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Chandler v. Buncich

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

November 14, 2014

BRIAN CHANDLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN BUNCICH, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF LAKE COUNTY AND/OR PERSON SERVING IN THAT CAPACITY IN 2011, LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, LAKE COUNTY JAIL, LAKE COUNTY WORK RELEASE, SERGEANT OAKLEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS LAKE COUNTY WORK RELEASE DIRECTOR, DEFENDANTS

OPINION and ORDER

ROBERT L. MILLER, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the court on motions for summary judgment filed by defendants John Buncich, Lake County Sheriff's Department, and Lake County Jail and defendants Lake County Work Release and Sergeant Oakley. The defendants argue no evidence exists to support plaintiff Brian Chandler's claims and they are immune from liability on several of the claims. Mr. Chandler opposes the motions. Argument was heard on October 20, 2014.

I. BACKGROUND

Mr. Chandler was serving 30 consecutive weekends in the Lake County Work Release program for a Class D felony of theft when he alleges that he was subject to sexual abuse by a male correctional officer, Julian "Julio" Koleff, during strip searches. Mr. Chandler claims the inappropriate strip searches, that were done alone and involved touching, took place on two to four occasions. After the second or third instance, he reported the abuse to the Indiana State Police on April 14, 2011 (all pertinent dates are 2011). According to Work Release Director John Oakley's notes, Indiana State Police Sergeant Mike Bailey found no grounds for a sexual assault charge but notified Director Oakley, on April 17, that Mr. Chandler had reported sexual abuse by Officer Koleff, that he told Mr. Chandler to tell Work Release staff about the incident, and that Mr. Chandler feared retaliation. Director Oakley's notes reflect that he then informed Corrections Administrator Jeff Kumorek about the communication from the Indiana State Police.

The next weekend, Mr. Chandler reported to the Work Release on April 22. The facility's entrance and exit log shows that he was booked by Officer Key and searched by Officer Koleff. Mr. Chandler's deposition testimony doesn't clearly reflect whether sexual abuse occurred on the 22nd. During his shift at the Work Release on Saturday, April 23, another officer told Corporal Christopher McQuillin that Mr. Chandler and another weekend inmate, Nate Creviston, were complaining about strip searches performed by Officer Koleff. According to Cpl. McQuillin's statement, he told Mr. Chandler he would talk to him when he finished what he needed to get done.

In the meantime, Officer Koleff, who had learned of the accusations, confronted Mr. Chandler. When Cpl. McQuillin learned of this, he prohibited Officer Koleff from having any contact with the weekend inmates, and then met with Mr. Chandler and Jonathan Doyle, another weekend inmate. According to Cpl. McQuillin's statement, Mr. Chandler reported that on at least one occasion Officer Koleff touched his penis during a strip search, and Mr. Doyle reported that Officer Koleff turned off the lights in the locker room and the officer's face was about a foot away like he was going to kiss him. Cpl. McQuillin says he told the inmates that he would pass along the information to the proper people. He prohibited Officer Koleff from having any contact with the weekend inmates, stated that the officer was to have another officer with him at all times, and gave him a verbal reprimand, stating that two officers must be present for a strip search. Cpl. McQuillin reports that Officer Koleff didn't deny strip searching the inmates but denied that any touching occurred.

The record contains conflicting evidence about what happened next. According to Cpl. McQuillin, he notified his supervisor, Sergeant George Brugos, about the day's events, Sgt. Brugos told him to notify Director Oakley, and "That's when I found out that everybody knew about it already because the State Police had made contact with him previously." Sgt. Brugos confirmed that Cpl. McQuillin notified him of the report on Saturday, said he didn't speak with anyone at the facility about the accusation on Sunday, but when Cpl. McQuillin told him on Monday that he hadn't written up a report or talked to the Director about the accusations, Sgt. Brugos suggested that he speak with the Director. According to Director Oakley's notes, Cpl. McQuillin had been advised by Sgt. Brugos to notify the Director when he returned to the office on Monday. Regardless, on Monday, April 25, Director Oakley's notes reflect that Cpl. McQuillin notified him about Mr. Chandler's accusations, and Mr. Chandler contacted him directly and told him that Officer Koleff strip searched him and touched and pulled his penis.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chandler and Mr. Doyle met with Director Oakley and Lieutenant Sarkey. Mr. Chandler repeated his accusation and Mr. Doyle reported the incident in which Officer Koleff turned off the lights in the locker room. At that meeting, both men gave Director Oakley papers they allege Officer Koleff had written his phone number on and given to them. Mr. Chandler claimed he would send Director Oakley a copy of his phone records showing that Officer Koleff called him. For the internal investigation into the matter, Sgt. Brugos and Lt. Sarkey gave statements the next day, April 27, and Cpl. McQuillin gave his statement on April 28. Detective Michelle Weaver's notes on the "Internal Investigation Involving Koleff/Chandler/Doyle" state that she and Detective Jeff Minchuk interviewed Officer Koleff about the accusations on Friday April 29. The detectives asked Officer Koleff to take a voice stress analysis test regarding the allegations, and he agreed to do so. Mr. Chandler also gave a statement to the detectives on April 29. The entrance and exit log shows that when Mr. Chandler entered the facility that day, Cpl. McQuillin booked him and Officer Key searched him.

The following week, on May 2, Officer Koleff spoke with Detective Weaver and refused to take the voice stress analysis test. Later that day, Mr. Chandler and Mr. Doyle took voice stress analysis tests regarding the accusations. During Mr. Chandler's entrance to the Work Release facility on May 6, the log says he was booked by Officer Hill and searched by Cpl. McQuillin.

Mr. Chandler learned from an inmate that because he reported Officer Koleff, a favorable guard to the inmates, a "hit" had been ordered on him. In his deposition testimony, Mr. Chandler says he notified the detectives about the hit at some point during the week before it happened and he was assured of his safety. Mr. Chandler can't confirm or deny whether he told Director Oakley about the hit before it happened. On Saturday May 7, Mr. Chandler was attacked by an inmate in a communal bathroom at the Work Release facility. According to the "Lake County Sheriff's Department Work Release Unit Incident Report" regarding the attack, an officer observed a commotion at 8:50 p.m. and found Mr. Chandler in his room with blood on his lower face and uniform top. The officer says Mr. Chandler wouldn't tell him the name of the person who assaulted him and didn't want to press charges either before or after his trip to the hospital. Upon his return from the hospital, Mr. Chandler told officers the attack took place in the east bathroom. The report notes that Mr. Chandler didn't approach the security office immediately after the assault and didn't tell staff what happened or who assaulted him.

Mr. Chandler suffered lacerations on his face, fractured facial bones, and broken teeth. He claims the Work Release staff delayed his medical treatment by two hours and transferred him to the hospital by van instead of contacting emergency medical personnel. Mr. Chandler says he paid for the medical expenses himself. The Work Release Report outlines the following timeline: the attack occurred at 8:50 p.m.; Mr. Chandler was transported to Methodist Hospital at 9:15 p.m.; he returned to the facility at 11:55 p.m.; he was issued a new uniform and linens at 12:00 a.m.; he was taken to Walgreens to fill his prescriptions; and he returned to the facility at 12:50 a.m.

Mr. Chandler says the inmate who attacked him was roaming the facility freely the morning after the assault. On Monday, May 9, Lake County Police Detective James Weller was assigned to investigate the assault. According to Detective Weller's report, Mr. Chandler told Detective Weller that he didn't know the name of the inmate who attacked him, but he could visually identify the person. In the meantime, at the request of the Corrections Administrator, a judge temporarily suspended Mr. Chandler's sentence. Sheriff John Buncich terminated Officer Koleff's employment on May 27 for "conduct unbecoming of an employee of the Department, failure to treat an inmate civilly and courteously, and failure to fully cooperate with an investigation." The four inmates involved in the physical attack were later charged and convicted for participation in the assault.

Mr. Chandler brought suit against the Lake County Sheriff's Department, Lake County Jail, and Lake County Work Release and Sheriff Buncich and Sergeant Oakley in both their official and individual capacities. He alleges the defendants are liable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights and under state law for negligence, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Mr. Chandler also asserts a state law indemnification claim.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department, Lake County Jail, and Sheriff Buncich (the Sheriff defendants) move for summary judgment because no evidence exists to support the claims and they are immune from liability for the state claims. Also, Sheriff Buncich contends that he is immune from individual liability. Lake County Work Release and Sergeant Oakley move for summary judgment and argue the Work Release is a part of the Sheriff's Department and can't be sued individually, for the same reason Director Oakley can't be sued in his official capacity, and Director Oakley is immune from liability on the individual capacity claims. Otherwise, they adopt the arguments of the Sheriff defendants.

II. PRELIMINARY PROCEDURAL ISSUE

The Sheriff defendants argue that Mr. Chandler's response doesn't comply with Local Rule 56-1(b) or Local Rule 7-1(e). Under Rule 56-1(b)(2), a summary judgment response brief or its appendix must include a section that identifies the material facts the party contends are genuinely disputed. The Sheriff defendants emphasize that Mr. Chandler filed his "Statement of Genuine Disputes" as a separate document. Under Rule 7-1(e), a response brief, excluding appendices, can't exceed 25 pages without leave from the court for extraordinary and compelling reasons. If the court allows a longer brief, the brief must include a table of contents with page references, an issue statement, and a table of authorities. Local Rule 7-1(e)(2). The Sheriff defendants argue that Mr. Chandler's response brief plus the separately filed statement of genuine disputes totaled 41 pages, the court didn't grant Mr. Chandler leave to file the additional pages, and the longer brief didn't include the required additional sections. Finally, the Sheriff defendants argue the response is a narrative legal argument without citations to the record. The mistakes, they argue, should result in summary judgment for the defendants.

Local rules designed to streamline the resolution of summary judgment motions, like Rule 56-1, can be strictly enforced. See Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994). Summary judgment can be appropriate when the nonmovant didn't submit a factual statement in the form called for by the local rule. Id . The result of non-compliance is to concede the movant's version of the facts. Id . Mr. Chandler filed the appropriate documents, but he didn't file the documents appropriately. To cure his error, Mr. Chandler could have simply titled the statement of genuine disputes "Appendix to Response to Motion for Summary Judgment." The substance of the response brief and the statement of genuine disputes comply with the rule. The goal of local rules addressing summary judgment procedure is to direct the court to the factual disputes and the record evidence in an efficient manner. Id. at 923. Mr. Chandler's filing error doesn't frustrate this goal, and the court finds the error harmless. Likewise, the additional pages in the statement of genuine disputes wouldn't be counted against the page limit if filed as an appendix. The response brief itself is 20 pages and within the limits prescribed by the local rule. Finally, although the narrative form of Mr. Chandler's response didn't direct the court to the factual disputes and the record evidence in an efficient manner, the local rules don't require a specific format for the substance of the response brief. The court will take the summary judgment briefs and record as they stand.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if no genuine dispute as to any material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). If, based on the evidence of record, a reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, a genuine issue of material fact exists and summary judgment must be denied. Kodish v. Oakbrook Terrace Fire Prot. Dist., 604 F.3d 490, 507 (7th Cir. 2010). If a party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an essential element on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment for the opposing party is proper. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986). In such a case, the moving party can meet its burden by showing there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id. at 322. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, a defendant moving for summary judgment has no burden other than to point out the deficiencies of the plaintiff's case, Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 2013); Shields v. Dart, 664 F.3d 178, 182 (7th Cir. 2011). Once the defendant has done so, the plaintiff has the burden to show a genuine material fact dispute. See Bass v. Joliet Public Sch. Dist. No. 86, 746 F.3d 835, 841 (7th Cir. 2014). The plaintiff can't meet that burden simply by saying an opposing witness is lying or wrong; he "must produce evidence so showing." Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 565 (7th Cir. 2012).

The parties dispute the validity of the record evidence. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to the record evidence or showing the record evidence does or doesn't establish the fact. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1). A valid objection to the evidence is that it can't be presented in a form that would be admissible. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2). Under Local Rule 56-1(e), disputes about the admissibility of evidence should be addressed in a separate motion. Regardless, at the summary judgment stage, the evidence need only be of a kind admissible at trial, it doesn't have to be presented in a form that would be admissible at trial. Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 n.2 (7th Cir. 1994). Mr. ...


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