United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
January 6, 2004.
GERALD CHAPALA, Plaintiff,
HOFFMAN ESTATES POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PAUL PLUNKETT, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Gerald Chapala has sued Hoffman Estates and various of its officials
for their alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights and
state law. The case is before the Court on defendants' Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56(c) motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons set forth below, the motion is granted as to the federal claims
and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
On September 24, 2001, plaintiff was employed as a patrol officer by
the Hoffman Estates Police Department. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶
1, 5.) At the end of his shift, sometime between 11:00 p.m. and midnight,
plaintiff encountered defendant Caceres in the locker room.
(Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff says that Caceres repeatedly taunted
him saying, "Gerry, Gerry, your shotgun is talking to
you." (Id. ¶ 6.) Caceres denies that he taunted
plaintiff. Instead, he says, plaintiff was agitated when Caceres arrived
in the locker room and attacked Caceres without provocation while making
statements like "the end is near" and "the Giant is coming."
(Id. ¶ 7.)
Immediately afterwards, Caceres reported the incident to Lieutenant
Hish. (Id. ¶ 16.) Hish, in turn, called defendant
Richardson at home to relay the story. (Id.) The next morning,
Richardson told defendant Herdegen, the Chief of Police, what had
happened. (Id. ¶ 17.) Herdegen then scheduled a meeting
with the Village Manager, the Village Attorney and defendant Jones,
Director of the Village Department of Health and Human Services, to
discuss the situation. (Id. ¶ 18.) The three decided to
place plaintiff on paid administrative leave pending his completion of a
fitness for duty evaluation. (Id. ¶ 19.)
When Herdegen called to schedule the fitness evaluation, he discussed
the proposed plan of action with Dr. Selvig. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.)
Selvig suggested that plaintiff be stripped of his weapons before
speaking with Herdegen and that he be taken to an emergency room for an
evaluation. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.)
Herdegen told defendant Paez to meet plaintiff at the department's
entrance and take his weapons. (Id. ¶ 27.) Paez met
plaintiff and told him that Herdegen wanted to speak with him about the
events of the previous night. (Id. ¶¶ 28-30.) Paez asked
plaintiff for his off-duty weapon and plaintiff surrendered to him a gun
known as a K-40. (Id. ¶ 31.) Unbeknownst to Paez, plaintiff
also had high-powered, 9mm, semi-automatic pistol concealed in his
waistband, which he did not surrender. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.) The
Department had not authorized plaintiff to carry that weapon.
(Id. ¶ 33.)
Plaintiff then went to Herdegen's office where he met with Herdegen and
Richardson. (Id. ¶ 34.) Herdegen told plaintiff that they
were launching an investigation into the incident that occurred the
previous evening and that he was being placed on administrative leave.
(Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) Herdegen also asked plaintiff to go to the
hospital for an evaluation, a request which plaintiff refused.
(Id. ¶ 43.) Herdegen asked plaintiff to reconsider, and
told him he would order to plaintiff to go, if necessary, and discipline
plaintiff if he refused to obey the order. (Id. ¶ 44.)
At that point, plaintiff asked to speak to a lawyer. (Id.
¶ 45.) After doing so, plaintiff told Herdegen that, though he did
not agree to go to the hospital, he would do so cooperatively.
Herdegen, Richardson and plaintiff went to the hospital together.
(Id. ¶ 47.) At the hospital, plaintiff surrendered the
concealed semi-automatic weapon to Herdegen. (Id. ¶¶ 49-50.)
Upon their arrival, a caseworker named Maria interviewed plaintiff.
When she finished, she told Herdegen that plaintiff should be signed into
the hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 55-57.) When Herdegen expressed
surprise, Maria said that she thought committing plaintiff was the
appropriate thing to do, given the previous evening's incident and the
comments plaintiff made during his interview with her. (Id.
At about the same time, Paez called Richardson at the hospital.
(Id. ¶ 62.) Paez told Richardson that he had found five
magazines, each with a thirty-round capacity, and 145 rounds of bullets
commonly used in an AK-47 assault rifle in a backpack plaintiff had left
in Paez's office. (Id. ¶¶ 64-65.) Richardson reported Paez's
discovery to Herdegen. (Id. ¶ 66.) Based on all of the
information he had received, Herdegen decided to sign the petition to
commit plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 70-71, 77.)
The physician who examined plaintiff in connection with the petition
was Dr. Giacomin. (Id. ¶ 84.) Given the description of the
precipitating incident and his own examination of plaintiff, during which
plaintiff evaded his questions and made repeated statements that the
doctor characterized as paranoid, Dr. Giacomin felt that plaintiff needed
to be hospitalized for an evaluation. (Id. ¶¶ 85-90.) After
Giacomin examined plaintiff, he concluded that plaintiff was mentally ill
and in danger of harming himself or others, (Id. ¶ 93.)
Ultimately, plaintiff was committed to Alexian Brothers Mental Health
Center on September 25, 2001, where he stayed until October 1, 2001.
(Id. ¶¶ 4, 96, 108.)
On March 18, 2002, Herdegen filed charges against plaintiff with the
Hoffman Estates Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. Among other
things, Herdegen charged that plaintiff's conduct on September 24, 2001
constituted a battery against Caceres and violated departmental rules and
regulations. (Id. ¶ 8.) On June 24, 2002, after a six-day
hearing, the Board sustained Herdegen's charges. (Id., Ex. D,
Findings & Decision.) In addition, the Board found that plaintiff was
unfit for duty and dismissed him from his position as patrol officer.
Plaintiff sought review of the Board's decision in state court, which
upheld the Board's decision. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Plaintiff has
now filed a complaint with this Court alleging that defendants' actions
violated his federal constitutional rights and various provisions of
The Legal Standard
To prevail on a summary judgment motion, "the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, [must] 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). At this stage, we do not
weigh evidence or determine the truth of the matters asserted.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). We
view all evidence and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving
party. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., 209 F.3d 687,
692 (7th Cir. 2000). Summary judgment is appropriate only when the record
as a whole establishes that no reasonable jury could find for the
non-moving party. Id.
The Federal Claims
In the first two counts of his complaint, plaintiff alleges that
defendant violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they
had him involuntarily committed. The latter claims are easily dispatched.
Involuntary commitment is a seizure, governmental action that falls
directly under the Fourth Amendment. Villanova v. Abrams,
972 F.2d 792, 795 (7th Cir. 1992). Consequently, plaintiff's challenge to
his commitment "must be analyzed under the [Fourth Amendment] standard
. . ., not under the rubric of substantive due process." United States v.
Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 272 n.7 (1997).*fn2 Thus, defendants are
entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the Fourteenth Amendment
claims asserted in Count II.
That leaves the Fourth Amendment claims. Defendants says that these
claims were, in essence, adjudicated against plaintiff in the state
administrative review proceeding. Thus, they say, the state-law doctrines
of claim and/or issue preclusion bar their relitigation in this suit.
Determining whether plaintiff's claims are precluded requires the
resolution of a number of thorny questions about, for example, the
limitations of privity. See Licari v. City of Chicago,
298 F.3d 664, 666 (7th
Cir. 2002) (setting forth elements of claim preclusion under
Illinois law); Talarico v. Dunlap, 667 N.E.2d 570, 572 (Ill.
App. Ct.) (setting forth elements of issues preclusion under Illinois
law), aff'd, 168 Ill.2d 627 (1996). Fortunately, we need not
decide those questions because, even if neither preclusion doctrine
applies, plaintiff's claims fail on the merits.
As an initial matter, the Fourth Amendment claims that plaintiff
asserts against the Village of Hoffman Estates must be dismissed.*fn3 To
prevail on a section 1983 claim against the Village, plaintiff must show
that he was deprived of his constitutional rights pursuant to one of its
policies, customs or practices. Monell v. Department of Soc. Servs.
of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Plaintiff has
proffered no evidence to suggest that his involuntary commitment was
accomplished pursuant to Village policy. The Village is, therefore,
entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the Fourth Amendment claim
plaintiff asserts against it.
The Fourth Amendment claims plaintiff asserts against the individual
defendants suffer the same fate. The individual defendants violated
plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights if they had him committed without
probable cause to believe that he was an immediate danger to himself or
others. Villanova, 972 F.2d at 795 (7th Cir. 1992) ("A civil
commitment . . . may be made only upon probable cause, that is, only if
there are reasonable grounds for believing that the person seized is
subject to seizure under the governing legal standard. . . ."); 405 ILL.
COMP. STAT. 5/3-601 (a person can be involuntarily committed only if he
is mentally ill and "immediate hospitalization is necessary for the
protection of such person or others from physical harm"). Probable cause
is a "practical, nontechnical conception" that requires an "evaluation of
the totality of the circumstances." United
States v. Rucker, 138 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 1998)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Defendants had probable
cause to commit plaintiff if, "at the moment the decision [was] made, the
facts and circumstances within [their] knowledge and of which [they had]
reasonably trustworthy information would warrant a prudent person in
believing" that plaintiff met the standard for commitment. Oian v.
Kautz, 168 F.3d 949, 953 (7th Cir. 1999).
The undisputed facts establish that defendants had probable cause to
believe that plaintiff was mentally ill and was a danger to himself or
others when they had him committed. Herdegen and Richardson had received
a report from Caceres, whom they had no reason to disbelieve, that
plaintiff had assaulted Caceres in the locker room, while making
nonsensical comments like "the Giant is coming." (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3)
Start. ¶¶ 7, 16-18, 25-26); Gramenos v. Jewel Cos., Inc.,
797 F.2d 432, 439 (7th Cir. 1986) ("When an officer has received his
information from some person normally the putative victim or an
eye witness who it seems reasonable to believe is telling the
truth, he has probable cause.") (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). They also knew that plaintiff had carried a concealed and
unauthorized weapon into the meeting he had the following day with
Herdegen and Richardson and told the two men that other members of the
Department were plotting against him, (Id. ¶¶ 32-37, 49-50,
53.) Further, they knew that Paez had found 145 rounds of bullets
commonly used in an AK-47 assault rifle, another weapon that plaintiff
had no authority to carry, in plaintiff's backpack. (Id. ¶¶
62-66, 73.) They also knew that the case worker at the emergency room and
defendant Jones, both medical professionals, recommended that plaintiff
be committed. (Id. ¶¶ 55-60, 70.) Finally, Herdegen knew
that plaintiff was recently alleged to have made several inappropriate
comments to citizens, including, "I could blow you away tonight and not
lose a wink of sleep over it" and "Shut up or I'm gonna smoke you right
here." (Id. ¶¶ 78-81.)
Given those undisputed facts, defendants had probable cause to have
plaintiff involuntarily committed.
Moreover., even if defendants did not have probable cause for the
commitment, they would still be shielded from plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment claims by qualified immunity. Qualified immunity would protect
defendants if a reasonable officer in their position could have believed
there was probable cause for the commitment. Wollin v. Gondert,
192 F.3d 616, 622 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Faced with the undisputed facts set forth above, a reasonable
police officer could easily have believed that plaintiff was mentally ill
and a danger to himself or others. Consequently, defendants would be
qualifiedly immune from liability on plaintiffs Fourth Amendment claims,
even if they did not have probable cause to commit him. Defendants'
motion for summary judgment on the claims asserted in Count I is,
The State Law Claims
Having dismissed the only federal claims in this suit, the Court
declines to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's
state-law claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).