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Rodriguez v. Schweiger

decided: July 17, 1986.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 78 C 2295 -- James B. Moran, Judge.

Author: Campbell

CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, POSNER, Circuit Judge, and CAMPBELL, Senior District Judge.*fn*

CAMPBELL, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Adam Rodriguez brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Chicago police officers David Schweiger and Roger Terry in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. After a sixty-day jury trial a verdict was reached in favor of the defendant police officers. Plaintiff appeals various rulings of the district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. For reasons set forth below, we affirm.

The case arises from a shooting incident which occurred on November 6, 1975 between plaintiff and the defendant police officers. Officer Schweiger testified, and the jury apparently believed, that he entered plaintiff's apartment on that fateful day with plaintiff's girlfriend, a Yvette Velasquez, because earlier that day Velasquez had flagged him down in his patrol vehicle claiming a man had hit her in the head with a gun. Schweiger testified he followed Velasquez into plaintiff's apartment after she had unlocked the door with her own key. At this point plaintiff was observed with a gun in his waistband. Schweiger claims he said "police officers" and "don't go for your gun." (Plaintiff claims Schweiger entered the apartment "without warning or announcement." It is undisputed that Schweiger was in plain clothes). Apparently, both plaintiff and Schweiger pulled their guns. At trial it was disputed who drew their gun first and who fired first. Schweiger testified he said "drop the gun" and plaintiff failed to respond. It was then he shot at plaintiff from the hip. Schweiger testified he believed he failed to hit plaintiff because plaintiff did not move after the shot.

Officer Terry, Schweiger's partner, was making a call for backup support on his police radio when he heard the first shot. He had initially entered the apartment with Schweiger, had seen plaintiff's gun and retreated to radio for support. Terry testified he did not see who fired the first shot but returned to plaintiff's apartment quickly after hearing a gunshot. Terry testified he never fired his weapon.

About five to ten seconds after the first shot, Schweiger shot twice more. At this point Schweiger claims plaintiff moved to the bedroom. Schweiger followed and found plaintiff bloodied and on the floor. The jury rejected plaintiff's claim that both officers fired at him after he was wounded and disarmed. The jury also rejected plaintiff's contention that one of the officers put a gun to plaintiff's head and threatened to kill him after he had been wounded.

Important for our purposes in deciding this appeal is the fact that plaintiff was charged with attempted murder in the Illinois state courts as a result of this incident. He pled guilty and was sentenced to a four to eight-year term of imprisonment. In plaintiff's subsequent federal § 1983 action a four-count complaint was filed alleging the defendant officers, after arresting him, willfully and maliciously shot him and then pointed a gun to his head and threatened to kill him (Count I). Plaintiff also alleged that the officers deliberately filed false police reports which deprived plaintiff of his rights (Count II) and coerced plaintiff into his guilty plea (Count IV). Finally, plaintiff alleged that police officers failed to follow relevant internal department rules and regulations which resulted in the shooting incident (Count III). Defendants filed a pretrial motion to dismiss Counts II, III and IV of plaintiff's complaint. It was basically granted, however, with the proviso that plaintiff could plead his Count II allegations not as an independent claim for relief, but rather as an additional prayer for relief (as punitive damages) as part of Count I. Count III was also dismissed as a separate Count; however, as with Count II, plaintiff was allowed to advance his Count III allegations in support of this Count I claim. Defendants sought dismissal of Count IV on the grounds that plaintiff was collaterally estopped from asserting defendants filed false police reports. While the judge rejected this argument, he nonetheless dismissed Count IV by ruling in the alternative that plaintiff was collaterally estopped from arguing he was innocent of attempted murder and coerced to plead out to that charge due to the false police reports. It is the district court's ruling on Count IV that forms the basis for plaintiff's main argument on appeal. We shall address that ruling first.

Plaintiff claims the district court erred in ruling that his guilty plea in state court to attempted murder collaterally estopped him from arguing the police fired the first shot. Since, arguable, no shots needed to be fire, plaintiff wants to establish the defendants fired the first (unnecessary) shot at the basis of support for his federal § 1983 action. The case law indicates the district court ruled correctly in applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel in this instance. In Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 101 S. Ct. 411, 66 L. Ed. 2d 308 (1980), the relationship between § 1983 actions and the doctrine of collateral estoppel was discussed. Allen has become a lead case in the discussion of the preclusive effect a state court judgment can have on subsequent federal court actions.*fn1 The Allen court initially reemphasized the importance or deference to be given to 28 U.S.C. § 1738:

Congress has specifically required all federal courts to give preclusive effect to state court judgments whenever the courts of the State from which the judgment emerged would do so:

"Judicial pleadings [of any court of any State] shall have the same full faith and credit in every court within the United States and its Territories and Possessions as they have by law or usage in the courts of such State. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1738 (1976). [Emphasis added.]

Id. at 101 S. Ct. 415-416. As for § 1983's relationship to U.S.C. § 1738, the Allen court stated:

Moreover, the legislative history of § 1983 does not in any clear way suggest that Congress intended to repeal or restrict the traditional doctrines of preclusion.

Through § 1 1983, the 42d Congress intended to afford an opportunity for legal and equitable relief in a federal court for certain types of injuries. It is difficult to believe that the drafters of that Act considered it a substitute for a federal writ of habeas corpus, the purpose of which is not to redress ...

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