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Vodak v. City of Chicago

April 17, 2006

KEVIN VODAK, ET AL., INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Eleven plaintiffs ("Plaintiffs") bring this action on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated against the City of Chicago ("the City"), the Chicago Police Department ("the CPD"), and various Command Personnel and officers of the CPD (collectively, "Defendants") for alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the United States Constitution and the Constitution and laws of the State of Illinois. Plaintiffs' claims for money damages and injunctive relief arise from Defendants' handling of a war protest march that occurred on March 20, 2003 in Chicago. Because Plaintiffs have met their burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, their Motion for Class Certification is granted.

The Court certifies a class consisting of all persons who were surrounded by Defendants on March 20, 2003 on Chicago Avenue, just east of Michigan Avenue and west of Mies Van Der Rohe Way ("the bounded area"), between approximately 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. The Court also certifies three subclasses:

Subclass A-1 is defined as all class members who were surrounded by Defendants in the bounded area for one and a half to three hours before they were allowed to leave the area.

Subclass A-2 is defined as all class members who were surrounded by Defendants in the bounded area, arrested and detained at a police station. These individuals were released without being charged with any crime or ordinance violation.

Subclass A-3 consists of all class members who were surrounded by Defendants in the bounded area, arrested and detained at a police station. These individuals were charged with criminal offenses, released only upon conditions of bond, required to appear in court on criminal charges and later the charges against them were dismissed in their favor.

Factual Background/Plaintiffs' Allegations

On March 20, 2003, thousands of individuals congregated at Federal Plaza, located on Dearborn Street between Jackson and Adams Avenues in Chicago's downtown area, for a rally to protest the commencement of the United States war in Iraq. (Compl. ¶¶ 24-25). At the end of the rally, the crowd began to march through the streets of downtown Chicago.*fn1 (Compl. ¶ 27). When a group of marchers reached Chicago Avenue, Defendant Command Personnel allegedly issued an order for CPD officers to surround the marchers between Michigan Avenue and Mies Van Der Rohe Way. (Compl. ¶ 38). Plaintiffs allege that they were detained forcefully without instructions and without being allowed to leave the bounded area. (Compl. ¶¶ 39-44). Some of the individuals in the bounded area were not protestors, but were observers or random people on the street that got swept up. (Compl. ¶ 55). After a period of detention, Defendants began to allow some individuals to leave the bounded area. (Compl. ¶ 51). Defendant Command Personnel then allegedly issued an order to arrest the individuals remaining within the bounded area. (Compl. ¶ 45). CPD officers entered the crowd and arrested more than 500 individuals. (Compl. ¶ 47). These arrestees allegedly were given no warning of their arrest, no order to disperse and no opportunity to leave the area prior to their arrest. (Compl. ¶ 49). The arrestees were taken into police custody, handcuffed, escorted to police vehicles and transported to police stations. (Compl. ¶ 50). The male arrestees were taken to 727 East 111th Street and the females were taken to 5555 West Grand Avenue. (Compl. ¶ 57). Plaintiffs allege that the arrestees were confined in overcrowded and overheated cells for periods of time ranging from four to forty hours. (Compl. ¶¶ 59-60). Some arrestees were released because the CPD could not identify the arresting officer. (Compl. ¶ 62). Other arrestees were charged with one misdemeanor count of Reckless Conduct, 720 ILCS § 5/12-5, and detained until they posted bail. (Compl. ¶¶ 63-64). The charges against most of the arrestees were later dismissed. (Compl. ¶ 66).

DISCUSSION

I. Requirements For Class Certification Under Rule 23

This Court must conduct a rigorous analysis to determine whether the requirements for certification in Rule 23 are met. See General Telephone Co. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 160-61, 102 S.Ct. 2364 (1982); Davis v. Hutchins, 321 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. 2003). In conducting this rigorous analysis, the Court must "make whatever factual and legal inquiries are necessary under Rule 23." Szabo v. Bridgeport Machines, Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 676 (7th Cir. 2001). Such factual and legal inquiries often will require a preliminary inquiry into the merits. See Falcon, 457 U.S. at 160 ("[S]ometimes it may be necessary for the court to probe beyond the pleadings before coming to rest on the certification question"). Delving into the merits is necessary in order that the Court may understand the elements of Plaintiffs' claims and Defendants' defenses and the nature of the evidence that will be presented in adjudicating those claims and defenses. See Simer v. Rios, 661 F.2d 655, 672 (7th Cir. 1981). With this understanding, the Court then can determine whether the requirements of Rule 23 have been met.

Plaintiffs' claims may proceed as a class action only if: "(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). Assuming Plaintiffs can meet this initial burden, they also must show that the requirements for one of the subsections of Rule 23(b) is met. Plaintiffs have moved to certify their class under both Rule 23(b)(2), which allows appropriate injunctive or declaratory relief, and Rule 23(b)(3), which permits a class to seek monetary damages. Because the predominant issues in this case center around Defendants' allegedly unlawful conduct in seizing and arresting members of the class and any individual issues will not render the class unmanageable, Plaintiffs have demonstrated that certification on their proposed class and subclasses is appropriate under Rules 23(b)(2) and (b)(3).

II. Caselaw On Mass Arrests And Mass Detentions

Courts in this district uniformly have granted class certification in cases involving the mass arrest or mass detention of individuals. See Patrykus v. Gomilla, 121 F.R.D. 357 (N.D. Ill. 1988); Johns v. DeLeonardis, 145 F.R.D. 480 (N.D. Ill. 1992); Levett v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., 2001 WL 40805, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 315 (N.D. Ill. 2001); Williams v. Brown, 214 F.R.D. 484, 485 (N.D. Ill. 2003). The first in this succession of cases involved a police raid on a Chicago bar frequented by homosexual men. See Patrykus, 121 F.R.D. at 360. The plaintiffs alleged that police officers ordered them to lie on the floor for periods ranging from one to three hours and submit to searches. Id. at 360. The defendants argued that a class could not be certified because individual roles and levels of participation among the defendants varied and that different degrees of harassment and injury allegedly were inflicted on the plaintiffs. Id. at 361. The court disagreed and concluded that because the claims all arose from a single event that "[c]ommon questions of fact and law concerning the defendants' alleged behavior and of law concerning the constitutionality of defendants' behavior clearly predominate." Id. at 363.

The next case involved another police raid, this time on a Gypsy community center. See Johns, 145 F.R.D. at 481-82. The court found that common issues predominated where the class members' claims each arose from the same raid, detention and search. Id. at 484. Again, the defendants focused on the varying degrees of police conduct towards class members as a reason not to certify. The court held that the differing degrees of alleged police misconduct was relevant only the extent of damages and, therefore, could not defeat predominance. Id. at 485.

In Levett v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., 2001 WL 40805 at *1, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 315 at *2 (N.D. Ill. 2001), the court certified a class of individuals who allegedly were detained and searched without cause when entering Lincoln Park High School. While acknowledging that some factual distinctions existed among the class claims, the court still found that because the class claims sought to remedy a common legal grievance and "all center[ed] around th[e] same occurrence of events" common issues would predominate and a class action was the superior method for adjudicating the controversy. Id., 2001 WL 40805 at *3, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 315 at *11.

The most recent case involved the alleged detention and search of numerous residents of the Stateway Gardens neighborhood in Chicago during a basketball tournament. See Williams, 214 F.R.D. at 485. Finding that the facts were similar to the aforementioned cases, the Court adopted their reasoning and certified the class. Id. at 486. In certifying, the Court noted that the defendants were unable to point to a single case denying certification in a mass detention arising from a single event. Id. Finally, the Court reserved for summary judgment questions regarding the proof of actual injury. Id. at 486-87.

In addition to these cases, a recent case from the District of Columbia involved facts and allegations similar to those presented here. Chang v. United States, 217 F.R.D. 262, 264 (D.D.C. 2003), concerned the events of September 27, 2002, when approximately 3000 to 5000 people demonstrated in the District of Columbia against the policies of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United States Government. On that date, police surrounded a group of 400 or so demonstrators in General John Pershing Park and arrested them. Id. The plaintiffs, on behalf of the putative class, alleged that they were handcuffed, detained on buses and later transported to a Police Academy Gymnasium for further detention. Id. The plaintiffs alleged, and internal reports revealed, that no lawful order to disperse was given and the class members were arrested without individualized determinations of probable cause. Id. at 267. In opposing certification, the defendants argued that the facts necessary to support the class members' claims and alleged injuries were too diverse to justify certification.*fn2 Id. at 269-270. But in light of the fact that "all of the arrests occurred at the same place and time, resulting from a single police action in which the putative class members were treated as a group by the defendants," the Court held that the predominant issue would be the liability for the unlawful detentions and arrests and therefore a class should be certified. Id. at 272.

This Court has "broad discretion" to determine whether class certification is appropriate. See Mira v. Nuclear Measurements Corp., 107 F.3d 466, 474 (7th Cir. 1997), citing Retired Chicago Police Ass'n v. City of Chicago, 7 F.3d 584, 596 (7th Cir. 1993). And while these cases provide a certain level of guidance, ultimately, this Court must conduct its own rigorous analysis of the facts and claims of this case to determine whether Plaintiffs' proposed class should be certified.

III. Rule 23(a)

Rule 23(a) lists the requirements that must be met for any class certified under Rule 23: numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). The requirements in Rule 23(a) focus more on the similarities among the facts and legal theories relevant to each class member's claim than the potential differences between them. And while the requirements of Rule 23(a) tend to overlap, each prong must be satisfied before a class may be ...


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