United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
February 9, 2000
KWAN CORTEZ AND WILLIAM RAMOS, PLAINTIFFS,
DEPUTY SHERIFF JIM CLOSE, DEPUTY SHERIFF MATTHEW MANION, MICHAEL F. SHEAHAN, SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, COUNTY OF COOK. DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schenkier, United States Magistrate Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The plaintiffs, Kwan Cortez ("Cortez") and William Ramos
("Ramos"), have brought this action against Deputy Sheriff Jim
Close ("Close"), Deputy Sheriff Matthew Manion ("Manion"), the
County of Cook, and the Cook County Sheriff (Michael F. Sheahan)
alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 1983; the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United
States; and various state common law claims including assault
and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
false arrest. Plaintiffs assert federal subject matter
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343(a), and
supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims under
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
Defendants Close and Manion have been sued in their individual
capacities (Third Am. Compl., ¶ 3). Defendants Close and Manion
have moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), on the
ground that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under
the doctrine of quasi-judicial absolute immunity (doc. #
38-1).*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, the motion to
dismiss by defendants Close and Manion is denied.
A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint,
not the ultimate merits of the suit. In re HealthCare Compare
Corp. Sec. Litig., 75 F.3d 276, 279 (7th Cir. 1996). On a
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, all
well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint are taken as
true, Komorowski v. Townline Mini-Mart & Restaurant,
162 F.3d 962, 964 (7th Cir. 1998) (per curiam), and the district court
must draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in
the plaintiffs favor. United Transp. Union v. Gateway Western
Ry. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Rueth v.
EPA, 13 F.3d 227, 229 (7th Cir. 1993)).
However, where (as here) dismissal is sought on the ground of
lack of jurisdiction, "[t]he district court may properly look
beyond the jurisdictional allegations
of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted
on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter
jurisdiction exists." Long v. Shorebank Development Corp.,
182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999); United Transportation Union v.
Gateway Western Railway Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir.
1996); Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th
Cir. 1993) (per curiam) (quoting Grafon Corp. v. Hausermann,
602 F.2d 781, 783 (7th Cir. 1979)). In this case, defendants
have submitted extrinsic evidence bearing on the issue of
jurisdiction, namely the order of possession issued by the
Circuit Court of Cook County, so the Court will decide the
motion based on the allegations in the complaint and the terms
of the order.
The facts alleged in the plaintiffs Third Amended Complaint
("Complaint"), which the Court accepts as true for the purposes
of this motion, are as follows. On or about May 13, 1998,
plaintiffs were in their residence (Compl., ¶ 5). The defendant
deputies arrived at plaintiffs' residence with a court order of
eviction (Id., ¶ 6). Rather than simply serving the plaintiffs
with the order, however, the defendant deputies allegedly
searched the plaintiffs' home; kicked in bedroom doors; threw
Mr. Cortez against a wall and placed a gun to his head; and
handcuffed Mr. Ramos (Compl., ¶ 5). Plaintiffs allege that as a
result of these actions, they were in the custody of and
arrested by the defendants without their consent (Id.).
Plaintiffs also allege that they were never charged with a
criminal offense (Compl., ¶ 7), and were not placed in a squad
car or transported to a police station (Compl., ¶ 10).
Plaintiffs assert that at no time did they provoke or threaten
the defendant deputies, or conduct themselves in a manner that
would justify the arrest and abuses alleged (Compl., ¶ 11).
Plaintiffs contend that the defendants did not have probable
cause or reasonable suspicion to believe plaintiffs had
committed a criminal act or that plaintiffs had on their person
or in their home any illegal substances, weapons and/or any
device or contrivance "contrary to the laws of the State of
Illinois and/or the United States" (Compl., ¶¶ 8, 9, 12).
The Complaint contains eight counts.*fn2 Count I asserts a
Section 1983 claim alleging that the defendants' use of
excessive force and search of plaintiffs' premises violated
plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights. Count II asserts a Section
1983 claim alleging that the physically abusive and unreasonable
search of the plaintiffs' apartment violated their Fourth
Amendment rights. Count III is a supplementary state law claim
against the defendant deputies for assault and battery. Count IV
is a supplementary state law claim against the defendant
deputies for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Counts V and VI assert a Section 1983 claim and a state law
claim, respectively, for false arrest. Count VII is an
indemnification claim against the Sheriff of Cook County,
alleging that the defendant deputies committed the alleged acts
under color of law and in the scope of their employment as
employees of the Sheriff of Cook County. 745 ILCS 10/9-102.
Count VIII is an indemnification claim against the Cook County
to reimburse the Sheriff for any judgment rendered against him
and/or his employees. 55 ILCS 5/5-1002.
Defendants seek to dismiss all counts based solely on the
argument that Messrs. Close and Manion are entitled to
quasijudicial absolute immunity. An "official seeking absolute
immunity bears the burden of showing that such immunity is
justified for the function in question." Davis v. Zirkelbach,
149 F.3d 614, 617 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Burns v. Reed,
500 U.S. 478, 486, 111 S.Ct. 1934, 114 L.Ed.2d 547 (1991)
(holding state prosecutor absolutely immune from liability for
damages under Section 1983 for participating in probable cause
hearing, but not entitled to absolute immunity for giving legal
advice to police)); Walrath v. United States, 35 F.3d 277, 281
(7th Cir. 1994) (citing Antoine v. Byers & Anderson, Inc.,
508 U.S. 429, 113 S.Ct. 2167, 124 L.Ed.2d 391 (1993)). In this case,
the defendants therefore bear the burden of establishing their
The doctrine of absolute immunity shields judges from civil
liability for acts committed in the exercise of their
jurisdiction. Eades v. Sterlinske, 810 F.2d 723, 725 (7th Cir.
1987). Non-judicial officials whose official duties have an
integral relationship with the judicial process are also
entitled to absolute immunity for their quasi-judicial conduct.
Henry v. Farmer City State Bank, 808 F.2d 1228, 1238 (7th Cir.
1986) (those performing ministerial acts under a judge's
supervision and intimately related to judicial proceedings have
quasi-judicial immunity); Dellenbach v. Letsinger,
889 F.2d 755 (7th Cir. 1989) (same); Ashbrook v. Hoffman, 617 F.2d 474,
476 (7th Cir. 1980) (same).
For example, a public official such as a sheriff or a sheriffs
deputy who performs ministerial acts at the direction of a
judge, including the execution of a court order, Henry, 808
F.2d at 1239, is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity.
Ashbrook, 617 F.2d at 477 n. 4. See also Tarter v. Hury,
646 F.2d 1010, 1013 (5th Cir. 1981) (court clerks immune from acts
that are specifically required to do under court order); Hazo
v. Geltz, 537 F.2d 747, 750 (3d Cir. 1976) (officials acting
under direct order of court entitled to absolute immunity);
Duba v. McIntyre, 501 F.2d 590, 592 (8th Cir. 1974) (officials
entitled to absolute immunity for ministerial acts where they do
nothing other than perform orders issuing from a court).
However, quasi-judicial immunity only extends to the conduct
prescribed by the order. Valdez v. City and County of Denver,
878 F.2d 1285, 1286 (10th Cir. 1989). It does not immunize a
sheriffs deputies for actions taken beyond those ordered by the
court or authorized by the court order. See Rucinski v. United
States, No. 94 C 6619, 1995 WL 103744, *3 (N.D.Ill. 1995) (J.
Conlon) (sheriffs were not entitled to immunity from performing
acts not directed by the court order of eviction).
In this case, plaintiffs claim the defendant deputies' alleged
actions went far beyond merely performing ministerial acts
required to execute the court order of eviction. Taking the
allegations as true for purposes of this motion, the Court
agrees that searching the premises, kicking in the bedroom
doors, placing a gun to the head of Cortez, and throwing Cortez
against a wall, and handcuffing Ramos — all without provocation
or probable case — are not the "ministerial duties" the court
order of possession authorized or required. See Defs.' Ex. A
(Order of Possession). If factually supportable (a proposition
on which we of course express no view), these allegations could
raise a triable issue on the quasi-judicial immunity issue, as
quasijudicial immunity does not immunize acts that the order did
not specifically require the officers to perform. See Rucinski
1995 WL at *3. At the pleading stage, these allegations are
sufficient to defeat defendants' attempt to obtain dismissal
based on quasi-judicial immunity.*fn3
WHEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, defendants' Close and
Manion's motion to dismiss (doc. # 38-1) is denied. Defendants
Close and Manion shall file their answer to the Third Amended
Complaint on or before February 29, 2000.