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RUEHMAN v. VILLAGE OF PALOS PARK

January 12, 1994

KEITH RUEHMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE OF PALOS PARK, et al., Defendants.


Hart


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM T. HART

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In an order dated November 22, 1993 ("Ruehman III"), various motions for summary judgment and other motions were ruled upon. Following the ruling, all remaining claims had been dismissed except for plaintiff Alan Miller's damages claim against defendant Sheriff Michael Sheahan in his official capacity and plaintiff Dean Hyde's damages claim against defendant City of Chicago. Summary judgment on liability was granted in favor of Miller and against the Sheriff in his official capacity. Subsequently, four motions for reconsideration were filed. Plaintiff Keith Ruehman moves for reconsideration reinstating his damages claim against the Sheriff in his official capacity. Plaintiff Hyde moves for reconsideration as to an aspect of his potential damages. The City of Chicago moves for reconsideration requesting dismissal of Hyde's remaining claims against it. The Sheriff moves for reconsideration of the order granting summary judgment on Miller's claim and instead requests summary judgment dismissing Miller's claim.

 The November 22 Order was entered on the docket on December 3. Since it did not resolve all the remaining claims in this case, no Rule 58 judgment was entered. *fn1" On December 7, the Sheriff filed his motion for reconsideration which was presented in court on December 8. On December 17, the Sheriff filed a notice of appeal from the denial of Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Ruehman III at 6-8, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17087, 1993 WL 502355 at *3.

 The Supreme Court has held that interlocutory appeals may be taken from denials of Eleventh Amendment immunity. Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 121 L. Ed. 2d 605, 113 S. Ct. 684, 689 (1993). Puerto Rico Aqueduct applies to Eleventh Amendment immunity the reasoning of Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 86 L. Ed. 2d 411, 105 S. Ct. 2806 (1982), as to interlocutory appeals of denials of qualified immunity. See Puerto Rico Aqueduct, 113 S. Ct. at 687, 689. Presumably the same rules apply to both types of appeals. Upon the filing of a nonfrivolous interlocutory appeal from an immunity ruling, the district court should stay any further proceedings against that party. Apostol v. Gallion, 870 F.2d 1335 (7th Cir. 1989).

 When there is a final judgment, a notice of appeal filed after a timely Rule 59(e) motion has no immediate effect; the time for filing the notice does not begin to run until after entry of the ruling on the Rule 59(e) motion. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4); *fn2" Wielgos v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 892 F.2d 509, 511 (7th Cir. 1989). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(a) defines "judgment" as including any order from which an appeal lies. Therefore, technically, the order denying Eleventh Amendment immunity, which is an appealable order, is a judgment. None of the motions for reconsideration raise the Eleventh Amendment immunity issue. The Sheriff, however, seeks reconsideration on Miller's claim. Granting that motion would moot the Eleventh Amendment issue since it would result in Miller's claim being dismissed on other grounds. The Sheriff's motion should be viewed as a Rule 59(e) motion and therefore a motion which brings into play the provisions of Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4). Martinez v. Sullivan, 874 F.2d 751, 753 (10th Cir. 1989). Accordingly, the Sheriff's notice of appeal has no present effect and this court has not lost jurisdiction to consider the motions for reconsideration that involve the Sheriff. Id. at 754; Wielgos, 892 F.2d at 511.

 The City of Chicago argues that defendant Hyde's motion to vacate is untimely because not filed within the 10 days permitted by Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). This argument is without merit for a number of reasons. Hyde's motion was filed on December 8 and presented in court on December 10. *fn3"

 First, as between Hyde and the City, there is no appealable order. Therefore, as to those parties, the November 22 order is not a judgment and the time limits of Rule 59(e) do not apply. Even if Hyde's motion is properly characterized as a Rule 59(e) motion, the November 22 Order was not a final judgment. Since this case is still pending, independent of Rule 59(e), this court has the inherent authority to consider a motion for reconsideration at any time prior to the entry of a final judgment. See Pivot Point International, Inc. v. Charlene Products, Inc., 816 F. Supp. 1286, 1288 (N.D. Ill. 1993); A. Hollow Metal Warehouse v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 700 F. Supp. 410, 411-12 (N.D. Ill. 1988); Turner v. Chicago Housing Authority, 771 F. Supp. 924, 926 n.2 (N.D. Ill. 1991), vacated & remanded on other grounds, 969 F.2d 461 (7th Cir. 1992). Finally, even if the time limits of Rule 59(e) apply, time is measured from the entry of judgment. The earliest time at which judgment could be considered entered would be when the order was entered on the docket on December 3. Hyde's motion was filed less than 10 court days after the entry of the order. Hyde's motion was not untimely and will be considered on its merits.

 The City's and Hyde's motions will be considered first. The City again argues that it cannot be considered the cause of Hyde's detention because grounds, other than the invalid warrant, existed for detaining Hyde. Hyde was arrested on a new traffic offense. If this were his first offense, he would have been released on a $ 100 bond. Given a prior conviction, however, he could have been charged with a felony and, if so charged, could not have been released on a $ 100 bond issued by the police. The prior warrant, that was incorrectly listed as being active, was also a basis for detaining Hyde. Factual disputes exist as to whether Hyde was detained solely because of the prior warrant or whether the police would have detained him based on a felony charge even if they had not known of the prior warrant. On the City's summary judgment motion, it must be assumed that Hyde was detained only because of the incorrectly listed warrant. The City argues that, on Hyde's due process claim, *fn4" causation does not exist as long as other grounds existed for detaining Hyde, regardless of whether those were the actual grounds on which he was held.

 The City relies on Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 993 (7th Cir. 1988), which states that "elementary principles of legal causation . . . are as applicable to constitutional torts as to common law torts." Jones does not support the City. In Jones, it was held that prosecutors' decision to pursue charges and press for detention did not break the causal link where the prosecutors relied on false information supplied by defendant police officers. Jones' discussion of causation would only support the proposition that causation is not satisfied if it is shown that detention would have occurred regardless of the defendants' misconduct, not merely if it is shown that detention could have occurred regardless of the defendants' misconduct. A factual dispute exists as to whether Hyde would have been detained regardless of the incorrect listing of an active warrant. Causation is not a basis for dismissing Hyde's entire claim.

 The City also contends on reconsideration that Hyde's evidence was insufficient to support the existence of a policy or custom. The prior holding that a factual dispute exists on this issue will stand. As pointed out by the City, however, it is noted that Ruehman III may contain an imprecise statement. In Ruehman III, at 32-33 (*15), it is stated: "It is undisputed that the City had a policy of not verifying information listed on the Hot Desk, but it remains for the finder of fact to determine whether the risk of arrests on invalid warrants was high enough and obvious enough that the City's failure to have such procedures would be deliberate indifference to the rights of its citizens." The City argues that this statement implies that too broad a policy is being considered, particularly because it refers to arrests, not detentions, and also refers to arrests on other than traffic offenses. The allegedly improper policy is the failure to keep accurate records of active warrants while relying on those records as if accurate. That policy can result not just in improper arrests but also, as is claimed in Hyde's case, improper detentions. As to Hyde, the deficient recordkeeping procedures must be proven and that deficiency must be shown to have caused his detention. To prove deliberate indifference, it must also be shown that the risk of harm from the policy was high enough and obvious enough to support a finding of deliberate indifference. Whether the real or potential harm caused by the deficient recordkeeping is an arrest or detention, does not matter as long as the risk is great enough to support a finding of deliberate indifference. Whether the actual or potential harm is an arrest or detention, it is still evidence relevant to whether the policy that must be proven was one of deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens in Chicago.

 The City's motion for reconsideration will be denied in its entirety.

 Hyde complains about the ruling that his having to return for a second court hearing cannot be considered part of the injury caused by the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Ruehman III, at 33 (*17) n.23. It was held that the state court judge's decision to defer the ruling to another judge cannot be considered to be caused by the City. Hyde argues that the judge had no court records in front of him and relied only on the City's Hot Desk listing of an active warrant. There is disputed evidence as to whether the judge, who was sitting in Holiday Court, would have had access to any court records. It is undisputed that the judge did not actually have any court records from Hyde's old case in front of him at the time he released Hyde from custody and set another hearing in the old case. Regardless, even resolving any dispute in Hyde's favor, the City cannot be held responsible for the judge not having access to the court's own records. Hyde's motion for reconsideration will be denied.

 Summary judgment on liability was granted in favor of plaintiff Miller on his claim against the Sheriff. It was held that the uncontested facts showed that Miller's arrest, which occurred approximately four months after the warrant for his arrest had been recalled, was proximately caused by the Sheriff's failure to keep an accurate record of arrest warrants. This included a deliberately indifferent policy of failing to regularly validate traffic warrant records so as to maintain current and accurate records. As was stated in the order: "The Sheriff [made] no argument that an adequate validation procedure is not reasonably possible. There is also no contention that such a procedure would not have cleared the warrant within the four-month period pertinent to Miller's claim." Ruehman III, at 19 (*17) n.14. On reconsideration, the Sheriff argues for the first time that no reasonable procedure existed by which Miller's warrant could have been cleared off the Sheriff's system within that time period. *fn5"

 The parties are in agreement that the Sheriff did not have another database to run a comparison on that would have revealed the incorrect listing of Miller's warrant. The parties also agree that a check of Miller's court file would have revealed that Miller's warrant had been recalled. The Sheriff argues that it has not been incontestably proven that a validation through checks of individual case files is reasonably possible. The burden is on Miller to prove that the Sheriff's procedures were deficient. This includes proof that there were reasonable and effective alternatives. The burden was on Miller to incontestably show that checking individual court files (or another effective procedure) was reasonably possible. ...


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