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MORGAN v. STRINGER

November 12, 1996

JACKIE MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
R. STRINGER, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

 Robert Stringer ("Stringer") has filed a Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56 summary judgment motion in this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 ("Section 1983") action brought against him by Jackie Morgan ("Morgan"). For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, Stringer's motion is granted and this action is dismissed with prejudice.

 Morgan's Complaint begins by characterizing her action as one "for false arrest." That state law characterization may be a convenient shorthand description, but more accurately in federal constitutional terms (the predicate for a Section 1983 claim) Morgan charges Stringer with a violation of the Fourth (actually Fourteenth) Amendment *fn1" in having arrested her (a Fourth Amendment "seizure") without probable cause.

 To defeat that claim as a matter of law, Stringer's counsel has complied with Rule 56 and with this District Court's General Rule ("GR") 12(M) implementing that Rule. In response Morgan's counsel has ignored the related GR 12(N) requirement entirely, instead submitting only two documents respectively captioned:

 
Plaintiff Jackie Morgan's Answer to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Attorney's Fees
 
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff Jackie Morgan's Answer to Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant

 In any such situation GR 12(N) specifies the serious consequences to the nonresponding Rule 56 respondent:

 
All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party [in this instance Stringer] will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.

 There are a host of Court of Appeals decisions upholding our District Court's enforcement of GR 12(M) and 12(N) in just those terms, LaSalle Bank Lake View v. Seguban, 54 F.3d 387, 389 (7th Cir. 1995) being typical of them:

 
We have on numerous occasions upheld a district court's strict adherence to that rule. See, e.g., Stewart v. McGinnis, 5 F.3d 1031, 1034 (7th Cir. 1993) (collecting cases), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1121, 114 S. Ct. 1075, 127 L. Ed. 2d 393 (1994). Thus, if the party opposing summary judgment fails to respond to the facts set out by the movant, the court may assume those facts to be admitted and use them in determining whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) (collecting cases).

 As it happens, though, that doctrine of "strict adherence" makes no difference in the outcome here, because the existence of probable cause for Stringer's arrest of Morgan is clearly beyond dispute in any event.

 As this Court has frequently observed, this is the type of case in which it really doesn't make much sense to frame Stringer's position (as his counsel does from the outset) in terms of his "qualified immunity." Although that approach is regularly encountered in submissions from lawyers in the public law offices (the offices of the Illinois Attorney General, the Cook County State's Attorney and the Chicago Corporation Counsel) who are called on to deal with Section 1983 cases in substantial volume in this District Court, closer attention demonstrates that it does not truly jibe with the basic underpinnings of the qualified immunity doctrine.

 As has been made plain by the seminal decision in this area, Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 814, 816-18, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982), that doctrine has been devised to spare state actors from even having to face lawsuits, let alone to defend them, unless the conduct with which they are charged violated some clearly established constitutional right at the time that they acted (consistently with that reason for the rule, Harlow, id. at 818 stressed the notion that motions for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds ought to be advanced at the earliest possible stage, even antedating discovery). Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523, 107 S. Ct. 3034 (1987) then supplemented that concept by explaining in greater detail what was meant by "clearly established law," and later cases have continued to flesh out that concept. Thus, for example, Hunter v. ...


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