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ABRAMS v. WALKER

April 9, 2001

MARTIN ABRAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TROOPER KENT WALKER, # 4315 AND TROOPER THE' TRAN, # 4824, DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Martin Abrams ("Abrams") sues defendants Kent Walker ("Walker") and Thé Tran ("Tran") (collectively "defendants"), under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for malicious prosecution (Count I), and violations of Abram's rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Count II).*fn1 Abrams voluntarily dismissed his claims against Tran. Walker moves for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

All facts are undisputed unless indicated otherwise. Walker and Tran are Illinois state troopers. Walker is sued in his individual capacity. All acts alleged against Walker occurred under color of state law. In October 1998, Abrams, who is an attorney, was at the Boone County courthouse to represent a client, Trent Forte ("Forte"). Pl.Ex. 1 at 112-13.*fn2 After Forte's appearance, Abrams followed Forte back to Chicago. Id. at 116-18. Abrams saw an Illinois state trooper stop Forte's car. Id. at 117-18. Walker stopped Forte for alleged traffic offenses. Abrams stopped his car on the roadside near Walker and Forte. Pl.Ex. 1 at 118. Abrams backed his car up in front of Forte's car and got out. Id. at 118-19. Abrams did not observe Forte violate any traffic law. Id. at 117-18. Walker was in full uniform. Id. at 135. Abrams walked towards Walker and identified himself as Forte's attorney; he asked Walker why he stopped Forte. Id. at 119. Walker told Abrams he stopped Forte for traffic violations. Id. Abrams did not physically obstruct Walker while he was in the process of issuing traffic tickets to Forte. Id. at 39-41. However, Abrams asked Walker questions in an argumentative tone. Id. at 19.

Three or four times, Walker asked Abrams to return to his car for officer safety, but Abrams refused each request. Id. at 19, 20, 143. This interruption delayed Walker's completion of Forte's traffic citations. Id. at 20, 55-57. The last time Walker instructed Abrams to return to his car, he told Abrams that if he did not do so, he would be ticketed also. Id. at 20,120. Walker then asked Abrams for his driver's license and insurance card. Id. at 20. Abrams refused to produce either on the grounds that he is an attorney. Id. at 21. Walker asked Abrams four times for his license and insurance card, and each time Abrams refused to produce them. Id. Abrams inquired what tickets he would receive; Walker responded tickets for parking and backing up on the tollway, as well as tinted windows. Id. at 120. Abrams laughed and told Walker his car did not have tinted windows. Id. at 121. Abrams said he was leaving, and returned to his car. Id. at 21, 121. Abrams testified he would have left if Walker did not try to stop him because he felt Walker had no right to give him a ticket. Id. at 134-36, 138.

Abrams got in his car, and Walker ran over; Walker either reached for Abrams' keys in the ignition or a button to open the rear deck of the car. Id. at 121-22, 137. Walker pulled out a hunting knife laying on the rear deck and placed the knife on the roof of Abrams' car. Id. at 122-23. Abrams then produced his license and insurance card. Id. at 21. Abrams warned Walker he was making a mistake and asked Walker to call his supervisor. Id. at 125. Walker instructed Abrams to stay in his car, and not to touch the knife. Id. at 21, 42, 44. As Walker returned to Forte's car, Abrams nevertheless got out of his car, grabbed the knife from the roof, and got back into his car. Id. at 21, 124. Walker believed at the time that possession of a large knife inside a car was a crime. Id. at 41-42. At this point, the only non-traffic, criminal offense Walker intended to file against Abrams was unlawful use of a weapon. Id. at 23, 24.

Walker called for assistance. Abrams waited in his car for about twenty minutes. Walker and Tran then approached him, and asked him to get out of the car. Id. at 124-25. Abrams told them both they were making a mistake. Id. at 126-27. Abrams tried to avoid being cuffed by spinning and twisting away. Id. at 26-30, 50-54. Walker grabbed Abrams, flipped him around, forced him against the car, and bent him over the car. Id. at 127, 143. Walker squeezed the cuffs onto Abrams' wrists. Abrams complained the cuffs were grinding his watch into his hand and asked if he could take his watch off; Walker denied the request. Id. at 127. Walker and Tran took Abrams to a police station where he was charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest.

In February 2000, a state court trial was held on Abrams' charges. Walker and Tran were witnesses against Abrams. Abrams was represented by counsel and testified in his defense. Abrams was found not guilty of all charges arising from his arrest. Abrams then brought this civil rights suit.

DISCUSSION

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving papers and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); King v. National Human Res. Comm., Inc., 218 F.3d 719, 723 (7th Cir. 2000). Once a moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(e); Silk v. City of Chicago, 194 F.3d 788, 798 (7th Cir. 1999). The court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Bay v. Cassens Transp. Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is sufficient to support a reasonable jury verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000).

II. MALICIOUS PROSECUTION

To state a claim for malicious prosecution under § 1983, Abrams must show: he satisfied the requirements of a state law cause of action for malicious prosecution; state actors committed the malicious prosecution; and he was deprived of liberty. Sneed v. Rybicki, 146 F.3d 478, 480 (7th Cir. 1998); Reed v. City of Chicago, 77 F.3d 1049, 1051 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Smart v. Board of Tr. of Univ. of Ill., 34 F.3d 432, 434 (7th Cir. 1994)). To establish a malicious prosecution action under Illinois law, Abrams must demonstrate: he was subjected to judicial proceedings for which no probable cause existed; Walker instituted or continued the proceedings maliciously; the proceedings terminated in Abram's favor; and there was an injury. Sneed, 146 F.3d at 480-81; Reed, 77 F.3d at 1051 (citing Curtis v. Bembenek, 48 F.3d 281, 286 (7th Cir. 1995)).

Walker argues he had probable cause for arresting Abrams and therefore Abrams cannot establish malicious prosecution. Probable cause defeats an action for malicious prosecution under both Illinois and federal law. Schertz v. Waupaca County, 875 F.2d 578, 582 (7th Cir. 1989); Burghardt v. Remiyac, 207 Ill. App.3d 402, 152 Ill.Dec. 367, 565 N.E.2d 1049, 1052 (1991). The existence of probable cause is a mixed question of law and fact. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 696, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996); Humphrey v. Staszak, 148 F.3d 719, 725 (7th Cir. 1998). If facts sufficient to create probable cause are undisputed, probable cause is a question of law. Potts v. City of Lafayette, 121 F.3d 1106, 1112 (7th Cir. 1997); People v. Cooke, 299 Ill. App.3d 273, 233 Ill.Dec. 676, 701 N.E.2d 526, 529 (1998). A dispute concerning some facts relevant to determining the existence of ...


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