red marks. Further, Jennifer claims that at no time after Cassarella entered her home was she hysterical or upset, but rather she was "a belligerent claimant" of her constitutional rights (i.e., she repeatedly asked Cassarella to leave).
Perceiving the officers' actions as "over-zealous to the point of absurdity," Magnuson filed this civil rights action against the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department, Officer Michael Cassarella, nine unknown police officers, Cook County Board President Richard Phelan, and sixteen commissioners of the Cook County Board, alleging violations of the United States and Illinois Constitutions and of Illinois state law. In an order dated July 9, 1992, this court dismissed Magnuson's complaint on behalf of the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department, Board President Phelan and the sixteen commissioners of the Cook County Board. Additionally, we granted Officer Cassarella's motion to dismiss Counts II, IV, and VII-IX of Magnuson's complaint, as well as that portion of Count II alleging deprivation of property. Thus, only Counts I, V, VI and a portion of Count II remain against Officer Cassarella.
A. Counts I and II
In Count I of her complaint, Magnuson alleges that Cassarella's actions constituted an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Count II alleges, in part, a deprivation of property interest without due process of law. Both of these claims appear to stem from Officer Cassarella's entry into the Magnuson home without a valid search warrant.
The Fourth Amendment, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, protects individuals from "unreasonable searches and seizures." See Florida v. Jimeno, 111 S. Ct. 1801, 1803, 114 L. Ed. 2d 297 (1991); Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 359, 88 S. Ct. 507, 515, 19 L. Ed. 2d 576 (1967). A search or seizure conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by a magistrate or judge upon a showing of probable cause, is "per se unreasonable, unless the police can show that it falls within one of a carefully defined set of exceptions based on the presence of 'exigent circumstances.'" Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 474-75, 91 S. Ct. 2022, 2042, 29 L. Ed. 2d 564 (1971); see also United States v. Bennett, 908 F.2d 189, 192 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 991, 111 S. Ct. 534, 112 L. Ed. 2d 544 (1990). "Exigent circumstances exist when there is a reasonable belief by police that their safety or the safety of others may be threatened." United States v. Ware, 914 F.2d 997, 1000-01 (7th Cir. 1990) (citing United States v. Dowell, 724 F.2d 599, 602 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 906, 104 S. Ct. 1683, 80 L. Ed. 2d 157 (1984)); see also Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 392, 98 S. Ct. 2408, 2413, 57 L. Ed. 2d 290 (1978) ("Numerous state and federal cases have recognized that the Fourth Amendment does not bar police officers from making warrantless entries and searches when they reasonably believe that a person within is in need of immediate aid.").
The totality of the circumstances confronting Officer Cassarella support a finding of exigent circumstances in the instant case. Cassarella arrived at the Magnuson home in response to a call from a neighbor who reported a domestic disturbance in progress. Cassarella himself heard screams coming from the Magnuson home, and was informed at the scene by the neighbor that an infant was involved. There is no question that a reasonable police officer faced with the situation encountered by Cassarella would believe that entry into the home was necessary to protect the safety of others. Indeed, as noted by Officer Cassarella "this type of situation has the possibility of an explosive and sudden eruption of violence, sometimes even leaving the police, as well as the residents as victims." Further, exigent circumstances do not end merely because the victim indicates that she is no longer in danger. That is a determination for the officer to make independently in light of the totality of the circumstances. As such, the exigent circumstances in this case were sufficient to allow Cassarella's continued investigation of Magnuson's screaming as well as the initial warrantless entry. Consequently, we grant Cassarella's motion for summary judgment on Count I and on the remaining portion of Count II.
B. Counts V and VI
In Counts V and VI, Magnuson asserts claims against Officer Cassarella for assault and battery respectively. In support of her claims, Magnuson points to Cassarella's action of lifting her shirt sleeve while questioning her about injuries she may have sustained during her altercation with Pasillas. Assuming that such conduct in fact constitutes a battery under Illinois law, and that she has demonstrated a "reasonable apprehension" of such battery, see Parrish v. Donahue, 110 Ill. App. 3d 1081, 1083, 443 N.E.2d 786, 788, 66 Ill. Dec. 860 (3d Dist. 1982), Magnuson nonetheless cannot prevail on either Counts V or VI.
Under Illinois common law, the doctrine of public official immunity has developed out of the notion that "public officials should not be impeded from acting in ways that are in the public's best interest because of fears of personal liability. Oppe v. State of Missouri, 171 Ill. App. 3d 491, 495, 525 N.E.2d 1189, 1192, 121 Ill. Dec. 882 (4th Dist.), appeal denied, 122 Ill. 2d 579, 530 N.E.2d 250 (1988). The doctrine as originally espoused provided that public officials are immune from liability where their conduct is a good faith exercise of discretionary, rather than ministerial, duties. Mora v. State of Illinois, 68 Ill. 2d 223, 233-34, 369 N.E.2d 868, 873, 12 Ill. Dec. 161 (1977); People ex rel. Scott v. Briceland, 65 Ill. 2d 485, 502, 359 N.E.2d 149, 158, 3 Ill. Dec. 739 (1976). However, as noted in Oppe, "this standard has been stretched and pulled to fit individual cases to the point that the immunity applies to the exercise of any governmental function, rather than a discretionary, nongovernmental function such as a maintenance person deciding where to drive a nail." Oppe, 171 Ill. App. 3d at 495, 525 N.E.2d at 1192 (citing Madden v. Kuehn, 56 Ill. App. 3d 997, 372 N.E.2d 1131, 14 Ill. Dec. 852 (2d Dist. 1978)). Respecting Officer Cassarella's action, there is no question that his response to the report of a domestic disturbance in progress and the manner in which he investigated Pasillas' potential battery of Magnuson were both uniquely governmental functions and discretionary. In the absence of any bad faith on the part of Officer Cassarella, the doctrine of public official immunity applies and Cassarella cannot be held personally liable to Magnuson. Accordingly, we grant Cassarella's motion for summary judgment on Counts V and VI of Magnuson's complaint.
For the reasons stated above, Officer Michael Cassarella's motion for summary judgment is granted. It is so ordered.
MARVIN E. ASPEN
United States District Judge