. To implement these requirements, the Clerk shall
send a copy of this order to the Cook County Jail trust fund officer.
To shift now to Armstrong's Complaint, its Section IV Statement of Claim alleges in part
that social worker Tyler (who assertedly has responsibility for collecting all prisoner grievances)
has repeatedly refused to accept Armstrong's multiple grievances on the subject on the ground that
they are "redundant" because Armstrong's cellmate has complained about the same assertedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. It's frankly difficult to say which is more
intolerable -- the asserted conditions that Armstrong's Complaint describes graphically or Social
Worker Tyler's arbitrary and unacceptable conduct. That comparison need not be attempted,
however, for under the circumstances Armstrong must be considered as having satisfied the
precondition to suit -- exhaustion of all available remedies -- established by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
So Armstrong's case can go forward, and this Court also grants his Motion [Dkt. Nos. 4
and 5] and has obtained the name of this member of the District Court's trial bar to represent
Steven Douglas McCormick, Esq.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
300 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60654
That calls for the issuance of an initial scheduling order, and this Court is contemporaneously
issuing such an order that should allow counsel time (1) to confer with Armstrong, (2) to arrange
for service on those of Armstrong's targeted defendants who are appropriately suable for the
constitutional violations described in the Complaint, (3) to determine whether to proceed with
Armstrong's self-prepared Complaint or, instead, to file an Amended Complaint and (4) to take
whatever other preparatory steps may be pursued before the status hearing
date specified in the scheduling order.
Milton I. Shadur
Senior United States District Judge
Date: October 13, 2016
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