Hacker v. Cook County, Illinois, No. 21-2910 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Officer Sandoval encountered inmate Hacker, who is almost totally deaf, and ordered him to return to his bed. Hacker, unable to hear, did not comply. Sandoval shoved Hacker, who awoke handcuffed to a bed. He filed an administrative grievance and received notice that it had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Divisional Superintendent, with a form allowing Hacker to appeal within 15 days. Neither document gave any timeline for OPR’s disposition of Hacker’s grievance. More than three months later, an OPR investigator concluded he could not substantiate Hacker’s claims; his superior officer signed the memorandum to approve the closure of the referral. The document does not state that the grievance process as a whole had ended, nor mention an appeals process. Hacker apparently received no communication from the Superintendent.
Hacker had already filed suit. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, citing failure to exhaust claims under the Prison Litigation Reform Act and to comply with other PLRA requirements, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). The Seventh Circuit vacated. The jail’s grievance procedures became unavailable to Hacker after the jail involved OPR; various communications forced Hacker to “go beyond the established system and guess” what he needed to do. One of Hacker’s claims under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act failed because his grievance did not give fair notice that he was requesting a personal listening device; his other claim, concerning missing medications, was not tied to a physical injury as required to recover damages under the PLRA.