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Prison Litigation Reform Act

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Gerald Hacker v. Cook County, Illinois

Case No.: 21-2910

Officials: Rovner, Hamilton, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Prison Litigation Reform Act

Hacker brought a claim against Officer Sandoval for using unreasonable force against him within the Cook County Jail. Officer Sandoval encountered Hacker standing in a doorway and ordered him to return to his bed, but Hacker—unable to hear—did not comply. Officer Sandoval responded by shoving Hacker, knocking him unconscious. Hacker later awoke at Cermak Health Services, handcuffed to a bed. He responded to the incident by filing an administrative grievance with the jail. Hacker is almost entirely deaf. He has no hearing in his left ear and only 10% remaining in his right. While incarcerated at the Cook County Jail in 2017, he filed four grievances related to his hearing impairment, only then to sue the Sheriff of Cook County, Cook County itself, and various other officials at the Cook County Jail. The district court entered summary judgment for the defendants, reasoning that Hacker failed both to exhaust his claims under the Prison Litigation Reform Act and to comply with other requirements imposed by the statute. The jail’s grievance procedures became unavailable to Hacker after the jail involved the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR); various communications forced Hacker to “go beyond the established system and guess” what he needed to do.

Vacated and remanded.

Decided 03/16/23

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