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GRAY v. CITY OF CHICAGO

March 29, 2001

KENNETH GRAY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kocoras, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendant City of Chicago (the "City") to dismiss portions of the complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

For purposes of the motion to dismiss, we must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true. On three occasions in November 1998, December 1998, and March 1999, unknown officers of the Chicago Police Department (the "Police Department") arrested Plaintiff Kenneth H. Gray on an outstanding DUI warrant for a man by the name of Kenneth R. Gray. On each occasion, Plaintiff informed the arresting officers that he was not Kenneth R. Gray, that Kenneth R. Gray had a different middle name than Plaintiff, and that Kenneth R. Gray had a different driver's license number than Plaintiff. At the time of the March 1999 arrest, Plaintiff additionally showed the police officers a court order stating that he was not the person wanted on Kenneth R. Gray's warrant. Nevertheless, after each stop the officers placed Plaintiff in custody, where he remained until an Illinois court dismissed the charges against him.

Plaintiff alleges that on all three occasions, the officers arrested him without probable cause and without an arrest warrant or a search warrant in his name. He attributes his arrests to practices and patterns of the City and/or the Police Department, including: (1) inadequately correcting and keeping accurate records of court-generated information regarding incorrectly executed warrants for dissemination to its police officers in the field; (2) failing to train police officers to fully identify persons before arrest pursuant to warrants and to follow the Cook County court's orders; and (3) inadequately supervising and training police officers, including failure to require appropriate in-service training and re-training of officers who make arrests without probable cause, thereby failing to discourage constitutional violations by police officers. Plaintiff further alleges that on each occasion he was stopped because of his race, African-American, pursuant to a practice and pattern of the City and/or the Police Department.

On November 3, 2000, Plaintiff filed suit against the City, the Police Department, and unnamed Chicago Police officers individually and in their official capacities. The complaint alleges violations of Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. It also contains state law claims for malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment. The City has moved pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss portions of Count I of the complaint, as well as the requests for punitive damages and for attorneys fees on Counts II and III.

LEGAL STANDARD

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. Triad Associates, Inc. v. Chicago Housing Authority, 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the complaint's allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true. Bontkowski v. First National Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993). The allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); see also Hartford Fire Insurance Co. v. California, 509 U.S. 764, 113 S.Ct. 2891, 125 L.Ed.2d 612 (1993); Sherwin Manor Nursing Center, Inc. v. McAuliffe, 37 F.3d 1216, 1219 (7th Cir. 1994). Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege facts sufficiently setting forth the essential elements of the cause of action. Lucien v. Preiner, 967 F.2d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 1992).

DISCUSSION

I. Claims against the Chicago Police Department

Plaintiff has sued the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department on identical grounds. The Police Department is not a suable entity, but merely a department of the City of Chicago which does not have a separate legal existence. See Jordan v. City of Chicago, Department of Police, 505 F. Supp. 1 (N.D.Ill. 1980) (citing Ellis v. City of Chicago, 478 F. Supp. 333 (N.D.Ill. 1979)); Bonilla v. City Council of City of Chicago, 809 F. Supp. 590 (N.D.Ill. 1992). The claims against the Chicago Police Department are therefore dismissed and the name stricken from the caption.

II. § 1983 claims against the City of Chicago

Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144, n. 3, 99 S.Ct. 2689, 2694, n. 3, 61 L.Ed.2d 433 (1979) (quotation marks omitted). The first step in analyzing a § 1983 claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 1870, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). In paragraphs 7, 8, and 9 of the complaint, Plaintiff alleges various violations of his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. ...


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