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POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS v. CITY OF CHICAGO

October 9, 2002

POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur, Senior United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Polish American Congress and seven individuals initially brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against (1) City of Chicago, (2) Richard F. Mell in his official capacity as Chairman of the Chicago City Council's Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics, (3) Chicago's Board of Election Commissioners and (4) Langdon D. Neal, in his official capacity as Chairman of that Board (for convenience, all defendants are collectively called "Chicago," treated as a singular noun). Plaintiffs have alleged that Chicago's ward redistricting map adopted in December 2001 violates their rights under the First,*fn1 Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Act," 42 U.S.C. § 1973 to 1973p).*fn2

This Court's July 24, 2002 memorandum opinion and order ("Opinion," 211 F. Supp.2d 1098)*fn3 dismissed most claims in the Complaint,*fn4 leaving potentially viable only the claim by the Polish American Congress and the four plaintiffs residing in Chicago's 30th ward (Frank Golinski, Robert Kocabinski, Mary Taylor-Hart and current 30th Ward Alderman Michael Wojcik) (collectively "Plaintiffs"*fn5) that the new map violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Now Chicago has moved to reject that claim as well, alternatively seeking a judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 12(c) or a summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56.*fn6 For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, both of Chicago's motions are denied (though the denial of the Rule 56 motion is without prejudice).

Judgment on the Pleadings

Courts review Rule 12(c) motions under the same standard as motions brought under Rule 12(b)(6) (GATX Leasing Corp. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co., 64 F.3d 1112, 1114 (7th Cir. 1995)): Judgment on the pleadings in defendant's favor will not be granted unless defendant establishes beyond doubt that plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts that would support the claim for relief and that there are no material issues of fact to be resolved (Northern Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998)). To that end the court must accept as true all facts alleged by plaintiff and must draw all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in plaintiff's favor (id.; Gillman v. Burlington N. R.R., 878 F.2d 1020, 1022 (7th Cir. 1989)). But because such inferences must be reasonable, they cannot be brought into play if they are contrary to the clear and unambiguous words or actions of the parties (Northern Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, 163 F.3d at 452, explaining that the court is "not obliged to ignore any facts set forth in the complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claim").

As with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the aptly named motion for judgment on the pleadings restricts the parties and the court to the contents of the pleadings themselves (id.).*fn7 But to defeat such a motion a plaintiff may supplement the complaint with an affidavit or brief with additional facts, so long as those facts are consistent with the allegations in the complaint (Help at Home, Inc. v. Medical Capital, L.L.C., 260 F.3d 748, 752-53 (7th Cir. 2001)).

Background

Although Opinion at 1101-02 recited the facts alleged in the Complaint in some detail, the key facts are repeated here for convenience. Pursuant to Illinois law (65 ILCS 20/21-22), in the wake of the year 2000 census the Chicago City Council began to consider plans to redistrict Chicago's 50 aldermanic wards in late 2001. On November 28 it announced a proposed redistricting map that incorporated suggestions made by members of the Council's African-American and Latino caucuses (¶¶ 22-23). That proposed map did not take into account census information about voting age population or ancestry, for those figures were not yet available (¶ 24). At a December 14 public hearing three different citizen groups — including a Polish ethnic coalition — presented alternate redistricting plans, none of which was given serious consideration (¶ 25). On December 19 the City Council adopted new ward redistricting ordinances based on the November 28 map (¶ 26).

Polish American Congress is a not-for-profit corporation that represents the interests of Polish-Americans by promoting civic, educational and cultural programs (¶ 5). All four remaining individual plaintiffs*fn8 are registered voters who currently reside in the 30th Ward (¶¶ 6-12). Three of the four are of Polish ethnicity (id.). All Plaintiffs claim to represent the Polish community of interest for the purposes of this action (¶ 13).

This action focuses on northwest Chicago's 30th Ward, which under the redistricting ordinance surrounds the 31st Ward on three sides and at points is as narrow as two city blocks (¶¶ 28, 32). Plaintiffs oppose the new redistricting map as it relates to the 30th Ward because the new ward boundaries splinter the Polish ethnic community of interest, previously contained in two wards, into four different wards (¶¶ 28, 31). According to Plaintiffs, Chicago designed the new ward boundaries for the sole purpose of making the 30th Ward majority-Latino (¶ 34).

That focus on race injures the Polish community of interest by minimizing the representation of that community's needs on the City Council (id.). Other harms inflicted on the Polish ethnic community by redistricting include (1) the removal of certain churches and businesses from the 30th Ward, (2) potential cuts to certain ward services (including Polish language translation) and (3) the difficulty Wojcik will have in being re-elected and thereby representing the community's interests in the City Council (¶¶ 37-40).*fn9 Plaintiffs have produced an alternative map establishing boundaries for the 30th Ward (¶ 41), and they now request declaratory and injunctive relief.

Plaintiffs' Map and Equal Protection

Chicago's Rule 12(c) motion, based on the first affirmative defense raised in the Answer, argues that even if Plaintiffs were successful in establishing the material facts alleged in the Complaint, the relief they request would itself constitute a violation of the Equal Protection Clause (C. Mem. 2). Turning the Plaintiffs' legal theory around by using it to attack the allegations in their own Complaint, Chicago contends that the redistricting map that Plaintiffs set forth as their proposed remedy for the 30th Ward was itself impermissibly drawn, using Polish ethnicity as the predominant consideration.*fn10

As Opinion at 1103 found, under United States v. Hays, 515 U.S. 737, 744-45 (1995) Plaintiffs' Polish ethnicity was not relevant to their standing to challenge the 30th Ward redistricting — instead such standing stemmed solely from their status as resident voters in the allegedly racially gerrymandered ward. Thus the current Rule 12(c) motion puts a question intimated by Opinion at 1103 n. 8 but not reached on the motion to dismiss: Whether by including (and indeed by stressing) the Complaint's allegations that framed their claim in terms of the Polish ethnic community, ...


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