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ANDERSON v. CITY OF CHICAGO

March 31, 2003

GORDON ANDERSON CRYSTAL ANDERSON PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant City of Chicago's Motion is granted as to Count I and denied as to Count II and Defendant Police Officers' Motion is denied.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts of this matter are set forth below. On January 31, 1998, Defendant Officers Jesse Eng, Janine Hermonn, Mark George, Joseph Gawlick, James Tarara and Michael Rice ("Officers" or "Defendant Officers"), acting without a warrant, entered the home of Plaintiffs Gordon and Crystal Anderson, seized Gordon Anderson's antique firearm collection, and arrested him. The search, seizure and arrest were predicated on a report from Plaintiffs neighbor, Mr Dane Placko, that Plaintiff Gordon Anderson had verbally assaulted him on December 21, 1997.*fn1 Gordon Anderson was subsequently charged with assault and thirty-two counts of violating Municipal Ordinance 8-20-040 for possession of thirty-two firearms that were not registered with the City of Chicago. On December 9, 1998, a jury found Gordon Anderson not guilty of the assault charge.

On January 4, 1999, with the ordinance violation charges not yet resolved, Gordon and Crystal Anderson filed a pro se complaint in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the Officers conspired to violate and did violate their civil rights. On June 5, 2001, representatives of the City of Chicago notified Gordon Anderson that the antique firearms collection seized from his home had been destroyed on June 8, 2000. On February 21, 2002, in the matter of People of the State of Illinois v. Gordon Anderson, 98 MC1208965, Gordon Anderson was found not guilty of eleven ordinance violations charges and guilty of twenty such charges, with the remaining charge withdrawn.

On July 8, 2002, Gordon and Crystal Anderson filed a Second Amended Complaint, naming for the first time the City of Chicago ("City") as a Defendant. Both the City and the Officers filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Those motions have been fully briefed and the Court's opinion on the motions is set forth below.

LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court shall accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from these facts in favor of the plaintiff. Arazie v. Mullane, 2 F.3d 1456, 1465 (7th Cir. 1993). The Court reads pro se complaints more generously than complaints drafted by attorneys. McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000) ("pro se complaints are to be liberally construed and not held to the stringent standards expected of pleadings drafted by lawyers"). Consequently, a pro se civil rights complaint shall only be distnissed pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim "if it is beyond doubt that there is no set of facts under which the plaintiff could obtain relief." Id. (citing Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091, 1103 (7th Cir. 1982); see also Alvarado v. Litscher, 267 F.3d 648, 651 (7th Cir. 2001). This is particularly important in this case, where neither count of Plaintiffs' pro se Second Amended Complaint ("Complaint") makes a straightforward presentation of legal claims.

DISCUSSION

I. COUNT I OF PLAINTIFFS' COMPLAINT

Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint purports to state claims against the City and against the Officers, as well as a claim of conspiracy. The Court will address the claims against the City, the Claims against the Officers, and the conspiracy claim in the foregoing sequence.

A. Claims against the City

Count I of Plaintiffs' Complaint seeks to assert two claims against the City: a claim of unreasonable search and seizure based on the acts of the Defendant Officers and a claim that appears to allege wrongful prosecution of Gordon Anderson for violation of city firearm ordinances. For the reasons stated below, the City's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint is granted as to both of these claims arguably presented in Count I.

Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim against the City is foreclosed by the Supreme Court's decision in Monell v. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Monell made it clear that a plaintiff cannot state a Section 1983 claim against a municipality under the theory of respondeat superior; a municipality may only be sued directly under Section 1983 if the violation occurred pursuant to an official government policy.*fn2 Id. at 691; see also White v. City of Markham, 310 F.3d 989, 997-98 (7th Cir. 2002). Plaintiffs do not allege any custom or policy of the City to be the proximate cause of their alleged constitutional injuries. Furthermore, Plaintiffs do not assert that the City authorized the Officers to enter Plaintiffs' home without a warrant, that the City agreed to participate in a conspiracy to deprive Plaintiffs of their civil rights, or that ...


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