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Spiegel v. Rabinovitz

June 2, 1997




Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 95 C 4449 James B. Zagel, Judge.

Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

BAUER, Circuit Judge.




On May 29, 1993, Marshall Spiegel ("Spiegel") and his family were disturbed by the clamor of hammering emanating from the apartment above them. This was not the first time that the Spiegels had endured such racket. Spiegel's wife, Carol, walked upstairs to complain. She soon became embroiled in an argument with the upstairs tenants, Loren Cherny and his common-law wife, Mim Bobbin. *fn2 Overhearing this argument, Spiegel dashed upstairs holding his young son in his arms. Some time after Spiegel reached the upstairs apartment, Bobbin threatened that Cherny would kill Spiegel. Cherny struck Spiegel in the back, and Bobbin also hit him. The record is not clear as to what occurred between the time of Spiegel's arrival upstairs and the ensuing threat and blows. We do know, however, that Spiegel never laid his hands on Bobbin or Cherny.

On May 31, 1993, Spiegel reported the incident to the police. On June 23, Spiegel filed criminal complaints, charging Bobbin and Cherny with battery. When they learned of these charges on June 25, Bobbin and Cherny, in turn, filed criminal battery complaints against Spiegel. Specifically, these complaints charged Spiegel with committing battery against Cherny. On that same day, Spiegel was booked, fingerprinted and placed in a cell for over an hour before he posted bond and was released.

The two criminal cases were placed on the same court call for August 4, 1993. On that same day, Daniel Rabinovitz, a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, was assigned to assess whether the office should pursue one or both of the cases. Rabinovitz reviewed the police reports, spoke with the police officers involved, and questioned all of the players in this case after administering a Miranda warning to each of them. He then submitted his evaluation to his superiors.

The State's Attorney's Office decided to pursue only Bobbin's and Cherny's case against Spiegel. Spiegel was tried and acquitted. In the interim, Spiegel claims that he was evicted from his apartment, his employment status with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was "adversely affected," and he lost and continues to lose income.

Spiegel brought this action under Title 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 against Rabinovitz in his individual capacity. Spiegel alleged that the State's Attorney's Office relied on Rabinovitz's report when it decided not to pursue Spiegel's battery case against Bobbin and Cherny and went ahead with Bobbin's and Cherny's battery case against Spiegel. Spiegel alleged that Rabinovitz conducted a willfully incomplete and inadequate assessment of the case. According to Spiegel, Rabinovitz should have uncovered a signed, written statement by Bobbin which failed to mention that Spiegel touched Cherny. Spiegel also claimed the Rabinovitz should have realized that Cherny manufactured evidence by submitting a photograph of a bruise that Spiegel could not have inflicted. Spiegel believed that Rabinovitz overlooked witnesses, including a disinterested neighbor, who could have corroborated Spiegel's version of the events of May 29. Spiegel further contended that Rabinovitz should have been mindful that Cherny's and Bobbin's charges against Spiegel came only after they learned of his charges against them. Finally, Spiegel maintained that Rabinovitz was biased against Spiegel because Spiegel at one time had filed charges with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission against one of Rabinovitz's co-workers. With Spiegel as the complaining witness, Rabinovitz subsequently prosecuted and lost this case against his co-worker.

Spiegel alleged that Rabinovitz's acts and omissions, conducted under color of state law, violated Spiegel's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Spiegel maintained that Rabinovitz's actions were intentional and malicious and constituted reckless disregard for Spiegel's constitutional rights. He requested compensatory damages and punitive damages. In response, Rabinovitz brought a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, asserting that he, as a prosecutor, was absolutely immune from suit and that Spiegel failed to raise issues cognizable under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983. The district court found that Spiegel had stated a claim for malicious prosecution under sec. 1983 but that Rabinovitz was absolutely immune from suit. The district court dismissed Spiegel's case. Spiegel now appeals, arguing that the district court erred when it determined that Rabinovitz was absolutely immune from suit.

We review de novo a district court's 12(b)(6) dismissal. Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). We accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences from them in the plaintiff's favor. Id. (citations omitted). We will affirm the dismissal of a complaint if "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Id. (quoting Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).

Title 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 creates a federal cause of action for "the deprivation, under color of [state] law, of a citizen's rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States." Id. (quoting Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994)). Section 1983 is not itself a font for substantive rights; instead it acts as an instrument for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Id. at 356 (citation omitted). The first step in any sec. 1983 analysis is to pinpoint the specific constitutional right which was allegedly violated. Id. (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989); Kernats v. O'Sullivan, 35 F.3d 1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1994)). The validity of the claim must then be judged by reference to the specific constitutional standard which governs that right. Graham, 490 U.S. at 394.

In this case, Spiegel presents his claim of malicious prosecution within the confines of substantive due process. The protections of substantive due process have been conferred primarily upon matters relating to marriage, family, procreation, and the right to bodily integrity. See, e.g., Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 847-49 (1992) (describing cases in which substantive due process rights have been recognized). Spiegel's malicious ...

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