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SMITH v. DANIELS

March 26, 2003

RAYMOND SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS SERENA DANIELS, MICHAEL WILLIAMS, CARL CARTER, AND STAFFORD WILSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald A. Guzman, United States Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Raymond Smith has sued defendant Chicago Police Officers Serena Daniels, Michael Williams, Carl Carter,*fn1 and Stafford Wilson for civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"). Before the Court is defendants' motion for partial summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. Defendants do not seek summary judgment as to Count I (excessive force). For the reasons provided in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court grants defendants' motion as to Count II (false arrest), grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion as to Count III (conspiracy), and grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion as to Count IV (failure to intervene).

FACTS

Unless noted, the following facts are either undisputed or deemed admitted due to noncompliance with Local Rule 56.1. The following does not include any fact that was unsupported by the proponent's citation to the record.

On June 4, 1999, plaintiff, Raymond Smith was driving a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in the city of Chicago. Latanya Haggerty, now deceased, was the in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Near the intersection of 89th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago, Smith double parked his car in the road and engaged a friend in conversation. Defendant Officers Serena Daniels and Michael Williams pulled up along side of Smith's vehicle in their squad car. Officer Williams told Smith to move his vehicle out of its current illegal position. What words Williams used are disputed because plaintiff alleges that the defendant used derogatory terms and defendant denies saying anything derogatory. Officer Daniels then asked Smith if he had a driver's license and insurance for his vehicle. Without answering the question, Smith pulled his car out of its illegal position and proceeded south on Cottage Grove Avenue.

Officers Daniels and Williams checked their on-board computer which indicated that the license plates on the 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that Smith was driving were not registered to that vehicle. The Officers activated their emergency siren and lights and pulled Smith over near the intersection of 90th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. Officer Williams approached the driver's side of Smith's vehicle and asked Smith to produce his driver's license and insurance. Smith attempted to produce a letter from the Secretary of State concerning his driving privileges and proof of his insurance through his driver's side window which was partially lowered. Smith refused to roll down his window any further than it was. What Officer Williams did next is disputed because plaintiff alleges that Williams balled his fist and attempted to break the window and defendant denies that he acted in this manner.

Before the Officer was finished with the incident, Smith drove off heading south on Cottage Grove Avenue. He then turned right onto 95th Street to approximately Princeton Avenue or Wentworth Avenue where he made a u-turn and headed eastbound on 95th Street back toward Cottage Grove Avenue. Officers Daniels and Williams pursued Smith during this attempted escape. When Smith arrived at the intersection of 95th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, Officers Wilson and Carter blocked the path of Smith's car. All four Officers exited their vehicles, weapons drawn, and moved toward Smith's car. The Officers ordered Smith and Haggerty to exit the vehicle, but neither of them complied with the order.

Smith put his car in reverse and attempted to flee the area. At this time Officers Daniels, Williams, and Wilson each fired their weapons once at Smith's car. Smith attempted to evade the Officers and drove toward his uncle's newspaper stand, at 64th Street and King Drive, in order to reach a more familiar area. During his somewhat lengthy escape, Smith did not obey traffic lights or signals. The four Officers pursued Smith in their respective squad cars.

After arriving at the newspaper stand, Smith parked his car and unlocked his door. Officers Daniels and Williams pulled their squad car in front of Smith's car while Officers Carter and Wilson pulled their squad car behind Smith's car. The Officers ordered Smith and his passenger out of the vehicle, but neither complied. Officers Carter and Williams forcefully removed Smith from the car. What the Officers did next is disputed. Plaintiff alleges that Officers Carter and Williams threw him to the ground and beat him and that Officers Daniels and Wilson were observing the beating and doing nothing to prevent it. Defendants deny these actions and claim that Officers Carter and Williams arrested and handcuffed Smith and that Wilson and Daniels approached the passenger side of the car, weapons drawn while Officers Carter and Williams dealt with Smith. Within forty seconds, Smith was taken to the ground and handcuffed by Officers Carter and Williams. Smith did not see where Officers Daniels and Wilson were during the arrest. During the same moment, Officer Daniels shot and killed Latonya Haggerty, the passenger.

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Rule 56(c), the court shall grant summary judgment if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When considering the evidence submitted by the parties, the court does not weigh it or determine the truth of the matters asserted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). All facts must be viewed and all reasonable inferences drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158 (1970); Shank v. William R. Hague, Inc., 192 F.3d 675, 683 (7th Cir. 1999). "If no reasonable jury could find for the party opposing the motion, it must be granted." Hedberg v. Ind. Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995). Although the moving party has the initial burden to show that the record presents no genuine issue of material fact, if the nonmovant bears the ultimate burden of proof, "he must then go beyond the pleadings and affirmatively demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact for trial." Essex v. U.S. Parcel Serv., Inc., 111 F.3d 1304, 1308 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

All counts of the complaint relevant to defendants' summary judgment motion — false arrest, conspiracy, and failure to intervene are brought under section 1983. Liability under section 1983 requires that "the defendants were acting under color of state law and that the defendants' conduct violated the plaintiff's rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Lanigan v. Vill. of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 1997).

Defendants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment as to Counts II, III, and IV based on qualified immunity. Defendants further argue that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact for trial as to Count II in which plaintiff alleges false arrest, Count III in which plaintiff alleges a conspiracy, and Count IV in which plaintiff alleges failure to intervene.

State officials who occupy positions with discretionary authority and are acting within their official capacities have qualified immunity for allegations that they violated the constitutional rights of a plaintiff. Jacobs v. City of Chicago, 215 F.3d 758, 766 (7th Cir. 2000). When defendants seek qualified immunity, a ruling on that matter should be. rendered at an early stage of the proceedings in order to avoid the burdens of trial when the doctrine is applicable. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001). Qualified immunity is "an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation." Mitchell v. Forsythe, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985). The doctrine provides immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability and is effectively lost if the matter is permitted to go to trial. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 200. As such the applicability of qualified immunity is a threshold determination in a motion for summary ...


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