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FARRAR v. GROCHOWIAK

May 4, 2005.

NONA FARRAR, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL A. GROCHOWIAK, individually and in his official capacity, MICHAEL D. HOSKINS, individually and in his official capacity, JULIE MARKIN, RICHARD M. DALEY, individually and in his official capacity, and the CITY OF CHICAGO, a municipal corporation, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REBECCA PALLMEYER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

In September 2003, the City of Chicago rejected Plaintiff Nona Farrar's application for a home occupation business license. Plaintiff, an African-American woman, believes the denial was motivated by her race, her prior lawsuits against the City, and her various other "First Amendment activity." Proceeding pro se, Farrar now brings suit against the City of Chicago; Michael Hoskins, an Investigator for the City's Department of Zoning; Michael Grochowiak, the Director of Code Enforcement in the City's Department of Zoning; and Mayor Richard Daley. Specifically, Plaintiff brings: (1) a § 1983 claim based on violation of her equal protection rights (Count 1); (2) a First Amendment retaliation claim (Count II); (3) a § 1983 claim based on violation of her due process rights (Count III); (4) a state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV); (5) a claim of unlawful interference with prospective economic advantage (Count V); (5) a claim against Defendants Grochowiak and Hoskins for "willful and wanton conduct" (Count VI); (6) a claim of Monell liability against Defendant Richard Daley and the City of Chicago for violation of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights (Count VII); and (7) a facial challenge to the Zoning Ordinance under §§ 1983, 1982, and 1981 (Count VIII).*fn1 Defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' joint motion for summary judgment is granted as to Plaintiff's federal claims. All remaining state law claims are dismissed without prejudice to litigation of those claims in state court.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  In late summer 2003, Plaintiff learned through an internet posting that the Chicago Transit Authority was accepting bids for a mass mailing contract (the "CTA contract"). (Plaintiff's Deposition, Defendants' Ex. D, at 77.) The CTA contract involved the monthly distribution of new employment kits, which included lunch sacks, maps, pens, cardholders, and welcome letters. (Defendants' Joint Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement, hereinafter, "Defs.' 56.1(a)," ¶¶ 32 37; CTA Contract Documents, Defendants' Ex. L.) It also required the winning bidder to store the materials, consisting of hundreds of boxes weighing thousands of pounds. (Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 37.) In order to enhance her chances of being awarded the contract, Plaintiff attempted to establish her business as a certified minority business enterprise (MBE). (Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 33.) Because she intended to run the mass mailing operation from her home, she required a home occupation business license from the City. (Id.)

  On September 3, 2003, Plaintiff applied for a home occupation business license. (Defendants' Joint Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement, hereinafter, "Defs.' 56.1(a)," ¶¶ 8, 12.) Plaintiff submitted her application in person, initially to a woman named Grace in the Department of Revenue. (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 106.) Her application stated that she lived in a 1200 square foot unit within a multiple-dwelling building, and that 500 square feet of her unit would be used for her proposed home occupation business. (Id. ¶ 9.) After examining her application, the Department of Revenue employee informed Plaintiff that she would have to speak with a person in the Department of Zoning before her license could be issued. (Id.)

  Plaintiff proceeded to the Department of Zoning, where she spoke with Defendant Grochowiak. (Id. at 111.) Grochowiak informed Plaintiff that her license application was being denied because her proposed home business violated the storage restrictions placed on home occupancy businesses under the City's zoning code. (Id. at 114.) Specifically, the Chicago Municipal Code section that addresses home occupations states:
[T]he total square footage of any home occupation shall not permanently occupy more than . . . 15 percent of the floor area of any unit in a multiple dwelling building; provided, however, that in no instance may one or more home occupations in any single dwelling unit permanently occupy more than 300 square feet of any dwelling unit . . .
City of Chicago Zoning Ordinance, Ch. 4-380-060(g). Plaintiff's proposed home-based business violated both of these requirements: she expected to use 500 feet of her dwelling for the business, an area totaling far more than 15 percent of her total 1200 square feet. Plaintiff advised Grochowiak that she intended to rent space in an offsite storage facility in which to store the materials related to her home business. (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 115.) Grochowiak explained that home-based businesses are prohibited, under the Zoning Ordinance, from storing anything offsite. (Id. at 114.) Specifically, the Zoning Ordinance provides that "the home occupation and all related activities, including storage, shall be conducted completely within the dwelling and shall not be operated from an accessory structure or garage." City of Chicago Zoning Ordinance Ch. 4-380-060(f).

  A dispute ensued between Plaintiff and Grochowiak. (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 115-17.) Eventually, Plaintiff asked to speak to somebody else, at which point Grochowiak left and Defendant Hoskins appeared. (Hoskins's Deposition, Defendants' Ex. B, at 90.) Hoskins spoke with Plaintiff, reiterating the reasons already laid out by Grochowiak for the denial of her license. (Id. at 99-100.) Plaintiff then asked Hoskins whether she could change her application to seek approval for the operation of a data entry business rather than the mailing project.*fn2 (Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 14; Hoskins's Deposition, at 93.) Hoskins claims he repeatedly asked Plaintiff who her clients would be for this new data entry business and she refused to answer. (Hoskins's Deposition, at 91.) Plaintiff, on the other hand, maintains that she told Hoskins that she would be doing data entry work for the city and state governments. (Plaintiff's Response to Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 15.) In any event, Hoskins informed Plaintiff that her application for a license to conduct a home-based data entry business was also denied. (Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 15; Plaintiff's Response to Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 15.) Following this second denial, Hoskins gave Plaintiff an appeals packet and told her that she could appeal the denial of her license application to the Zoning Board of Appeals. (Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 16; Plaintiff's Deposition, at 127.) Ultimately, Plaintiff chose not to appeal the denials because she did not believe that the appeals process would have been completed in time for her to submit a bid for the CTA contract. (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 127-28, 130.) Instead, she filed this lawsuit the following day, September 4, 2003.

  Prior to this incident, Plaintiff had been involved in a number of disputes with the City of Chicago. A self-styled community activist, Plaintiff maintains that she has been "very outspoken" about police misconduct and has sued the City of Chicago on a number of occasions. (Compl. at 1.) In the course of her community activism, Plaintiff claims to have assisted victims of police abuses by referring them to the United States Attorney, participated in rallies, spoken at meetings regarding police brutality, and been arrested seven times.*fn3 (Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 27.) In short, Plaintiff "consider[s] [her]self someone who speaks out against various civil and human rights abuses." (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 31.)

  In 2002 or 2003,*fn4 Plaintiff attempted to launch a company called Larger Vision Inc., as a branch of "the [I]nnocence [P]roject to investigate claims of wrongful convictions involving Chicago police and other officers." (Id. at 29.) The company's articles of incorporation, which were filed with the Illinois Secretary of State on June 13, 2003, identify the company's purpose as "[t]o research and investigate claims of innocence and other injustices that are civil rights violations and to coordinate special events to fund the project." (Plaintiff's Ex. 19.) Plaintiff also obtained a business license from the City of Chicago for Larger Vision. The business license application, submitted on September 13, 2003, describes the company's business activity as "administrative office for special event planner for different events, civil, human rights causes."*fn5 (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 44-48; Defendants' Ex. I.) Ultimately, Plaintiff abandoned the Innocence Project idea after she had spoken with a number of attorneys about participating in the project, but before the company was up and running.*fn6 (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 52-53.) Instead, Plaintiff "decided it would be better for me to do maybe special events to help organizations out that I felt were worthy of financial support." (Id. at 53.)

  In her complaint, Plaintiff also refers to a number of lawsuits she has previously filed against the City. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she "has sued Corporation Council [sic] lawyers for destruction of evidence . . ., sue [sic] the city and police and won, spoken out about police abuses [and] fire abuses, assisted victims of the abuses and filed complaints against the police and firemen." (Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff has offered no evidence of these prior lawsuits, and when asked about them during her deposition, remembered only that she had sued Chicago Police Officer James Davis in 1995. (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 27.) Court records show that Plaintiff filed suit against Office Davis in September 1997. The case settled in 2000 after Plaintiff retained counsel. Nona Farrar v. James Davis, No. 97 C 6433 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2000) (dismissing all claims pursuant to settlement agreement). As for the remaining lawsuits, Plaintiff stated that "I would think that your [defense counsel's] office would have those records because I generally filed suit against the City of Chicago." (Plaintiff's Deposition, at 27.) An examination of this court's records shows that Plaintiff has filed suit in this court against the City of Chicago or City of County officials on at least five other occasions prior to the current lawsuit. Farrar v. City of Chicago, No. 82 C 6771 (complaint filed Nov. 3, 1997 against the City of Chicago); Farrar v. Glantz., No. 00 C 275 (complaint filed Jan. 14, 2000 against Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court); Farrar v. Nelson, No. 00 C 1675 (complaint filed Mar. 17, 2000 against Chicago Police and Fire Department employees); Farrar v. City of Chicago, No. 02 C 2914 (complaint filed April 23, 2002 against a number of City employees, including members of the Police and Fire Departments and Office of Emergency Communications); Farrar v. Bracamondes, No. 03 C 5530 (complaint filed Aug. 8, 2003 against Chicago police officers alleging, inter alia First Amendment retaliation, due process and equal protection violations stemming from police failure to arrest Plaintiff's sister after domestic dispute). In addition, since the present events, Plaintiff has filed an additional suit against, inter alia, the City of Chicago. Farrar v. Eldibany, No. 04 C 3371 (complaint filed May 12, 2004 against landlord and City building inspectors for, inter alia, conspiring to ignore building code violations at her apartment building).*fn7

  Plaintiff now claims that the denial of her business license was motivated by both her race and as retaliation for her past disputes with the City of Chicago and protests over City policies. Defendants have moved for summary judgment.

  DISCUSSION

  Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, demonstrate 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Summary judgment is only appropriate "if, on the record as a whole, a rational trier of fact could not find for the non-moving party." Rogers v. City of Chicago, 320 F.3d 748, 752 (7th Cir. 2003), quoting Commercial Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Aires Envtl. Servs., Ltd., 259 F.3d 792, 795 (7th Cir. 2001). Although in doing so, the court will construe all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, the court is "not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record." McDonald v. Village of Winnetka, 371 F.3d 992, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004), quoting Rogers, 320 F.3d at 752; Bell v. Duperrault, 367 F.3d 703, 707 (7th Cir. 2004). Thus, "[i]nferences that are supported only by conjecture or speculation will not defeat a summary judgment motion." Id. Plaintiff brings ...


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