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Houston v. Taylor

February 6, 2006

MICHAEL HOUSTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JIMMIE E. TAYLOR AND ILLINOIS SECRETARY OF STATE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Michael Houston, the former owner and operator of a Chicago used car dealership, has sued Jimmie Taylor,a former investigator with the Illinois Secretary of State's (ISOS) Department of Police, and the ISOS. Houston has sued Taylor in his individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that Taylor violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Houston has sued the ISOS for false arrest under Illinois state law. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.

Facts

Houston was the owner and operator of Houston Auto Sales, a used car dealership in Chicago. At the time of his arrest, he was licensed as a used car dealer by the ISOS. The ISOS Department of Police employs investigators to administer and enforce the Illinois Vehicle Code; they have the same powers as local police officers and county sheriffs and may exercise these powers anywhere in the state in cooperation with local law enforcement officials. Taylor worked as an investigator with the ISOS Police Department at the time that he arrested Houston. He is now retired. Def. LR 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1-4, 10.

Section 3-113 of the Illinois Vehicle Code requires that "[i]f a dealer buys a vehicle and holds it for resale and procures the certificate of title from the owner or the lienholder ... upon transferring the vehicle to another person other than by the creation of a security interest, [he] shall promptly and within 20 days execute the assignment and warranty of title." 625 ILCS 5/3-113(a). A violation of this section constitutes a petty offense. Id. § 5/3-113(c).

Section 4-104(a)(5) of the Vehicle Code prohibits licensed vehicle dealers from "permit[ting] another, not entitled thereto, to use or have possession of any... temporary registration permit." Id. § 4-104(a)(5). The Illinois Administrative Code provides that licensed vehicle dealers may issue temporary registration permits "only to persons purchasing vehicles from that dealer and only after application for title and registration has been completed." 92 Ill. Admin. Code § 1010.421(a)(1). Providing a temporary registration permit to an individual who is not entitled to one constitutes a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense. 625 ILCS 5/4-104(b)(3).

Between July and October 2002, the ISOS police received eight official complaints from customers who had purchased vehicles from Houston Auto Sales. All of the complainants alleged that they had purchased vehicles from Houston but never received certificates of title or license plates (vehicle registration documents) from him. One of the complainants also stated that Houston had issued her temporary registration permits twice. Def. LR 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 18-35.

On November 1, Houston went to the ISOS Department of Motor Vehicles facility at 99th Street and King Drive in Chicago. Prior to that date, Houston had received a telephone call from Taylor, who told him that he was being charged with several petty offenses and misdemeanors and that he should come to the ISOS facility to be charged and pay his bond. When Houston arrived at the facility, Taylor processed the necessary paperwork, asked Houston to pay $100 for bond, and released him. Taylor did not handcuff, search, threaten, or physically restrain Houston. Id. ¶¶ 38-39.

Around April 2003, Houston transferred seven of the eight sets of vehicle registration documents he had failed to send his customers. He was unable to transfer the last set of vehicle registration documents, however, because he never received them from the individual or entity from whom he purchased the vehicle. Id. ¶ 44.

On multiple occasions between December 2002 and September 2004, Houston appeared before a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County in Bridgeview, Illinois on nine counts of alleged violations of the Vehicle Code. On September 23, 2004, the judge ordered the charges against Houston stricken because the complaining witnesses failed to appear on any of the designated court dates. Id. ¶¶ 41-43.

Discussion

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, 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). The Court must view the facts in favor of the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences on his behalf. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

1. Constitutional Claims Against Taylor

Houston claims that Taylor arrested him without probable cause and therefore violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law. The Court limits this inquiry to the Fourth Amendment, however, because the more specific protections of the Fourth Amendment are what applies when a person claims that he was falsely ...


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