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Torre v. City of Northlake

July 31, 2006

FERNANDO DE LA TORRE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NORTHLAKE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Fernando De La Torre ("De La Torre") contends that on November 29, 2004, he was stopped by two Northlake, Illinois police officers for a traffic violation. De La Torre claims that when the officers ran De La Torre's driver's license in the police computer, the officers found an arrest warrant for a "Fernando De La Torre" that had been issued out of Merrilville, Indiana ("Warrant"). De La Torre claims that the officers informed him of the Warrant and De La Torre insisted that he could not possibly be the man in the Warrant.

According to De La Torre, the Warrant contained no physical description, except for race and gender indicators that matched De La Torre's race and gender. In addition, De La Torre claims that the Warrant contained De La Torre's own social security number and birth date, as well as an address at which De La Torre had never resided. De La Torre alleges further that there was no photograph or fingerprint information contained in the Warrant.

De La Torre alleges that the police officers placed him under arrest and took him to the Northlake police station, where he was held for two days. According to De La Torre, during this time he continued to insist that he was not the man named in the Warrant. De La Torre alleges that Defendant Jay Militello ("Militello") interviewed De La Torre several times and that De La Torre told Militello that he had been a victim of identity theft. In addition, De La Torre claims that several of his family members came to the Northlake station to corroborate his story of identity theft. According to De La Torre, Militello called the Indiana authorities and was informed that there was no photograph or fingerprint information on file for the Warrant. De La Torre also claims that the Indiana authorities told Militello that De La Torre had no prior criminal history. De La Torre alleges that in a phone conversation with De La Torre's attorney, Militello stated that he did not believe that De La Torre was the man named in the Warrant. De La Torre contends, however, that Militello conducted no further investigation to verify that the correct man had been arrested pursuant to the Warrant.

According to De La Torre, he was brought before a Cook County judge on December 2, 2004. De La Torre claims that he continued to assert his story of identity theft before the judge, that he refused to waive extradition, and that the judge ordered that the case be continued until December 8, 2004. De La Torre alleges that, in the meantime, De La Torre's family hired a private investigator who contacted one of the case officers from Indiana and asked him to come to court on December 8, 2004. According to De La Torre, the Indiana officer testified to the court that De La Torre was not the person wanted in the Warrant. De La Torre claims that this testimony resulted in the court ordering that De La Torre be released. However, De La Torre alleges that he was not released from the Cook County Jail until December 10, 2004.

De La Torre also claims that on September 2, 2005, he was again stopped for a traffic violation, this time within the City of Chicago, by Defendant Officer Johnson ("Johnson") and Defendant Officer Wood ("Wood"). De La Torre claims that he gave Johnson and Wood his license, that Johnson and Wood ran De La Torre's license in the computer, and that they told De La Torre about the very same warrant on which he had previously been arrested in Northlake. According to De La Torre, he immediately told Johnson and Wood about his prior arrest pursuant to the Warrant and about the fact that his identity had been stolen. De La Torre also claims that he told Johnson and Wood that a court had already determined that he was not the person named in the Warrant. De La Torre claims that despite these assertions, Johnson and Wood arrested De La Torre and took him to the Chicago Police Department. De La Torre alleges that he was transferred to the Cook County Jail on September 3, 2005. According to De La Torre, the petition for his extradition to Indiana was eventually withdrawn and a Cook County judge again ordered his release, which occurred on September 6, 2005.

De La Torre filed his amended complaint on April 10, 2006, and included in his complaint one claim against Militello and Defendant City of Northlake ("Northlake") alleging a deprivation of his fourth and fourteenth amendment rights (Count I), and a claim against Johnson, Wood, and Defendant City of Chicago ("Chicago") alleging a deprivation of his fourth and fourteenth amendment rights (Count II). Defendants have moved to dismiss all counts.

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for a failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege the "operative facts" upon which each claim is based. Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998). Under the current notice pleading standard in federal courts a plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each element of a 'cause of action . . . .'" Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)(stating also that "[a]t this stage the plaintiff receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint" and that "[m]atching facts against legal elements comes later"). The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead conclusions. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). However, any conclusions pled must "provide the defendant with at least minimal notice of the claim," Id., and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirements merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts which fail to outline the bases of [his] claims." Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67. The Seventh Circuit has explained that "[o]ne pleads a 'claim for relief' by briefly describing the events." Sanjuan, 40 F.3d at 251.

DISCUSSION

I. Municipal Liability

Defendants Northlake and Chicago have moved to dismiss De La Torre's claims against them, arguing that De La Torre has not properly plead a constitutional violation under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The doctrine of respondeat superior cannot be utilized to hold local governmental units liable for violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. A municipal governmental unit cannot be held liable under Section 1983 "unless the deprivation of constitutional rights is caused by a municipal policy or custom." Kujawski v. Board of Comm'rs., 183 F.3d 734, 737 (7th Cir. 1999). A local governmental unit's unconstitutional policy or custom can be: "(1) an express policy that causes a constitutional deprivation when enforced; (2) a widespread practice, that, although unauthorized, is so permanent and ...


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