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Jones v. Watson

February 10, 1997

VIRGIL JONES,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

RONALD WATSON, J. VOLLAND, AND W. STEC,

DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

No. 93 C 7799 Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Magistrate Judge.

Before CUMMINGS, RIPPLE, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED NOVEMBER 6, 1996

DECIDED FEBRUARY 10, 1997

On August 28, 1992, and again on August 31, 1992, Chicago Alderman Virgil Jones was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct while protesting at a Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA") construction site. Jones filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, alleging, among other things, that the Chicago Police officers involved in his arrest (defendants Chicago Police Commander Ronald Watson and Police Officers James Volland and William Stec) violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure. *fn1 Finding that Jones' arrest was supported by probable cause and that all defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, the magistrate judge granted their motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 28, 1992, and on August 31, 1992, Alderman Jones and a number of other public officials and private citizens went to a CTA construction site at 74th and Wood to protest what they believed to be non-compliance with minority hiring requirements at the worksite. On both occasions, Alderman Jones and some of the other demonstrators crossed from the north side of 74th Street over to the south side -- near the fence surrounding the site's perimeter. Many other protesters demonstrated on the north side of the street. Estimates of the number of protesters present at the site range from ten to fifty. *fn2 Chicago Police officers, including Commander Watson, were at the scene on both occasions. Watson testified that he had been informed that there was going to be a demonstration on the 28th and that Alderman Jones was going to stop work at the site.

The protesters who had crossed over to the south side of the street demonstrated in front of a gate that allowed access into and out of the site. The City of Chicago had previously issued a temporary driveway permit to the Walsh Construction Company to allow ingress and egress over the sidewalk at the worksite on 74th Street. The construction company laid gravel over the curb to create an inclined driveway for vehicles to pass over the curb, traverse the sidewalk and enter (or exit) the gate. *fn3 During his deposition Watson was asked "whether the CTA or any construction contractor out at that site obtained a permit to have a driveway across that public sidewalk," to which he replied, "I can only tell you that they had a permit for their construction that was posted at the site." *fn4 When Alderman Jones crossed over to the south side of the street on August 28, he attempted to read the construction permit that was posted on the perimeter fence but a worker inside the job site removed the permit so that it could not be viewed. *fn5 Jones complained to Watson that the permit was not posted and requested to see it. Jones also told Commander Watson that as an alderman he had a right to make an inspection of any construction in his ward. *fn6 Watson told Jones that if he and the other protesters blocked the gate and refused to move they would be arrested. Watson gave Jones and the other protesters several warnings to move back to the north side of the street. Shortly thereafter, those protesters in front of the gate, including Jones, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct under the Chicago Municipal Code.

More of the same followed on August 31. Alderman Jones and other protesters stood in front of the gate, this time with their arms interlocked. Watson again informed Jones that if he blocked the gate and refused to move he would be arrested. Jones and the others protesters did not move. When Watson ordered that Jones be arrested, Jones was still standing in front of the gate with his arms interlocked with the other protesters.

Officer Volland, who arrested Jones on August 28, and Officer Stec, who arrested Jones on August 31, effected the arrests at Watson's direction.

Jones' civil rights suit alleges that he was arrested without probable cause. The parties consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge. In moving for summary judgment, defendants argued that probable cause did in fact exist and in any event qualified immunity shielded them from liability. The magistrate judge agreed with defendants on both scores and entered judgment in their favor.

II. ANALYSIS

Standard of ...


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