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Rist v. City of Peoria

June 19, 2006

LAURIE RIST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PEORIA, ILLINOIS, SONNI WILLIAMS, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, NEIL WILLIAMSON, SHERIFF OF SANGAMON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, AND SANGAMON COUNTY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Micahel M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court are Defendant City of Peoria's Motion for Summary Judgment and Request for Rule 54(b) Finding, Sonni Williams' Motion for Summary Judgment and Request for Rule 54(b) Finding, Plaintiff's Motion to Consolidate Cases, and Plaintiff's Motion to Deny Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment or Alternatively To Continue Hearing Until After a Determination of Class Certification and Discovery. Plaintiff's Motion to Continue Hearing Until After a Determination of Class Certification and Discovery [#73] was GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART at an April 20, 2006 hearing. For the reasons that follow, the Motions for Summary Judgment and Rule 54(b) Findings [#69 and #70] are GRANTED and Plaintiffs Motion to Alter the March 24, 2006 Order and Consolidate Cases [#80] is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case have been set out in numerous past opinions of this Court. Suffice it to say that Plaintiff Laurie Rist filed a Complaint against the City of Peoria and Sonni Williams (the "Defendants") after a warrant was issued and she was arrested for failing to pay parking tickets. Although she has additional claims against the individual jail employees at the Sangamon County Jail, the essence of her claims against the City of Peoria and Assistant Corporation Counsel Sonni Williams are that they (1) deprived her of a liberty interest without due process; (2) deprived her of a property interest without due process; (3) deprived her of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; and (4) abused the legal system by subjecting her to arrest for unpaid parking tickets. The City of Peoria and Sonni Williams filed Motions to Dismiss and the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendation on the Motions. The City of Peoria, Sonni Williams, and Rist all filed objections to the Report and Recommendations. After a thorough consideration of the Report and Recommendations as well as the various objections, this Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Rist's deprivation of liberty and abuse of process claims and denied the Motion with respect to Rist's deprivation of property and Fourth Amendment claims.

After limited discovery, Defendants filed Motions for Partial Summary Judgment on Rist's Fourth Amendment claim. Rist responded to the Motions and sought leave to amend her Complaint to include the names of the Sangamon County jailers (who had previously been unnamed) and to add class allegations against the Defendants.

The Court granted Defendants' Motions for Partial Summary Judgment on Rist's Fourth Amendment claims finding that Defendants lawfully sought and obtained a warrant for Rist's arrest despite the fact that she had not been given notice prior to being arrested for failing to pay her parking tickets. First, the Court found that Rist admitted the existence of probable cause for her arrest. Second, despite Rist's assertions to the contrary, the Court found that the Illinois Municipal Code authorized Rist's arrest and the City of Peoria had not enacted legislation demanding a different result.

Additionally, the Court granted Rist's Motion to Amend her Complaint to the extent that Rist sought to add the names of the Sangamon County jailers but denied the Motion to Amend with respect to Rist's desire to add class allegations. The Court found that the addition of class claims was not appropriate at such a late stage in the litigation and found that it would be futile to allow Rist to amend her Complaint to include claims by other individuals because Rist's Fourth Amendment claim did not have merit.

Rist then asked the Court to amend its previous Order to allow Rist to include class allegations on Rist's deprivation of property claims. Recognizing that it had inadvertently neglected to address Rist's Motion to Amend to add class claims with respect to Rist's deprivation of property claim, the only remaining claim pending against the City of Peoria and Sonni Williams, the Court reviewed and denied Rist the opportunity to add class claims on her deprivation of property claims. Unlike the Fourth Amendment claim, the deprivation of property claim had not been ruled on as of the date of the Order; however, the Court found that justice did not require the Court to allow Rist leave to amend her complaint because identical relief was being sought in another case pending in this district. Specifically, Rist's attorney had filed another case requesting class certification, see Thomas v. City of Peoria, Case No. 06-1018, ten days after Rist filed her motion to amend to add class claims and prior to this Court's ruling on the motion. A review of the Complaint in Thomas indicated that Rist's counsel was attempting to bring two separate actions in order to get the same relief on behalf of the same class of putative plaintiffs. Accordingly, the Court found that adding class claims to this case would be duplicative of the relief being sought in Thomas. Additionally, the Court noted that adding class allegations to this case, at a time when some claims had already been dismissed, summary judgment had partially been entered, and the remainder of the allegations against the City of Peoria and Sonni Williams were the subject of pending Motions for Summary Judgment, would be unfairly prejudicial to the Defendants. Finally, the Court found that the Thomas case was the more appropriate case for the assertion of class claims as it was recently filed and had not yet been the subject of any dispositive rulings.

As mentioned, the Defendants filed the instant Motions for Summary Judgment and Requests for Rule 54(b) Findings on March 9, 2006, and March 15, 2006, respectively. Defendants seek summary judgment on Rist's deprivation of property claim. In response to these Motions, Rist filed a "Motion to Deny Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment or Alternatively, To Continue Hearing Until After a Determination of Class Certification and Discovery." (See Docket Entry #73.) Specifically, Rist sought additional time to complete discovery on the deprivation of property claim. Rist also filed a "Motion to Alter March 24, 2006 Order and to Consolidate Action with C.D. Ill. No. 06-1018," see Docket Entry #80, arguing that the Court should alter its March 24, 2006, Order denying Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint to add class claims and to allow this case to be consolidated with the Thomas case. The Court held a hearing on both of Rist's Motions on April 20, 2006. At the hearing, the Court granted Rist additional time to conduct discovery, allowing Rist the opportunity to provide her own affidavit, an explanation of court costs, and related arguments in her attempt to respond to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. Rist then supplemented her previously filed response to summary judgment and Defendants supplemented their reply. As all of the outstanding issues have now been fully briefed, this Order follows.

DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Deny Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment or Alternatively, To Continue Hearing Until After a Determination of Class Certification and Discovery

Rist filed the instant motion arguing that the Court should delay ruling on Defendants Motions for Summary Judgment and allow Plaintiff to conduct additional discovery regarding what the state court order meant when it imposed $83.00 in court costs and fines. Specifically, Rist argued that she should be allowed to conduct depositions of Sangamon County officials regarding the costs that Sangamon County incurs as a result of arresting people for failing to pay parking tickets and that this information is necessary so that the court can engage in an analysis of the costs and benefits associated with having police officers arrest individuals for failing to pay parking tickets. See Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976). The Court found that it was not necessary to conduct the Matthews v. Eldridge balancing test because the balancing test is used to determine what amount of process is due to an individual before their property benefits are terminated. Here, Rist was given full judicial process prior to paying the $83.00 in court costs and fines. She appeared in court in front of a judge and was accompanied by counsel. Despite Rist's assertions to the contrary, her deprivation of property claim is not about whether the City should have given her notice prior to arresting her. This Court has already determined that her arrest was lawful. Rist was given full due process and therefore the Court found that Rist was not entitled to conduct extensive additional discovery. The only discovery that the Court found was justified at this stage of the litigation was discovery on the question of what the $83.00 in court costs consisted of and the submission of an affidavit by Rist herself. Accordingly, the Court granted Rist additional time to conduct limited discovery, allowing Rist the opportunity to provide her own affidavit, an explanation of court costs, and related arguments. The Court granted Rist additional rime to submit this information as a supplemental response to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment.*fn1 Rist subsequently supplemented her response to summary judgment and Defendants supplemented their reply. As the Motions for Summary Judgment are now fully briefed, the Court will address them in this Order.

B. Motion to Alter March 24, 2006 Order and to Consolidate Action with C.D. Ill. No. 06-1018

Rist filed the instant motion arguing that this Court should amend its March 24, 2006 Order, which denied Rist's Motion to Amend her Complaint to include class claims. Rist argues that the Court should consolidate her case with the case of Thomas v. City of Peoria, No. 06-1018 (C.D.Ill. Jan. 30, 2006) and alter its previous order allowing the Court to determine if either the Rist case or the Thomas case are the appropriate cases for class certification. Recognizing that Rule 42 allows the Court to consolidate separate actions "involving a common question of law or fact," the Court does not find that consolidation is appropriate in this instance. Specifically, the issues in ...


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