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MCCRIMMON v. KANE COUNTY

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


February 20, 1985

JAMES W. MCCRIMMON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KANE COUNTY, ETC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

James McCrimmon ("McCrimmon") and Terri Gillis ("Gillis") filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") action against Kane County ("County"), its Sheriff George Kramer ("Kramer"), Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Ramsey ("Ramsey") and other Deputies ("Deputies"), County's State's Attorney's Office ("Office"), State's Attorney Robert Morrow ("Morrow") and Assistant State's Attorneys Gary Johnson ("Johnson") and John Barsanti ("Barsanti"). Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages for alleged violations of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights in connection with a search of premises in Aurora Township and the later filing of various state charges against plaintiffs. Defendants now move under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 12(b)(6) to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, that motion is granted in part and denied in part.

Facts*fn1

At 2:45 a.m. November 7, 1981 Ramsey and unidentified Deputies executed a warrant (the "Warrant," Pl. Mem. Ex.) for the search of a house owned by plaintiffs at 151 Edgewood in Aurora Township. Because issuing Judge John Krause had found probable cause to suspect gambling and the keeping of a gambling place on the premises, the Warrant authorized a search of the entire house and of any persons found there. In addition the officers were authorized to seize:

  Gambling devices, paraphernalia used in the act
  of gambling, cash monies, liquor to be sold at
  retail, documentation reference liquor sales,
  documentation reference gambling activities and
  proceeds, indicia of residency.

As the return on the Warrant reflected, the officers did seize a felt-covered table, dice and a dice cup, a juke box and other items contemplated by the Warrant's terms. But the return did not reflect the seizure of (1) $1,000 cash in a sealed envelope and a pair of diamonds (both items found in a drawer in Gillis' bedroom) or (2) a 1973 Kawasaki motorcycle discovered when the officers extended their search from the house to an unattached garage. Moreover the officers damaged the garage in the process of gaining entry. Various items of food and beverage were destroyed during the search of the house. In conjunction with their execution of the Warrant the officers arrested 63 persons, including plaintiffs, on gambling charges.

Each plaintiff was charged with (1) distribution of alcoholic liquor without a license, (2) keeping a gambling place and (3) maintaining a public nuisance. In addition McCrimmon was charged with unlawful possession of a motor vehicle. Plaintiffs — then defendants — moved in Kane County Circuit Court for a dismissal of all charges against them. That motion was granted and the property seized pursuant to the Warrant returned to plaintiffs (excluding presumably such contraband items as containers of suspected marijuana and cocaine). But the $1,000 cash, diamond earrings and motorcycle were not returned.

Nearly one year to the day after they filed their original complaint in this action, plaintiffs filed a four-count First Amended Complaint (the "Complaint"), which is the focus of the present motion. Count I charges County, Kramer, Ramsey and Deputies with violations of plaintiffs' rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses in connection with the execution of the Warrant. Count II charges the same defendants with constitutional violations in the arrest of, and filing of charges against, plaintiffs. Count III claims a conspiracy on the part of the same defendants to prosecute charges against plaintiffs as alleged in Count II. Count IV asserts Fourteenth Amendment violations by Johnson, Barsanti, Morrow and Office in the execution of the Warrant.*fn2

Count I

Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 1913, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981) states the operative considerations here:

  Accordingly, in any § 1983 action the initial
  inquiry must focus on whether the two essential
  elements to a § 1983 action are present: (1)
  whether the conduct complained of was committed by
  a person acting under color of state law; and (2)
  whether this conduct deprived a person of rights,
  privileges, or immunities secured by the
  Constitution or laws of the United States.

Defendants do not deny they acted under color of state law in searching plaintiffs' house. Rather they contend plaintiffs have failed to allege any deprivation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process.

Defendants are right as to the alleged equal protection violation. As Briscoe v. Kusper, 435 F.2d 1046, 1052 (7th Cir. 1970) teaches:

  The Equal Protection Clause has long been limited
  to instances of purposeful or

  invidious discrimination rather than erroneous or
  even arbitrary administration of state powers.
  The gravamen of equal protection lies not in the
  fact of deprivation of a right but in the
  invidious classification of persons aggrieved by
  the state's action.

Of course an individual alleging purposeful discrimination on the part of state officials may constitute a "class" of one for equal protection purposes. But absent allegations of deliberately having been singled out for disparate treatment from others similarly situated, a plaintiff fails to state an equal protection claim. No facts in the Complaint depict McCrimmon and Gillis as victims of such intentional or purposeful discrimination. While improper execution of the Warrant represented erroneous and arbitrary conduct by state officials, there is nothing to indicate that conduct was motivated by purposeful disparate treatment. Contrast Ossler v. Village of Norridge, 557 F. Supp. 219, 223-24 (N.D.Ill. 1983).

Plaintiffs' Count I due process claim requires a bit more analysis. Leaning heavily on Parratt, 451 U.S. at 543-44, 101 S.Ct. at 1916-17, defendants' Count I Mem. 7 argues plaintiffs have alleged no Fourteenth Amendment violation in that respect (emphasis in original):

  In the case at hand, plaintiffs do not allege
  that they were not given a hearing and an
  opportunity to be heard regarding the
  deprivations alleged in their Complaint.

  Nor can plaintiffs assert that they should have
  been given a hearing prior to the execution of the
  search warrant.

But plaintiffs claim more than a violation of their procedural rights. They assert (see Complaint ¶ 2) the execution of the search — in particular its extension to the garage, the seizure of property not contemplated by the Warrant and the destruction of certain property in the course of the search — violated their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.*fn3 That Fourth Amendment guaranty is made applicable to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. And as Guenther v. Holmgreen, 738 F.2d 879, 882-83 (7th Cir. 1984) teaches (citations omitted):

  Parratt is inapplicable where the plaintiff asserts
  a violation of substantive constitutional
  guarantees — e.g., Fourth Amendment protections —
  as distinguished from a violation of his procedural
  due process rights. . . . Thus far, the Supreme
  court has not retrenched from its seminal holding
  in Monroe v. Pope, 365 U.S. 167, 183, 81 S.Ct. 473,
  481, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961), that a substantive
  Fourth Amendment violation gives rise to a
  cognizable § 1983 action regardless of the
  existence of state tort remedies.

Thus the question is whether the alleged extension of the search beyond the Warrant's authority was unreasonable in Fourth Amendment terms. While the $1,000 cash falls within the express terms of the Warrant, the diamond earrings and the motorcycle do not.*fn4 If officers armed with a duly issued search warrant could disregard its limitations with impunity in deciding what to seize, the constitutional guaranty (see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 514, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967)) would be impermissibly diluted. Defendants have not even advanced an argument that the seizures were reasonable. Indeed the reasonableness inquiry itself poses questions of fact irresolvable on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. By the same token, while damage to property may be unavoidable in the execution of a search warrant (Dalia v. United States, 441 U.S. 238, 258, 99 S.Ct. 1682, 1693, 60 L.Ed.2d 177 (1979)), it too must be measured by standards of reasonableness.

In short, it is not clear from the Complaint that plaintiffs can prove no set of facts indicating unreasonable execution of the Warrant. Under the liberal pleading standard of Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), recently reaffirmed in Hishon v. King & Spalding, — U.S. —, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 2233, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984), defendants' motion must be denied as to the Count I due process claims.*fn5

Count II

Unlawful arrest and detention will support a remedy under Section 1983 if they entail constitutional deprivations perpetrated under color of state law. Joseph v. Rowlen, 402 F.2d 367, 370 (7th Cir. 1968). That last element — under color of state law — is assuredly present. Accordingly the only question is whether plaintiffs make sufficient allegations of unconstitutional arrest — arrest, that is, without probable cause, thus infringing rights under the Fourth Amendment (via the Fourteenth).

On that score plaintiffs allege they were not engaged in the commission of any offense at the time of their arrest. But that is not the standard (Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 36, 99 S.Ct. 2627, 2631, 61 L.Ed.2d 343 (1979)):

  The validity of the arrest does not depend on
  whether the suspect actually committed a crime;
  the mere fact that the suspect is later acquitted
  of the offense for which he is arrested is
  irrelevant to the validity of the arrest.

Instead the arresting officer need only have probable cause to believe the suspect's conduct violated the law (id.). Moreover for a Section 1983 claim based on false arrest or malicious prosecution (Lenard v. Argento, 699 F.2d 874, 884 (7th Cir. 1983) quoting Brubaker v. King, 505 F.2d 534, 536-37 (7th Cir. 1974)):

  This court has held that under a charge of a
  § 1983 violation, the test is ". . . not whether
  the arrest was constitutional or unconstitutional
  or whether it was made with or without probable
  cause, but whether the officer believed in good
  faith that the arrest was made with probable cause
  and whether that belief was reasonable."

Plaintiffs have made no allegations indicating a lack of probable cause. In fact the discovery on the premises of 63 people, a craps table and other gambling paraphernalia, and substantial amounts of hard liquor and beer obviously gave the arresting officers reason to suspect plaintiffs were engaged in the offenses of gambling and keeping a gambling place (Ill.Rev.Stat.ch. 38, ¶¶ 28-1, 28-3) as set out in the Warrant. Nor have plaintiffs alleged anything even approaching the Lenard standard. And under DeFillippo the later dismissal of the charges against them does not itself invalidate the arrest.

In much the same way, plaintiffs' allegations of unreasonable detention incident to the arrest are insufficient to state a constitutional claim. Plaintiffs simply say they "were deprived of liberty for a substantial period of time." In the absence of allegations indicating a lack of probable cause for arrest, that vague assertion, even under the liberal Conley-Hishon standard, does not state a claim for unconstitutional detention.

That is enough to sustain the present motion. However, the prospect of repleading justifies a bit more elaboration (among other reasons, to minimize the risk of a possible Rule 11 claim if plaintiffs try again). Eugene Buldak, director of the Kane County Corrections Complex, has submitted an affidavit indicating that as a result of their November 7 arrests (1) Gillis was never incarcerated and (2) McCrimmon spent a total of an hour and fifteen minutes in jail on two occasions well after the date of his arrest — from 10:35 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. on November 11, 1981 and from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on December 1. Plaintiffs neither challenge that evidence nor allege facts indicating substantial detention at the time of their arrest. Rule 11 makes "probable cause" of a different kind (the plaintiffs' and their lawyer's "probable cause" to assert a claim) relevant if, under such circumstances, plaintiffs were to reallege a deprivation of liberty sufficient in Fourth Amendment terms to sustain a Section 1983 claim for false arrest.*fn6

As to plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claim, Cameo Convalescent Center, Inc. v. Senn, 738 F.2d 836, 845 (7th Cir. 1984) has recently again outlined the applicable considerations:

  Whether abuse of legal process or malicious
  prosecution rises to the level of a
  constitutional violation actionable under
  42 U.S.C. § 1983 depends on whether, "acting under
  color of state law, the defendant has subjected the
  plaintiff to a deprivation of constitutional
  magnitude." Hampton v. Hanrahan, 600 F.2d [600, 630
  (7th Cir. 1979), rev'd in part on other grounds,
  446 U.S. 754, 100 S.Ct. 1987, 64 L.Ed.2d 670
  (1980)]. However, "conduct which merely engenders
  common law tort liability, without infringing on
  constitutionally protected interests, is not a
  sufficient basis to support a cause of action under
  Section 1983." Beker Phosphate Corporation v.
  Muirhead, 581 F.2d 1187, 1189 (5th Cir. 1978).
  "[T]he common law tort of misuse of legal
  procedure, without more, does not rise to the level
  of Constitutional wrong remedied by Section 1983."
  Id.

Plaintiffs clearly have the burden of alleging a deprivation of constitutional proportions in connection with the prosecution of charges against them.

In an effort to do so, plaintiffs assert the charges against them were brought "in order to `cover-up' and justify the unlawful confiscation and theft of Plaintiffs' property." They identify no particular constitutional deprivation in connection with that conduct, simply stating plaintiffs "were denied their right to be free from malicious prosecution by persons acting under color of state law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983." In the face of that legally nonsensical statement, yet mindful of the Conley-Hishon mandate to construe a complaint liberally, this opinion proceeds on the assumption plaintiffs are claiming a violation of their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.*fn7

In this Circuit Parratt has been held applicable to claims like plaintiffs'. Guenther, 738 F.2d at 882-83 indicates a general Fourteenth Amendment due process claim falls within the ambit of Parratt, while a substantive Fourteenth Amendment due process claim (for example, one implicating First or Fourth Amendment rights) does not. Plaintiffs make no allegations suggesting a substantive violation in connection with the filing of charges against them. At most they have undertaken something of a bootstrapping operation, seeking to found their malicious prosecution claim on the alleged constitutional violations connected with the search. But even if defendants had hoped that, as a by-product of the prosecution, any irregularities in the execution of the Warrant would be overlooked, that would not make the prosecution constitutionally suspect in Section 1983 terms — at least in the absence of allegations indicating defendants did not believe in good faith they had cause otherwise to bring the charges. Lenard, 699 F.2d at 884.

Plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claim thus states only a general due process claim subject, under Guenther, to analysis in Parratt terms. This Court must therefore first consider whether plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a deprivation of life, liberty or property. See Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 871 (7th Cir. 1983). If that question is answered "yes," the next step will be to consider whether plaintiffs have an adequate remedy under state law (id.).

There can be no doubt of an affirmative answer to the first question, at least in pleading terms. McCrimmon (though not Gillis) suffered a liberty deprivation, spending a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes in jail on two occasions following his arrest. While the precise circumstances of those detentions do not emerge from the Complaint, it is entirely possible they were connected with the filing of charges against McCrimmon. So, too, plaintiffs have adequately alleged they were deprived of property seized during the search for longer than would have been the case had charges not been filed. Some of that property has yet to be returned, and plaintiffs may be able to prove the charges were brought in the hope the disappearance of the earrings, cash and motorcycle would get lost in the shuffle. Finally, plaintiffs allege they have incurred attorneys' fees in fighting the unlawful prosecution. Inasmuch as defendants' allegedly malicious filing of charges imposed those expenses on plaintiffs — expenses they might recover as compensatory damages were they to prevail in a state action for malicious prosecution — the fees also represent a property deprivation.

However, plaintiffs' liberty and property interests have not been infringed without due process of law. Guenther, 738 F.2d at 882, makes plain that under Parratt the availability of a state tort remedy for malicious prosecution satisfies the Fourteenth Amendment due process requirement. Illinois recognizes an action for damages proximately caused to person, property or reputation by an unsuccessful criminal proceeding prosecuted without probable cause and with malice. Freides v. Sani-Mode Manufacturing Co., 33 Ill.2d 291, 295, 211 N.E.2d 286, 288 (1965). By resort to their state law remedy plaintiffs are in a position to recover for any harm suffered as a consequence of defendants' conduct. Accordingly they have not been denied their general right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and are consequently unable to state a claim for malicious prosecution under Section 1983. See also Bretz v. Kelman, 722 F.2d 503, 505-06 (9th Cir. 1983).*fn8

In summary, the Count II claims cannot survive for varying reasons. That Count is dismissed in its entirety.*fn9

Count III

Count III, really an extension of Count II, alleges a conspiracy among defendants "to `cover-up' the Defendants' destruction, confiscation and theft of Plaintiffs' property, and focus attention away from said acts" (Complaint ¶ 31, incorporating Paragraph 33 of the original complaint). Whatever plaintiffs' purposes in adding the conspiracy count — to expand the scope of liability, to bolster their allegations of malice or otherwise — they have no relevance except as appendages to plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claim. Because that claim may not go forward on the present allegations, Count III founders as well.*fn10

Count IV

Plaintiffs try to cast the net of liability still wider by stating a cause of action against Johnson and Barsanti for their role in execution of the Warrant. Both were present at the time of the raid on plaintiffs' house, and according to Complaint ¶ 35 they "advised, allowed, permitted, condoned and acquiesec [sic] in the knowingly unlawful extension of a search warrant into impermissible areas contrary to the provisions of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States." Barsanti and Johnson respond they are absolutely immune from liability under Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31 & n. 33, 96 S.Ct. 984, 994-95 & n. 33, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976). At the very least they claim to have acted in good faith and to be entitled to a qualified immunity from Section 1983 liability.

Imbler, id. at 427, 96 S.Ct. at 993, held a prosecutor, in his role as advocate for the State, is absolutely immune from suit under Section 1983. But the Court expressly refrained from deciding whether such broad immunity extends to "those aspects of the prosecutor's responsibility that cast him in the role of an administrator or investigative officer rather than that of advocate" (id. at 430-31, 96 S.Ct. at 994-95). For that purpose, the prosecutor's advocacy role, rather than the role of investigator, embraces such preparatory activities as "the obtaining, reviewing, and evaluating of evidence" (id. at 431 n. 33, 96 S.Ct. at 995, n. 33). Barsanti and Johnson claim their involvement in the search falls within that provision, not within the ambit of Hampton, 600 F.2d at 631-32, which held a prosecutor acting qua investigator was entitled only to a qualified immunity.

Count IV alleges Barsanti's and Johnson's conduct during the search was largely passive: They "advised, allowed, permitted, condoned and acquiesed." Read broadly, however, those allegations could charge the prosecutors' active participation in the conduct of the raid. They may have functioned more as Sheriff's deputies than as Assistant State's Attorneys. If so, they may be entitled to no more than qualified immunity under both Imbler and Hampton. Plaintiffs must be given an opportunity to prove the extent and nature of the prosecutors' involvement in execution of the Warrant.

If Barsanti and Johnson may claim only a qualified immunity, plaintiffs must allege and prove the prosecutors did not act in good faith. Lenard, 699 F.2d at 884. Both prosecutors have submitted affidavits reflecting good faith actions, at least so far as the extension of the search to the unattached garage was concerned. But a Rule 12(b)(6) motion limits this Court to the facts as stated in the Complaint.*fn11 It is not clear plaintiffs will be unable to prove any set of fact supporting Barsanti and Johnson's lack of good faith as to the illegal aspects of the search. For the moment — though admittedly it may turn out to be a brief one — Barsanti and Johnson must remain as defendants.

Plaintiffs' attempt to draw Morrow and Office into the suit turns on the allegation that Morrow did not train his employees to respect the constitutional guaranty against unreasonable searches and seizures. That allegation is not so well-craft-ed as one might like, but it conveys clearly enough the claim that Morrow, through poor training, hiring and supervision, has encouraged Assistant State's Attorneys routinely to become involved in illegal searches. That allegation (1) identifies a policy or custom and (2) indicates how it caused the complained-of behavior and plaintiffs' resulting harm. It suffices to state a claim under Monell against Morrow.*fn12 See Padilla, 580 F. Supp. at 406. Of course the vagueness of plaintiffs' allegations raises doubt as to whether their claim can survive anything more than a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, but that is all they must do at present (subject again to the caveat in n. 11).

Punitive Damages

Defendants have moved to strike plaintiffs' punitive damages claims against Morrow and Kramer in their official capacities and against County. Defendants correctly observe that after City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 271, 101 S.Ct. 2748, 2762, 69 L.Ed.2d 616 (1981), a local governmental body is immune from punitive damages under Section 1983. Moreover, the suits against Morrow and Kramer in their official capacities are merely suits against County, Wolf-Lillie, 699 F.2d at 870, so the punitive damages claims against them must be dismissed as well.

Shotgun Naming of Defendants

Finally defendants seek to dismiss the Complaint against 19 Sheriff's officers whose names were added on amendment of the original complaint. It appears that rather than refer to unknown deputies who participated in the search with Ramsey, plaintiffs have chosen to name all officers who work for Kramer. Accordingly defendants' motion is granted as to any of the named officers who did not participate in the execution of the Warrant. Department is ordered to supply a list of those officers to plaintiffs on or before March 4, 1985.

Conclusion

Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied as to:

    1. plaintiffs' Count I unreasonable search and
  seizure claims; and

    2. plaintiffs' Count IV claims against
  Barsanti, Johnson and Morrow.

Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted as to:

1. plaintiffs' Count I equal protection claims;

2. Count II in its entirety;

3. Count III in its entirety;

    4. plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages
  against (a) Morrow and Kramer in their official
  capacities and (b) County;

5. Office; and

    6. any Deputies who did not participate in
  execution of the Warrant.

Defendants are ordered to answer the surviving portions of the Complaint on or before March 4, 1985.


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