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GREEN v. BUTLER

June 24, 2004.

MICHAEL J. GREEN and CHERYL POULSEN, Plaintiffs,
v.
MARLO BUTLER, DAVID CARROLL, MARK SALSBERRY, AMY FREUND, and JEFFREY BRYANT, each in his or her individual capacity, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff Michael Green owns a house in Warrenville, Illinois. On February 23, 2003, the date of the events that form the basis of the complaint, Green lived in the house with his girlfriend, Plaintiff Cheryl Poulsen. A long-time acquaintance of Green's, Michael Belter, also lived in the Warrenville house. Belter paid Green $300 a month in rent pursuant to an oral lease. Prior to coming to live with Green and Poulsen, Belter had been convicted of a criminal sexual offense against a minor. As of February 2003, he was on parole for this offense, and his movements were electronically monitored. When Belter moved into the Warrenville house, Green and Poulsen were aware that Belter was on parole, although Belter had not apprised them of the full extent of restrictions to which he was subject. Neither inquired about specific limitations Belter had pursuant to his parole status.

  When Belter moved into the Warrenville house, he executed a "Host Site Agreement." The agreement did not indicate that anyone other than Belter lived at the Warrenville house, and it provided that the "residence is subject to search at any time by parole agents or designated Illinois Department of Corrections' staff and I explicitly consent thereto." The agreement also provides that a parole agent or designated Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") staff may enter the residence at any time to conduct meetings with the parolee to verify compliance with parole or supervised release conditions. Belter alone signed this document, even though he informed his then parole officer, Richard Guise, that he was not the homeowner. It is disputed by the parties whether Guise ever became aware that Green was the homeowner and that he lived at the Warrenville house as well. In December 2002, Belter came under the supervision of a different parole officer, Defendant Marlo Butler. She reviewed the IDOC computer files for Belter, which stated that Belter lived alone. On February 23, 2003, Butler went to the Warrenville house for a random monthly visit. She was accompanied by Defendant Jeffrey Bryant. The parties dispute whether Bryant was aware that Belter was not the only resident of the house at that time.

  When Butler and Bryant arrived at the Warrenville house, Belter came out of the front door and shut it behind him. He refused to let the two agents enter the house, telling them that the owner was not home. The agents left without entering the house but concluded that they needed to return with other agents to assist them. Butler called Defendant Mark Salsberry to join them. Salsberry, accompanied by Defendants Amy Freund and David Carroll, met with Butler and Bryant at a nearby restaurant to discuss the visit before they went back to the house. Freund and Salsberry checked their computer files for information on Belter; they still stated that Belter lived alone.

  By the time the agents went back to the Warrenville house, Green and Poulsen had returned. Green was in the garage; Poulsen and Belter were in the main part of the house. Bryant stayed outside; the other four agents entered the house. The parties dispute the precise details of how the entry took place, particularly whether the first agent to enter knocked on the door and stated who they were and why they were there. Once the agents were inside, they identified Belter. Salsberry and Freund spoke with him in his bedroom on the second floor; they also handcuffed him and escorted him out to one of the squad cars. Meanwhile, the other agents spoke with the occupants of the house, sometimes rather heatedly. Eventually, Green was persuaded to sign a host site agreement with respect to Belter. At that point, the agents released Belter and left.

  As a result of the events of that day, Green and Poulsen filed suit against the agents under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that the agents violated their constitutional rights by entering the house as well as conspiring to do so. The parties have completed discovery, and the agents now move for summary judgment in their favor on both counts of the complaint.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which the nonmovant bears the burden of proof at trial. Id. The nonmovant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; it must go beyond the pleadings and support its contentions with proper documentary evidence. Id. The court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). With these principles in mind, we turn the motion before us.

  DISCUSSION

  1. Reasonableness of the Search

  Under the protections of the Fourth Amendment, most warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable. See Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219, 93 S.Ct. 2041, 2043 (1973). There are several important exceptions. Two that are significant to this case are the so-called "special needs" exception and situations in which authorities obtain consent from a person with actual or apparent authority over the area to be searched. See Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868, 873, 107 S.Ct. 3164, 3169 (1987) (special needs presented by probation setting); New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 332 n. 2, 105 S.Ct. 733, 737 n. 2 (1985) (special needs presented by public school setting); United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 170-71, 94 S.Ct. 988, 993 (1974) (consent); Zap v. United States, 328 U.S. 624, 628, 66 S.Ct. 1277, 1279 (1946) (same).

  To determine whether a warrantless search was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a court must compare the degree to which the individual's privacy is invaded with the degree to which the search is needed to promote legitimate government interests. United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 118-19, 122 S.Ct. 587, 591 (2001). The degree to which the privacy is invaded goes hand in hand with the extent to which the party challenging the governmental ...


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