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Thomas v. City of Peoria

February 2, 2007

JOSEPH A. THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PEORIA, ILLINOIS, & SONNI WILLIAMS, ASSISTANT CORPORATION COUNSEL OF THE CITY OF PEORIA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDade United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is the City of Peoria's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 25) and Sonni Williams' ("Williams") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 27). Plaintiff has filed two separate Responses to these Motions (Docs. 36 & 37). Also before the Court is the City of Peoria's Motion to Deny Class Certification (Doc. 23) and Williams' Motion to Deny Class Certification (Doc. 29). Plaintiff has also filed two separate responses to these Motions (Doc. 28 & 41). For the following reasons Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and Defendants' Motions to Deny Class Certification are GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Joseph A. Thomas, was operating his vehicle on January 30, 2005 when he was stopped for a traffic violation in the City of Peoria. Plaintiff was arrested on an outstanding arrest warrant for a Joshua A. Thomas. Plaintiff did not have the same name as the name on the arrest warrant, nor did he have the same address as that listed on the warrant. However, he did have the same driver's license number as the number listed on the arrest warrant. Plaintiff was taken to the Peoria County Jail where he paid a $100 bond and was released.

On February 10, 2005, Plaintiff (Joseph Thomas) appeared before Circuit Court Judge Albert Purham. Judge Purham held that the individual appearing before him was not the Joshua Thomas listed in the arrest warrant and ordered that the bond be refunded.

Plaintiff now brings a suit under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Amendment IV and XIV of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also brings claims based in state law for abuse of process and false arrest. Additionally, Plaintiff seeks relief on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals.

The focus of Plaintiff's claim, however, is not just upon the false arrest. The focus of Plaintiff's claim is mostly upon the grounds for Joshua Thomas's warrant -- specifically, the fact that Joshua Thomas's arrest warrant was for unpaid parking tickets. Joshua Thomas had nine unpaid parking tickets by February 10, 2004. Defendant Williams, as attorney for the city, filed with the Circuit Court of Peoria County, Illinois, a parking ticket complaint. The city then filed a summons for issuance by the Circuit Clerk of Peoria County. However the City was unable to serve process upon Joshua Thomas. Williams then obtained an alias summons on June 28, 2004, but they were again unable to successfully serve that summons. A second alias summons was issued on August 12, 2004 and again they were unable to serve that summons. Furthermore, a postal inquiry revealed that Joshua Thomas was not residing at the listed address.

On October 8, 2004, Circuit Judge Stephen Kouri issued the arrest warrant for Joshua Thomas. According to Plaintiff's Complaint, Williams supplied the incorrect driver's license number in a supplement to her Affidavit in Support of Issuance of Arrest Warrant. Plaintiff was arrested with a similar name and the same driver's license number as the arrest warrant. He is now bringing a claim not just for the false arrest but also seeks to represent a class of similarly situated persons who have been arrested for parking tickets or who have outstanding arrest warrants for parking tickets.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must view the Complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff and the Complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations must be accepted as true. Williams v. Ramos, 71 F.3d 1246, 1250 (7th Cir. 1995). Therefore, a complaint can only be dismissed if a plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts upon which relief can be granted. Travel All Over the World, Inc. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1429-30 (7th Cir. 1996). However, the Court is not bound by a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Baxter by Baxter v. Vigo County School Corp., 26 F.3d 728, 730 (7th Cir. 1994). The province of Rule 12(b)(6) motions is to question the availability of a legal formula justifying relief on the alleged facts, not to test or determine the facts themselves. Maple Lanes, Inc. v. Messer, 196 F.3d 823, 824-25 (7th Cir. 1999).

III. ANALYSIS

In order to defeat the Motions to Dismiss, Plaintiff raises several arguments.*fn1 There are two main provinces of Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff is seeking to represent a class of persons arrested or subject to outstanding arrest warrants without service in City of Peoria noise and parking actions. Thus, the focus of Plaintiff's arguments are on the constitutionality of arrests without service for noise and parking violations. Plaintiff's secondary arguments focus on Plaintiff's mistaken arrest. The Court will address the following arguments raised by the parties: A) Plaintiff's numerous statutory arguments, B) the status of parking violation actions as a quasi-criminal matter, C) Plaintiff's procedural due process arguments, D) the issues of absolute and qualified immunity, and E) the issue of class certification. Plaintiff's claim for false arrest can not be dismissed at this stage and will not be addressed until the Summary Judgment stage of litigation.

A. Plaintiff's Statutory Arguments

Plaintiff presents several arguments that have already been addressed in several of the other 'parking-ticket' cases which have appeared in this District. Previously, the City of Peoria and Plaintiff's Counsel debated over which section of Illinois Law governed parking. Plaintiff's Counsel argued that Illinois Motor Vehicle Code controlled the issue while Defendant's argued that the Illinois Municipal Code applied.*fn2 These arguments were presented before United States District Judge Michael M. Mihm in Rist v. City of Peoria, 05-1013 (C.D.Ill. Order on Motion to Dismiss, September 26, 2005). Judge Mihm held that the Illinois Municipal Code is the proper chapter of Illinois law for courts to reference when determining whether Illinois state law authorizes the arrest of a person who has failed to pay multiple parking tickets. Judge Mihm's reasoning went as follows:

The Illinois Vehicle Code gives local authorities the power to regulate "the standing or parking of vehicles." 625 ILCS 5/11-208. Contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, Section 5/11-207, which prevents local municipalities from enacting or enforcing any regulation in conflict with the provisions in the Illinois Vehicle Code, does not prevent a municipality from enacting a parking ordinance even if those ordinances differ from those listed in the Illinois Vehicle Code. See 625 ILCS 5/11-207; 5/11-208. Plaintiff's argument fails to recognize that Section 207 actually states "no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance rule or regulation in conflict with the provisions of this Chapter unless expressly authorized herein." Id. (emphasis added). The very next section of the Chapter expressly authorizes local authorities to enact rules and regulations regarding parking. See 625 ILCS 5/11-208(a). Section 208 states "[t]he provisions of this Code shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power from . . . regulating the standing or parking of vehicles." 625 ILCS 5/11-208(a)(1). Accordingly, because the Illinois Vehicle Code does not regulate parking but rather gives municipalities the power to enact local ordinances to regulate parking, the Illinois Municipal Code is the proper chapter of this Code for this Court to reference when determining whether Illinois state law authorizes the arrest of a person who has failed to pay multiple parking tickets.

The parties now pick up their arguments from Judge Mihm's holding. Plaintiff argues that Illinois Courts have held that that the Illinois Motor Vehicle code controls over the Illinois Municipal code and cites People ex rel Ryan v. Village of Hanover Park, 724 N.E.2d 132 (Ill.App.1st. 1999). However, People ex rel Ryan does not apply. In that case the Court addressed a quo warrantor claim brought by the attorney general against Illinois municipalities. The municipalities were issuing traffic citations without reporting traffic offenses to the Illinois Secretary of State as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 552 and Section 2-604 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. In that case, the Illinois Vehicle Code would obviously control over the Illinois Municipal code because the Vehicle Code specifically stated the reporting requirements. In parking ticket cases, however, the Illinois Vehicle Code specifically states that "[t]he provisions of this Code shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable ...


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