897 F.3d 847 (7th Cir. 2018), 17-2141, Lacy v. Cook County, Illinois

Docket Nº:17-2141
Citation:897 F.3d 847, 101 Fed.R.Serv.3d 763
Opinion Judge:Ripple, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Johnathan LACY, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS and Thomas J. Dart, Defendants-Appellants.
Attorney:Patrick W. Morrissey, Attorney, THOMAS G. MORRISSEY, LTD, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs-Appellees. Paul A. Castiglione, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY, Federal Litigation Division, Chicago, IL, Raana Haidari, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL, f...
Judge Panel:Before Ripple, Manion, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 30, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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897 F.3d 847 (7th Cir. 2018)

101 Fed.R.Serv.3d 763

Johnathan LACY, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,


COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS and Thomas J. Dart, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 17-2141

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 30, 2018

Argued April 19, 2018

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:14-cv-06259— Robert W. Gettleman, Judge .

Patrick W. Morrissey, Attorney, THOMAS G. MORRISSEY, LTD, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Paul A. Castiglione, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY, Federal Litigation Division, Chicago, IL, Raana Haidari, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellants.

Before Ripple, Manion, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.


Ripple, Circuit Judge.

Five wheelchair-using detainees brought this lawsuit against Cook County, Illinois, and the Sheriff, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act ("RHA"). Their claims are based on purportedly inaccessible ramps and bathroom facilities at six county courthouses. The district court certified a class for purposes of injunctive relief, and the named plaintiffs also sought damages individually for the same alleged violations.

The district court held an evidentiary hearing on the equitable claims first. The parties then filed cross motions for summary judgment on their individual damage claims. The court entered a permanent injunction based on its factual findings and legal conclusion that the defendants had violated the ADA. Then, relying largely on these findings, the court granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs on liability in their personal damage actions.

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The court then submitted the question of individual damage awards to a jury. Meanwhile, it granted a supplemental permanent injunction to the class.

We hold that the district court improperly relied on its own findings of fact when it granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their damage claims. When equitable and legal claims are joined in a single suit, common questions of fact should be tried first to a jury absent extraordinary circumstances or an unequivocal waiver by all parties of their jury trial rights. The record before us does not reflect any such waiver by the defendants. We therefore vacate the grant of partial summary judgment and remand for a jury trial on the question of liability. As a result, we also vacate the court’s grant of permanent injunctive relief and vacate the jury’s determinations of damage awards. We leave undisturbed the district court’s decisions to certify the class and to grant supplemental injunctive relief to the class. This latter injunction is not related to the questions that should have been submitted to the jury. Accordingly, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.




In 1990, Congress enacted the ADA to provide "a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities." 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). This sweeping legislation was animated by the finding that "individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination," ranging from "outright intentional exclusion" to "the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers." Id. § 12101(a)(5). The ADA was crafted "to advance equal-citizenship stature for persons with disabilities," Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 536, 124 S.Ct. 1978, 158 L.Ed.2d 820 (2004) (Ginsburg, J., concurring), and to remedy their status as "a discrete and insular minority who have been faced with restrictions and limitations, subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment, and relegated to a position of political powerlessness in our society," id. at 516, 124 S.Ct. 1978 (majority opinion) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12101(a)(7) ).

The ADA is organized into three titles prohibiting discrimination across three major spheres of public life: employment (Title I); public services, programs, and activities (Title II); and public accommodations (Title III). This case arises from the protections of Title II.1 The primary mandate of Title II is that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12132. This broad directive has been developed further by the Department of Justice through implementing regulations, accessibility standards, and administrative guidance. See id. § 12134(a) (instructing Attorney General to promulgate regulations implementing pertinent part of Title II).2

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To prove a prima facie case of discrimination under Title II, a plaintiff must show: (1) "that he is a ‘qualified individual with a disability’ "; (2) "that he was denied ‘the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity’ or otherwise subjected to discrimination by such an entity"; and (3) "that the denial or discrimination was ‘by reason of’ his disability." Love v. Westville Corr. Ctr., 103 F.3d 558, 560 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12132). It is well established that a failure to make "reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures" can constitute discrimination under Title II. 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7)(i)3 ; see also

A.H. by Holzmueller v. Ill. High Sch. Ass’n, 881 F.3d 587, 592-93 (7th Cir. 2018); Wis. Cmty. Servs., Inc. v. City of Milwaukee, 465 F.3d 737, 753 (7th Cir. 2006).

The obligation to make "reasonable modifications" parallels the obligations to make "reasonable accommodations" in the context of Titles I and III. See A.H., 881 F.3d at 592 (recognizing corresponding language in Title II regulations and Title III). These requirements derive from the understanding that certain practices can discriminate against individuals with disabilities even when those practices are facially neutral and consistently applied. See Lane, 541 U.S. at 536, 124 S.Ct. 1978 (Ginsburg, J., concurring) ("Congress understood in shaping the ADA [that addressing discrimination] would sometimes require not blindfolded equality, but responsiveness to difference; not indifference, but accommodation.").

Perhaps the most obvious example of such discrimination is when structural barriers prevent people with disabilities from accessing otherwise available public services. To remedy this form of discrimination, the DOJ has adopted structural accessibility standards that apply to newly constructed or altered facilities subject to Titles II and III. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(c).4 Of course, structural renovations can be prohibitively costly for some public entities, so the regulations provide flexible compliance options for facilities built before 1992 and unaltered since: compliance can be achieved "through such means as redesign or acquisition of equipment, reassignment of services to accessible buildings, assignment of aides to beneficiaries, ... alteration of existing facilities ... or any other methods that result in making its services, programs, or activities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities." Id. § 35.150(b)(1). "And in no event is the entity required to undertake measures that would impose an undue financial or administrative burden, threaten historic preservation interests, or effect a fundamental alteration in the nature of the service." Lane, 541 U.S. at 532, 124 S.Ct. 1978 (citing 28 C.F.R. § § 35.150(a)(2), (a)(3) ).

When public entities offer services at inaccessible facilities built before 1992, it is clear that they can comply with Title II by

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making reasonable modifications to their policies, practices, or procedures. It is often less clear, however, whether a given modification is reasonable. This distinction has generated a significant amount of litigation, to which we add one more case today.


This case centers on the facilities of six courthouses in Cook County, Illinois. The plaintiffs are five wheelchair-using detainees: Johnathan Lacy, Kenneth Farris, Marque Bowers, Maurice Boston, and Kevin Dawson. They each attended court approximately once per month in connection with their individual criminal cases. Their court appearances took place at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago or at one of five suburban courthouses in Maywood, Markham, Skokie, Rolling Meadows, and Bridgeview. All of these courthouses were built before 1992 and thus are not subject to the ADA’s structural accessibility standards. See

Lane, 541 U.S. at 532, 124 S.Ct. 1978; 28 C.F.R. § 35.150(b)(1). Nonetheless, to the extent that the facilities prevent individuals with disabilities from meaningfully accessing public services, reasonable modifications are required. 42 U.S.C. § § 35.130(b)(7)(i), 35.150(a).

The plaintiffs contend that Cook County and Thomas J. Dart, the Sheriff, failed to provide reasonable modifications with respect to two structural barriers at the courthouses: ramps and bathroom facilities.5 In order to access the courthouses for their monthly appearances, the plaintiffs had to traverse steep entrance and exit ramps in their wheelchairs. Once inside, they waited in holding cells until their cases were called, which could take several hours. The holding cells contained bathroom facilities— typically a combination sink and toilet, set off by a translucent "privacy screen."

During the relevant...

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