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WILLIAMS v. HUTCHENS

October 31, 1994

DUWANE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER MICHAEL HUTCHENS and DOWNERS GROVE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.


MORAN


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES B. MORAN

Plaintiff Duwane Williams brings this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Michael Hutchens, a Downers Grove police officer, and the Downers Grove Police Department. He seeks damages for violations of his constitutional rights that he alleges Hutchens committed during an arrest and interrogation on March 1, 1992. Both defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

 FACTS

 According to the complaint, on March 1, 1992, Williams was stopped near 1320 75th Street in Downers Grove, Illinois, by Officer Hutchens. Hutchens asked Williams for identification and Williams produced it. Hutchens then searched Williams. Williams asked whether he was under arrest, and Hutchens said no, but Williams says he was not able to leave. Hutchens reached inside Williams' jacket, removed a checkbook from his shirt pocket and opened the checkbook to examine it. Williams was then held by other officers for about twenty minutes while Hutchens left and returned several times. Finally, Williams was put in a squad car, driven to the nearby Service Merchandise store to be identified by witnesses, and placed under arrest for forgery. On the way to the police station, Hutchens told Williams that he would be charged with a misdemeanor (Cplt. PP 1-3).

 When they arrived at the station, Hutchens reached for Williams' crotch area. Williams jumped back. Hutchens told him to lower his pants, and Williams refused, so Hutchens placed his hand down Williams' pants and removed some evidence (Williams does not specify what kind of evidence) (Cplt. PP 3).

 Williams was then asked to make a statement. When he refused, Hutchens told him that he would be charged with burglary, a felony, instead of the misdemeanor. Williams said he would make a statement about the misdemeanor charge but not the felony charge, and was placed in a room to make his statement. Hutchens checked in with Williams several times to see how the statement was going. At one point, Williams told Hutchens that he really did not want to make a statement and that he thought it was a bad idea. Hutchens insisted that Williams make the statement. When Williams finished, he was given a Coke and a cookie, which he claims was a reward for confessing (Cplt. PP 4-5).

 Based on these alleged facts, Williams charges that Hutchens violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. He says that he was illegally searched, wrongfully detained, subjected to improper identification by witnesses, and coerced into confessing a crime (Cplt. PP 1-5). The complaint names as co-defendant the Downers Grove Police Department. Williams claims that the Department should be held responsible for the actions of both Hutchens and the other officers who observed Hutchens' allegedly illegal conduct and did nothing to stop it (Cplt. PP 6-7). In response, both defendants have moved this court to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 DISCUSSION

 In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court assumes the facts to be as stated in the complaint. In the case of plaintiffs proceeding pro se, like Williams, the court construes the complaint even more liberally than usual. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976). Only if the plaintiff, even with the benefit of the assumptions in his favor, "'cannot establish any set of facts which would entitle him to the relief requested,'" can the court dismiss the claim. Caldwell v. City of Elwood, 959 F.2d 670, 672 (7th Cir. 1992) (quoting Mosley v. Klincar, 947 F.2d 1338, 1339 (7th Cir. 1991)).

 A. Downers Grove Police Department

 The Downers Grove Police Department is merely an organizational division of the Village of Downers Grove and enjoys no separate legal existence. Therefore, Williams' claim against the Department must be dismissed with prejudice. See Chan v. City of Chicago, 777 F. Supp. 1437, 1442 (N.D.Ill. 1991) (holding that the Chicago Police Department "has no separate legal existence apart from the City of Chicago" and "is therefore not a suable entity"); Reese v. Chicago Police Department, 602 F. Supp. 441, 443 (N.D.Ill. 1984) (same).

 Even if Williams had named the Village as defendant instead of the Department, we would be compelled to grant the motion to dismiss because Williams has not alleged sufficient facts to state a claim against the Village. Since Williams may choose to amend his complaint to name the Village as defendant instead of the Department, we address what such a claim would require.

 The Supreme Court has established that municipal governments are not suable on a theory of respondeat superior; they are liable only for those civil rights violations that occur as a result of their official policies. Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978) ("a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory"); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114, 105 S. Ct. 3099 (1985) ("the entity's 'policy or custom' must have played a part in the violation of federal law"). Recently, in Baxter v. Vigo County School Corp., 26 F.3d 728, 734-35 (7th Cir. 1994), the Seventh Circuit identified the three ways in which a plaintiff can prove the existence of a local government policy. He can point to an explicit policy promulgated through formal channels (such as an ordinance or code); show that the local government engaged in a practice "so permanent and well settled as to constitute a 'custom or usage' with the force of law," City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 127, 99 L. Ed. 2d 107, 108 S. Ct. 915 (1988) (plurality opinion) (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-68, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142, 90 S. Ct. 1598 (1970)); 485 U.S. at 138 (Brennan, J., concurring); or allege that his injury was caused by a person with "final policymaking authority," Praprotnik, 485 U.S. at 123; id. at 139 (Brennan, J., concurring); Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483, 89 L. Ed. 2d 452, 106 S. Ct. 1292 (1986) (plurality opinion).

 Williams does not allege facts sufficient to state a claim against the Village under any of the three methods of proof mentioned above. He mentions no explicit policy, nothing that could raise an inference of a custom or practice of unconstitutional conduct, and no fault on the part of anyone with final policymaking authority. As for a theory that the Village failed to train Hutchens adequately, see City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 103 L. Ed. 2d 412, 109 S. Ct. 1197 (1989), Williams has not alleged that "the [alleged] inadequacies resulted from conscious choice -- that is, proof that the policymakers deliberately chose a [policy] which would prove inadequate" -- as Supreme Court precedent requires. City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823, 85 L. Ed. 2d 791, 105 S. Ct. 2427 (1985). Therefore, even if Williams had named the Village as a defendant, he would not have stated ...


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