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GOLDBERG v. WEIL

February 10, 1989

ELAINE M. GOLDBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK WEIL, THOMAS SCRABALLA, RICHARD BRANDT, JOHN DOE POLICE OFFICERS, DEERFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT, VILLAGE OF DEERFIELD, DEERFIELD, ILLINOIS, Defendants


Charles R. Norgle, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE

CHARLES R. NORGLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Before the court are defendants' motions to dismiss, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and for sanctions, see Fed. R. Civ. P 11, and plaintiff's motion to amend and supplement the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), (d). For the following reasons, the motions to dismiss are granted, the motion for sanctions is granted, and the amendment and supplement are sticken.

 FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 In her complaint the pro se plaintiff, Elaine M. Goldberg, alleges that at 5:15 p.m. on December 15, 1987, the following events occurred. In two squad cars Deerfield police officers, including Officer Rick Weil, arrived at plaintiff's home, banged on her front and back doors, jumped over her locked fence into her back yard, shouted into her home in an attempt to gain access and threatened to return with a warrant for her arrest. Plaintiff was home at the time (presumably, had plaintiff answered the front door, the police officers would not have gone over the fence to the back door). The police officers left after fifteen minutes, returning to the police station. They then called relatives and one friend of plaintiff in an effort to somehow help them gain access to plaintiff's home (exactly what the police officers wanted the relatives and friend to do is not made clear in the Complaint). They made inaccurate statements to this friend and these relatives, although only one such statement is specified in the complaint: the Deerfield Police have "been having trouble with her for days." Later that evening, plaintiff, on her own initiative and despite bad weather, went to the Deerfield police station with her lawyer and a relative to demand an end to the allegedly illegal activity of the Deerfield police. Nevertheless, after plaintiff, her lawyer and her relative spent one hour at the police station and left, Officer Weil called plaintiff's elderly aunt. The contents of the conversation are not disclosed in the complaint, but the call "confused and upset" the unnamed aunt. All this occurred despite the absence of any warrant or formal charges against plaintiff, although plaintiff fails to allege the absence of articulable suspicion. Plaintiff alleges that these actions deprived her of numerous constitutional rights. Moreover, plaintiff alleges that these actions were taken pursuant to village policies, and therefore she also proceeds against the Village of Deerfield.

 Plaintiff subsequently moved for issuance of a preliminary injunction enjoining the Deerfield Police Department and its officers from any contact with plaintiff without prior approval of the court. Her motion was based on the following events, as alleged by plaintiff. The Village of Deerfield required the display of vehicle stickers by July 1, 1988. Plaintiff mailed her application for such a sticker on June 23, 1988. She states no reason for her extreme delay in applying for the sticker. Plaintiff called the Village four times between and including June 29 and July 1. The calls were not fruitful; she was essentially told that processing of her sticker would be routine, and ticketing of her car could not be prevented. Plaintiff filed her motion on July 5, 1988 and appeared on July 8, 1988. At that hearing, plaintiff did not disclose that she had in fact already received her sticker and her car had not been ticketed. After plaintiff's in-court statement in support of her motion, the court's inquiry elicited this information. The court denied the motion for preliminary injunction.

 Plaintiff later moved for leave to file an amendment and supplement to her complaint. She alleges that on December 15, 1987, her landlords, Eugene and Ellen Nordby, revealed to the police information contained in plaintiff's rental lease agreement, including names and phone numbers of plaintiff's friends and family members. She further alleges that while she did not have problems with her landlords prior to December 15, 1987, she did have problems subsequent to that date. These problems were the landlords' failure to fix the heat, and their demand for use of plaintiff's garage door opener, which plaintiff implies resulted in her car tires being slashed on two occasions. Plaintiff seeks to add the Nordbys as defendants, and add a count for conspiracy to violate plaintiff's civil rights.

 MOTIONS TO DISMISS

 Defendants Thomas Skrabala (incorrectly spelled "Scraballa" in the Complaint), Richard Brandt, and the Village of Deerfield ("Village") move for dismissal, and the court grants that motion. A municipality cannot be responsible for the constitutional violations of its employees unless such violations are pursuant to official policy or custom. Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978). To state a claim against a municipality, a plaintiff must allege facts which, if true, tend to support the allegation that a municipal policy exists which could have caused the injury. Strauss v. City of Chicago, 760 F.2d 765 (7th Cir. 1985).

 Plaintiff's complaint does not specify whether it seeks relief against defendants Skrabala and Brandt in their individual or official capacities. In either case, the action against them is dismissed. An action against an official in his or her official capacity is a claim against the government itself. Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 870 (7th Cir. 1983). Therefore, in order to state a claim against defendant Skrabala and Brandt in their official capacities, plaintiff must allege an official policy or custom which caused plaintiff's injury. No such policy or custom is adequately alleged, as is explained above. Consequently, any action against Skrabala and Brandt in their official capacities is dismissed.

 Any claim for individual liability under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 must contain "a showing of direct responsibility for the improper action." Id. at 869. Regarding Brandt, plaintiff merely alleges that he works from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and it is "entirely possible" that he made the decision to send police officers to plaintiff's home at 5:15 p.m. This "possibility" does not constitute a direct showing of responsibility. Further, even if Brandt told plaintiff after the incident that no formal charge had been made, as plaintiff alleges, this does not constitute ratification of an illegal act; the statement is not a ratification, and it is not improper for police to question a person without a formal charge or warrant. Plaintiff alleges Skrabala telephoned plaintiff's colleague without plaintiff's permission and spoke with plaintiff's attorney but does not allege what is improper about these actions. Plaintiff also states in her memorandum opposing dismissal that Skrabala made the decision that if plaintiff's colleague did not speak with him plaintiff would be arrested that evening. This allegation based upon a conclusion is not contained in the Complaint. Moreover, no arrest was made. Presumably, plaintiff is really alleging that Skrabala wrongfully threatened to arrest plaintiff in a conversation with plaintiff's colleague. The court is unaware of any case suggesting that such a statement gives rise to a federal cause of action. Therefore, the action against Brandt and Skrabala in their individual capacities is dismissed.

 Defendant Rick Weil also moves for dismissal. Weil's motion is granted for the reasons set forth below. The dismissal of all claims against Weil serves as an alternative ground for dismissal of the action against the Village, Brandt, and Skrabala, and also results in the dismissal of this action against all remaining defendants (John Doe Police Officers).

 In Count I, plaintiff alleges violation of her First Amendment rights. *fn1" Plaintiff is woefully in error in stating that "People have a right to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is to be communicated to others." Plaintiff's memorandum at 4. Actually, the First Amendment stands for the contrary propositions, that people have a right to determine for themselves what they say; people do not have a right to determine what others say. In some special cases, speech shown to severely chill the exercise of rights of free association and religion has been restricted. See, e.g., ...


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