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ZURITA v. CITY OF CHICAGO

September 15, 2003

RUDOLPH ZURITA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO ET AL. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan H. Lefkow, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Rudolph Zurita ("Zurtia") has filed a two-count amended complaint for false imprisonment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Michael Sheahan ("Sheahan"), the Sheriff of Cook County, in his official capacity, and the Sheriff of Cook County police officers Leibas, Muhammad and Ryan (collectively, the "Cook County officers"), in their individual capacities.*fn1 Under Count I, Zurita alleges that the Cook County officers unlawfully detained him for four days in the Cook County jail without probable cause and failed to investigate and verify his identity after he repeatedly told them that he "was not the person named in the arrest warrant." (Am. Compl. ¶ 24.) Further, Zurita alleges that the "information on the face of the warrant" demonstrated this misidentification. (Id.) Alternatively, Zurita alleges under Count II that the Cook County officers unlawfully detained him based on an invalid arrest warrant because "it neither truly named the individual to be arrested nor did it describe the individual to be Page 2 arrested sufficiently enough to identity him[.]" (Id. ¶ 29.) With respect to both Counts, Zurita alleges that Sheahan is liable for his failure to train, discipline and punish the Cook County officers for their actions. Before this court are defendants' separate motions to dismiss Zurita's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Jurisdiction is properly invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1334(a). For the reasons set forth below, the court grants both motions.

STANDARDS FOR A MOTION TO DISMISS

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. General Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). Dismissal is appropriate only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 732 (7th Cir. 2001). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint, and it draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiffs favor. Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 486 (7th Cir. 2002). Nevertheless, the court is not required to "ignore any facts set forth in the complaint that undermine the plaintiffs claim [nor does it] assign any weight to unsupported conclusions of law." LeBlang Motors, Ltd. v. Subaru of Am., Inc., 148 F.3d 680, 690 (7th Cir. 1998) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

ALLEGATIONS FROM THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

During the evening of Wednesday, October 11, 2000, two Chicago police officers stopped and detained Zurita and a friend for trespassing on unidentified property located on the Page 3 south side of Chicago. Subsequently, the officers transported them to the 10th District Police Station (the "Station").

While at the Station, Zurita and his friend gave the police their full names, addresses and social security numbers. The police also fingerprinted and photographed them. After he and his friend had been held at the Station for seven hours, the police charged them with criminal trespass. The police released Zurita's friend but transferred Zurita to a holding cell. There, the police informed Zurita that they believed his name was an alias and that his real name was "Sergio Landeros" ("Landeros"). The police further informed Zurita that Landeros had an outstanding arrest warrant stemming from a charge for domestic battery in 1999 and that the police would continue to detain Zurita on that basis. Zurita protested repeatedly that the officers had the wrong man but the police responded, "That's your name now," or other words to that effect. (Am. Compl. ¶ 12.) Thereafter, Zurita remained in the holding cell and repeatedly yelled out that he was not Landeros but the police ignored him.

After remaining in the holding cell for approximately one hour, another police officer "processed" Zurita by questioning him about, among other things, his age, date of birth, height and weight. (Id. ¶ 14.) Again, Zurita explained that he was not Landeros but he was ignored. On Thursday, October 12, the police brought Zurita to state criminal court. At the appearance for the criminal trespass charge, Zurita attempted to explain to the Assistant Public Defender that he was not Landeros. The Assistant Public Defender, however, advised Zurita that his best strategy was to plead guilty to the criminal trespass charge before he "worried about the issue of his misidentification." (Id. ¶ 15.) Zurita pled guilty to the criminal trespass charge and then was transferred to another courtroom, where the court "executed" the warrant for Landeros' arrest. Page 4 (Id. ¶ 16.) The unnamed judge in the second courtroom ordered Zurita confined to the Cook County jail. (PL Response to the Individual Def's Mot. to Dismiss the Amended Compl., 9.)

Because Zurita could not make bail on the domestic battery charge, he went to the Cook County Jail at 26th Street and California Avenue. There, Zurita underwent the intake procedures by the Cook County officers. Zurita was strip-searched, photographed and issued prison clothing. Throughout the intake procedures and subsequent confinement, Zurita repeatedly informed the Cook County officers that he was not Landeros. (Am. Compl. ¶ 17.)

On or about Monday, October 16, 2000, Zurita appeared before a judge regarding the domestic battery charge. Again, Zurita attempted to explain that he was not Landeros but the Assistant Public Defender (whom Zurita does not identify as the same counsel from October 12) ignored him. The Assistant Public Defender recommended to Zurita that he accept a plea bargain in which he would receive either a 60-day sentence or a "reinstatement" of a domestic abuse counseling program to which Landeros had been previously assigned. (Id. ¶ 19.) Thereafter, Zurita pled guilty and accepted the reinstatement. (Id.)

On his release, Zurita learned that his employer terminated him from his security guard position due to his detention. On November 2, 2000, as required by the guilty plea on behalf of Landeros, Zurita met with Tom Donners ("Donners"), a domestic violence counselor. At that meeting, Zurita explained to Donners that he was not Landeros. Donners decided to review Landeros' computerized file. According to the file, Landeros was listed as 5'7" tall, 130 Ibs., and born in 1966 whereas Zurita was 6'2" tall, 245 Ibs., and born in 1955. Donners immediately realized that Landeros and Zurita were different people. On Donners' initiative, the judge was Page 5 informed of the misidentification. On February 27, 2001, Zurita was "cleared of all charges" entered against him as Landeros. (Id. ¶ 22.)

On or about May 28, 2002, Zurita filed the instant lawsuit. On or about October 9, 2002, Zurita filed an amended complaint, which defendants have moved to dismiss.

DISCUSSION

Section 1983 imposes liability on any person who "subjects, or causes to be subjected," another to a "deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States. 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Thus, to state a claim against defendants under section 1983, Zurita must allege facts sufficient to show that (1) he was deprived of a constitutional right and that (2) the defendants caused this deprivation. Zurita is not specific about which of his constitutional right defendants allegedly violated. However, even if Zurita ...


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