"that the action taken by the state, whether in the form of
prosecution or otherwise, was a spiteful effort to `get' him for
reasons wholly unrelated to any legitimate state objective."
Id. at 180.
If Manos' allegations are true and defendants singled him out
for maltreatment for no reason other than to harass him, he
states a claim for a violation of his equal protection rights. He
sufficiently alleges that there was no legitimate purpose for the
detainment of his firearms upon the conclusion of Skoufis'
criminal trial. Accordingly, Caira, Braglia, Bertucci, Fagiano,
and the Village of Elmwood Park's motion to dismiss Manos' equal
protection claim in Count II is denied.
E. Fourth Amendment
Caira, Braglia, Bertucci, Fagiano, and the Village of Elmwood
Park have moved to dismiss Manos' Fourth Amendment claim on two
grounds: (1) the Complaint fails to allege that the initial
seizure of the firearms was unlawful; and (2) the claim is barred
by the two-year statute of limitations. The Court finds these
arguments without merit.
The Fourth Amendment "protects people from unreasonable
searches and seizures of `their persons, houses, papers, and
effects.'" Soldal v. Cook County, Ill., 506 U.S. 56, 62, 113
S.Ct. 538, 121 L.Ed.2d 450 (1992) (quoting U.S. CONST. amend IV).
This protection applies to personal property in the civil context
as well. Id. at 67, 113 S.Ct. 538. "A `seizure' of property
occurs where there is some meaningful interference with an
individual's possessory interests in that property." Id. at 63,
113 S.Ct. 538. "`[R]easonableness is still the ultimate standard'
under the Fourth Amendment." Id. at 71, 113 S.Ct. 538 (quoting
Camara v. Municipal Court of City & County of San Francisco,
387 U.S. 523, 539, 87 S.Ct. 1727, 18 L.Ed.2d 930 (1967)). "As is
true in other circumstances, the reasonableness determination
will reflect a `careful balancing of governmental and private
interests.'" Id. (quoting New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325,
341, 105 S.Ct. 733, 83 L.Ed.2d 720 (1985)).
The Court rejects defendants' first argument because the
Supreme Court has held that even where the initial seizure of
someone's property is lawful, the prolonged seizure of the
property may render the seizure unreasonable. United States v.
Place, 462 U.S. 696, 709-10, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 77 L.Ed.2d 110
(1983). Therefore, Manos' allegation that defendants' retention
of his firearms for use as evidence in the Skoufis' criminal
trial was not unlawful does not preclude his claim that their
continued retention of his firearms for months after the
conclusion of the criminal proceedings became an unreasonable
seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Defendants' second argument is equally unavailing. In section
1983 cases, the court adopts the forum state's statute of
limitations for personal injury claims. Baskin v. City of Des
Plaines, 138 F.3d 701, 703 (7th Cir. 1998). In Illinois,
personal injury claims are subject to a two-year statute of
limitations. Id.; 735 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/13-202. However,
federal law controls as to the date a section 1983 claim accrues.
Kelly v. City of Chicago, 4 F.3d 509, 511 (7th Cir. 1993).
Section 1983 claims "accrue when the plaintiff knows or should
know that his or her constitutional rights have been violated."
Manos does not complain that defendant's initial retention of
his firearms to use as evidence at the perpetrator's trial was
unlawful. He alleges that it was only upon the conclusion of the
criminal proceedings against Skoufis that he began to inquire
repeatedly about the return of his firearms and defendants
continued to withhold
his firearms and deny his requests for their return. Thus, Manos'
section 1983 claim accrued after the conclusion of Skoufis'
criminal proceedings and not on the date the initial retention of
his firearms began. The criminal proceedings against Skoufis
ended on July 14, 1998. (Compl. ¶ 16.) The complaint was filed on
January 26, 2000. Therefore, the Court finds that Manos' section
1983 claim is timely. The Court thus denies Caira, Braglia,
Bertucci, Fagiano, and the Village of Elmwood Park's motion
because Manos' Fourth Amendment claim is timely and is otherwise
sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.
F. Qualified Immunity as to Caira, Braglia, Bertucci, and
"[D]ismissal of a § 1983 suit under Rule 12(b)(6) is a delicate
matter that district courts should approach carefully." Jacobs
v. City of Chicago, 215 F.3d 758, 765 n. 3 (7th Cir. 2000).
Qualified immunity is "almost always a bad ground for dismissal"
and is more appropriately addressed on a motion for summary
judgment. Id. at 775. "[A] court must first determine whether
the plaintiff has alleged the deprivation of an actual
constitutional right at all, and if so, proceed to determine
whether that right was clearly established at the time of the
alleged violation." Kitzman-Kelley v. Warner, 203 F.3d 454, 457
(7th Cir. 2000).
In a single paragraph in their brief in support of the motion
to dismiss, Caira, Braglia, Bertucci, and Fagiano argue that they
are entitled to qualified immunity. In fact, after two sentences
outlining the general rules of qualified immunity, their argument
in its entirety is as follows: "As discussed more fully in this
brief, the acts and/or omissions allegedly attributed to the
individually-named police officers do not violate
clearly-established statutory or constitutional rights. The
officers, in their individual capacities, are entitled to
qualified immunity." (Mem. Law Supp. Village of Evergreen Park
[sic] Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, at 7.) Unfortunately for defendants,
as discussed above, the Court has read the other parts of their
brief and has found that Manos alleges that Caira, Braglia,
Bertucci, Fagiano, and the Village of Elmwood Park have deprived
him of an actual constitutional right. Further, because
defendants do not address whether those constitutional rights
were clearly established at the time of the deprivation, the
Court finds that defendants' qualified immunity argument has not
been properly raised and thus declines to address the issue at
this early stage of the litigation.
For the aforementioned reasons, the Court grants in part and
denies in part defendants' Motions to Dismiss [docket nos. 4-1,
14-1]. The Court dismisses Counts III and IV with prejudice.
Counts I and II remain, but the Court grants defendants' motion
to dismiss the following portions of those counts: (1) any claim
against Baker and Krueger for damages is dismissed with
prejudice; (2) any request for relief based on the Second
Amendment is dismissed with prejudice; and (3) any request for
relief based on Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, except
as to the Village of Elmwood Park, is dismissed with prejudice.
Defendants Devine and Elmwood Park Police Department are hereby
terminated as parties. Defendants Baker, Krueger, Caira, Braglia,
Bertucci, Fagiano, and Village of Elmwood Park remain. Except as
provided herein, defendants' motion to dismiss is denied.