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FINK v. GONZALEZ

January 8, 1996

MICHAEL FINK, Plaintiff,
v.
SALLY GONZALEZ, and MICHAEL McNEELA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ASPEN

 MARVIN E. ASPEN, Chief Judge:

 Plaintiff Michael Fink ("Fink") brings this two count complaint against Chicago police officers Sally Gonzalez ("Gonzalez") and Michael McNeela ("McNeela"), alleging that they arrested him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights as protected under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and in violation of his right to be free from false arrest under Illinois state law. *fn1" Defendants have now filed for summary judgment, and for the reasons discussed below, we grant their motion as to count one, and decline supplemental jurisdiction over count two.

 I. Background *fn2"

 The events leading to Fink's arrest and this lawsuit began on the morning of April 5, 1994 when Fink went to visit a friend named Michael Lemon ("Lemon") at his apartment at 700 West Bittersweet Place in Chicago, Illinois. As he described at his deposition, Fink arrived at 10:00 a.m. and spent the entire day drinking whiskey with Lemon and friends in Lemon's apartment. At approximately 7:00 p.m., Fink left the apartment alone and walked to a local bar where he continued to drink until sometime between 10:00 p.m. and midnight. At that time, Fink decided to return to 700 West Bittersweet Place. Fink Dep. at 19-25.

 Fink, admittedly intoxicated, made his way back to Lemon's 10-story apartment building, entered the unlocked front door, and attempted to contact Lemon through the intercom system located in the vestibule. Due to his impaired condition, however, Fink had great difficulty entering the proper code into the intercom system and accidently rang the buzzer of another resident. Despite being yelled at by the individual he mistakenly dialed, Fink continued his attempt to operate the intercom in order to contact Lemon and be admitted through the locked inner door of the building. At some point in this process, Fink claims he was tackled from behind and thrown to the ground. Fink Dep. at 28-29; Pl.'s 12(N) PP 3-8.

 Leslie Shenko ("Shenko"), a first floor resident of the Bittersweet building, heard a commotion in the building entrance and went to see what was happening. She opened her door, looked into the vestibule, and saw another resident, Ellis Lee ("Lee"), dressed in a security uniform standing over Fink. Upon Lee's request, Shenko then returned to her apartment and called the police. Pl.'s 12(N) PP 9-10. Chicago police officers Gonzalez and McNeela were on duty together that night and responded to a radio call for police assistance at 700 West Bittersweet Place. They arrived at the scene sometime around midnight and observed a man dressed in a security uniform standing over the prone figure of Defendant Fink. Statement of Uncontested Facts PP 2-5.

 Lee, who appeared to Gonzalez and McNeela to be a security guard for the building, informed the officers that Fink had been creating a disturbance by ringing doorbells and knocking on the door of the building. *fn3" He further stated that he had seen Fink in the same intoxicated condition trying to get into the building earlier in the night and had himself called the police who had responded and asked Fink to leave. Defs.' 12(M) PP 18-23; Lee Aff. PP 4-9. Gonzalez and McNeela, who testified that they remembered hearing a police radio call to 700 West Bittersweet earlier that night, asked Lee if he wished to sign a complaint form against Fink, but he declined, indicating that Shenko, who was an officer of the condominium board, would be the appropriate person to file a complaint. Gonzalez Dep. at 16. The officers then approached Ms. Shenko who agreed to sign the complaint. Defs.' 12(M) PP 24-36; Shenko Dep. at 23-26.

 Gonzalez and McNeela arrested Fink for criminal trespass to land and transported him to the police station for processing. Although Fink was put in the lockup until later that morning and assigned a court date, the charges against him were ultimately dismissed. Pl.'s 12(N) PP 49-51; Defs.' 12(M) PP 54-55.

 In response to the events of April 5th, Fink filed the instant § 1983 and state law false arrest claims against Officers Gonzalez and McNeela, charging that they lacked probable cause to arrest him for the offense of trespass to land. Gonzalez and McNeela deny any wrongdoing, and now move for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) they had probable cause to arrest Fink, and (2) they are entitled to qualified immunity for their actions because arresting Fink was objectively reasonable under clearly established law.

 II. Discussion

 A district court properly grants summary judgment when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Our role at this stage is not to weigh the evidence presented by either side, but rather, to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). As always, we draw all reasonable inferences in favor of Fink, the nonmoving party, but recognize that if the evidence is "merely colorable," summary judgment may be granted. Id.

 Understanding the potentially determinative nature of Defendants' claim to qualified immunity, and the appropriateness of resolving questions of immunity at the earliest possible stage of litigation, we turn directly to that issue. Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227, 116 L. Ed. 2d 589, 112 S. Ct. 534 (1991).

 In general terms, it is well understood that qualified immunity protects government officials from civil liability "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory of constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982). To apply this standard, we first look to whether the right allegedly violated was clearly established when the challenged conduct occurred, and ...


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