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THOMAS v. TALESKY

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D


January 26, 1983

JOHN THOMAS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
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 559-60:

  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.

19830126

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