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CERVANTES v. CITY OF HARVEY

June 15, 2005.

GILBERTO VILLASENOR CERVANTES, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF HARVEY, J.JOSHUA, Chief of Police of the Harvey Police Dept, in his official capacity; J. COOK, #785, in his individual and official capacity; UNKNOWN HARVEY POLICE OFFICERS, in their individual and official capacities; THOMAS P. FITZGERALD, Chief of Police of the Cook County Sheriff's Police Dept., in his official capacity; SHIRLEY MARSHALL, #263, in her individual and official capacity; MICHAEL F. SHEAHAN, Cook County Sheriff, in his official capacity; ERNESTO VELASCO, Exec. Director the Cook County Dept. of Corrections, in his official capacity; and UNKNOWN COOK COUNTY SHERIFF'S POLICE OFFICERS, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT GETTLEMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Gilberto Villasenor Cervantes, filed a second amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1988 alleging that City of Harvey police officer J. Cook and other unknown Harvey police officers, Cook County Sheriff Deputy Shirley Marshall, and other unknown Cook County Sheriff's Police officers violated his due process rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by detaining him without informing him of his rights and the charges against him, holding him on a facially invalid warrant, and coercing him to sign a waiver of extradition, which then caused him to be transferred between detention facilities for two months before straightening out the matter in Contra Costa, California. In addition, plaintiff has brought a claim against Andrew Joshua, the Chief of Police of the Harvey Police Department in his official capacity, alleging that the department's policy of detaining individuals on outstanding warrants, without sufficient investigative work to establish probable cause is a violation of due process. Plaintiff further asserts a claim against Thomas P. Fitzgerald, Chief of Police of Cook County Sheriff's Police Department, Michael F. Sheahan, Cook County Sheriff, and Ernesto Velasco, Executive Director of Cook County Department of Corrections in their official capacities, alleging that their policies of detaining and extraditing individuals without corroboration of the detainee's identity violates due process.

Defendants Marshall and Sheahan (the "Cook County defendants)*fn1 have moved to dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing that plaintiff has failed to allege a violation of a constitutional right under either the Fourth or the Fourteenth amendments, that his claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and that he has failed to state a claim against the Cook County Sheriff's Office under the requirements of Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).*fn2

  For the reasons set forth below, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss.

  FACTUAL SUMMARY

  According to the complaint, on September 20, 2003, plaintiff was parked at North Commercial and 156th St. in Harvey, Illinois. A Harvey Police officer approached the car, detained plaintiff, and took him to the Harvey police station. Harvey officer J. Cook charged plaintiff with improper parking on a roadway, not having a valid driver's license, and with fleeing a Contra Costa, California arrest warrant issued against Enrique Cervantes. Plaintiff was detained despite the fact that his name, Gilberto Villasenor Cervantes, was not the name on the warrant, and despite his protestations regarding his mistaken identity.

  On September 23, 2003, Harvey officers took plaintiff to the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department. When he appeared in court on the traffic charges, the court computer again indicated that there was an outstanding warrant from the Contra Costa, California Police Department for Enrique Cervantes. The criminal court judge dismissed the traffic violations against plaintiff but continued to hold him on the outstanding warrant.

  Despite plaintiff's protests that he was not the person on the warrant, he signed a waiver of extradition, thereby waiving any proceeding to challenge his extradition prior to being sent to California. He alleges that this waiver was signed under extreme duress because the officers told him that going to California to resolve the matter was the only way to end his incarceration. After signing the waiver, plaintiff, represented by counsel, went before the circuit court judge, who questioned him regarding the waiver of extradition. In response to the judge's questions, plaintiff stated that he had signed the waiver of his own free will. Therefore, the judge found the wavier valid.

  Despite continued protestations to Marshall and other Cook County Police Officers that he was not the person named in the warrant, plaintiff was placed on a bus and spent two months transferring between detention facilities until arriving in Contra Costa, California on November 26, 2003. Upon arrival, the Contra Costa officers ran plaintiff's fingerprints and determined that he had no warrants against him. They released him and bought him an airplane ticket back to Illinois. Plaintiff filed this complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1988 for violations of his right to due process under the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments.

  DISCUSSION

  Defendants Marshall and Sheahan have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants also argue that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to hear plaintiff's claim. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., ___ U.S. ___, 125 S.Ct. 1517 (2005). This court interprets the federal rules liberally "so that erroneous nomenclature in a motion does not bind a party at his peril." Snyder v. Smith, 736 F.2d 409, 419 (7th Cir. 1984). Therefore, although defendants have not expressly moved for dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), their arguments regarding Rooker-Feldman suggest that they are moving for dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, in addition to failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

  The defendants have attached the transcript from the state court proceedings to their 12(b)(6) motion. Analyzing defendant's motion under Rule 12(b)(1), the court can take notice of the state court transcript. While plaintiff argues that the addition of the state court transcript should convert the defendant's motion into a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, a district court may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists. Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993). An analysis of all the facts presented in a light most favorable to plaintiff reveals that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear this claim under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which states that federal courts other than the United States Supreme Court have no jurisdiction to review state court judgments, unless Congress has expressly authorized them to do so. See Rooker, 263 U.S. 414, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923); Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Exxon Mobil, 125 S.Ct. at 1521-22 (2005).

  The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is a consequence of the limited jurisdiction of lower federal courts which, unlike the Supreme Court, may exercise only power granted to them by Congress. Rooker made explicit that this power does not include the power to review state court judgments. Affirming the dismissal of a suit seeking to have the judgment of an Indiana court declared void as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court stated: "If the [state court] decision was wrong, that did not make the judgment void, but merely left it open to reversal or modification in an appropriate and timely appellate proceeding. Unless and until so reversed or modified, it would be an effective and conclusive adjudication." Rooker, 263 U.S. at 415, 44 S.Ct. 149 (1923). The Court noted that the plaintiffs had not timely appealed from the Indiana Supreme Court to the United States Supreme Court, adding "an aggrieved litigant cannot be permitted to do indirectly what he no longer can do directly." Id. at 416, 44 S.Ct. 149 (1923).

  Subsequently the Supreme Court clarified its holding in Rooker in Feldman. In Feldman, the Court decided two suits brought by rejected applicants to the District of Columbia bar who had been denied waivers of a bar admission rule requiring applicants to be graduates of law schools approved by the American Bar Association. The applicants unsuccessfully appealed in state court, and then brought claims in federal district court alleging that the rule violated the Fifth Amendment. They further alleged that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals had ...


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