United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
January 26, 1983
JOHN THOMAS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
OFFICERS TALESKY AND BRADLEY, ETC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
John Thomas, Jr. ("Thomas") has added County of Cook
("County") as a defendant in Thomas' Amended Complaint (the
"Complaint") brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983").
County has moved to be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule")
12(b)(6). For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and
order, County's motion is granted.
Thomas' claims stem from an allegedly unlawful arrest by two
deputy sheriffs. All Thomas asserts against County is that:
1. During the course of their activity the
deputies "were acting under codes, statutes,
ordinances, regulations, customs and usages . . .
of the County of Cook, and under color of law of
the . . . County of Cook. . . ." (Count I ¶ 5 and
Count III ¶ 7).
2. Sheriff Richard J. Elrod was acting in the
same manner (Count II ¶ 5 and Count III ¶ 7).
3. County "was a political and corporate
subdivision of the State of Illinois and, as
such, was responsible for the policies, practices
and customs of all its departments, including its
Sheriff's Department" (Count III ¶ 6).
4. County as well as Sheriff Elrod "instituted,
established and countenanced policies, practices
and customs which their employees [here the
deputy sheriffs] are expected to follow in
performing their duties" (Count III ¶ 12).
In response County points to:
1. Ill.Const. Art. 7, §§ 4(c) and 4(d), under
which County says the "Sheriff of Cook County is
chosen by the electorate and not appointed,
employed, or supervised by the County of Cook" and
"is accountable only to the electorate, and not to
the County of Cook"; and
2. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 125, §§ 7 and 8, under which
County says Sheriff Elrod "and his deputies and
employees cannot be considered agents of defendant
County of Cook," which "has no power to set
standards and qualifications for deputies of the
Cook County Sheriff" and "cannot appoint Sheriff's
deputies [for] only the Sheriff himself can do so."
Thomas in turn retorts by citing a recent split decision in
Holda v. County of Kane, 88 Ill.App.3d 522, 43 Ill.Dec. 552,
410 N.E.2d 552
(2d Dist. 1980), where an Illinois county was
held liable for injuries caused by its Sheriff's negligence.
But Holda itself defeats Thomas' claim against County. Its
state law holding was squarely grounded on "the vicarious
liability theory [or] doctrine of respondeat superior," 88
Ill.App.3d at 532, 43 Ill.Dec. at 560, 410 N.E.2d at 560.
Section 1983 liability however cannot be predicated on such
respondeat superior notions under the mandate of Monell v.
Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S.Ct.
2018, 2036, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). On the contrary Monell
requires the municipal corporate entity to bear direct
responsibility for plaintiff's injuries before it can be held
liable. Its own actions must have caused the harm to plaintiff,
436 U.S. at 690, 694, 98 S.Ct. at 2035, 2037.
In that respect Holda actually confirms County's argument, 88
Ill.App.3d at 531-32, 43 Ill.Dec. at 559-60, 410 N.E.2d at
It is true, as defendant argues, that the county
board has no power to supervise, direct or
control the actions of the Sheriff in the
operation of the jail. (See Dahnke v. People
(1897), 168 Ill. 102, 48 N.E. 137; People ex rel.
Walsh v. Board of Commissioners
[of Cook County] (1947), 397 Ill. 293,
74 N.E.2d 503.)
In the same way County has "no power to supervise, direct or
control the actions of the Sheriff" through his deputies.
Thomas' allegations to the contrary cannot stand in the face
of Illinois law (which of course governs in that respect), and
he has not established the possibility of any Section 1983
right of action against County.
County is therefore dismissed as a party defendant under
Rule 12(b)(6). Because no basis appears for restating a cause
of action against County, that dismissal is with prejudice.
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