UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS PEORIA DIVISION
April 20, 2007
ROBERT O. IDAHOSA, PLAINTIFF,
CREVE COEUR POLICE DEPARTMENT, VILLAGE OF CREVE COEUR, AND BRIAN K. DESPINES, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge
Before the Court are the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants on November 15, 2006 [Doc. 27] and the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff on December 21, 2006 [Doc. 31]. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.
On May 22, 2003, around 5:00 a.m., Plaintiff, who is an African-American male, was following a car occupied by a female acquaintance, a Caucasian. When the two cars entered the Village of Creve Coeur, the lead car, containing the female acquaintance, was pulled over by Defendant, Brian K. Despines, who was a Creve Coeur police officer, for speeding. Plaintiff, in turn, pulled his car over and stopped behind Officer Despines' police cruiser. Officer Despines approached Plaintiff's vehicle and asked why he had stopped. Plaintiff explained that he was following the lead car. At that point, Officer Despines indicated that because the lead car was speeding, Plaintiff also must have been speeding.
Officer Despines issued Plaintiff a speeding ticket. In his deposition, Plaintiff states that he wanted to challenge the ticket. (Robert Idahosa Deposition 30-31). However, he did not appear in Court at first because of a family matter and later because he was on military duty. (Idahosa Dep. 31). He then filed a "motion to vacate" which was denied by the traffic court. (Idahosa Dep. 31). At some point, Plaintiff's license was suspended for failing to pay the ticket. Plaintiff then indicates that he paid a fine in order to get his license back. (Idahosa Dep. 34). Plaintiff also appealed the traffic court's decision to no avail. (Idahosa Dep. 32).
The following facts are disputed. Plaintiff states that prior to taking his driver's license, Officer Despines stated: "what are you blacks doing with our girls?" Officer Despines denies making any racial comments or remarks to Plaintiff. Plaintiff also states that another officer arrived on the scene. This second officer opened the passenger door of Plaintiff's car and proceeded to search the interior of the car. There is no indication in the record as to the identity of this second officer. This second officer is not listed as a Defendant in this action. Officer Despines denies anything but a visual inspection of Plaintiff's car, although he doesn't specifically deny that another officer was on the scene. Finally, Plaintiff states that he was not speeding.
Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed the Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a number of violations of his Constitutional rights. He alleges that Officer Despines discriminated against him on account of his race by issuing the speeding ticket. He states that he was harassed by the officer because of his race. He further states that his right to travel, to use the public roads, and his human rights were violated by Officer Despines. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated. Plaintiff lists as Defendants, in addition to Officer Despines, the Creve Coeur Police Department and the Village of Creve Coeur. The Complaint does not make any specific allegations against these Defendants and merely indicates that they employ Officer Despines. Plaintiff seeks money damages and equitable relief in the form of an apology, training for Officer Despines, and disciplinary actions.
Summary judgment should be granted where "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 moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court as to portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.
Once the movant has met its burden, to survive summary judgment, the "non-movant must show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which he bears the burden of proof at trial." Warsco v. Preferred Tech. Group, 258 F.3d 557, 563 (7th Cir. 2001); See also Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-24. "The non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; it must go beyond the pleadings and support its contentions with proper documentary evidence." Chemsource, Inc. v. Hub Group, Inc., 106 F.3d 1358, 1361 (7th Cir. 1997). This Court must nonetheless "view the record and all inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to the [non-moving party]." Holland v. Jefferson Nat. Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). In doing so, this Court is not "required to draw every conceivable inference from the record -- only those inferences that are reasonable." Bank Leumi Le-Isreal, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2nd 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991). Therefore, if the record before the court "could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party," then no genuine issue of material fact exists and, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. McClendon v. Indiana Sugars, Inc., 108 F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). However, in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court may not weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact; disputed facts must be left for resolution at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).
A. Plaintiff's Claims against the Creve Coeur Police Department and Village of Creve Coeur
Plaintiff's Complaint does not make out any specific claim against these two entities. As Defendants point out, however, Plaintiff may bring a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against a municipality pursuant to the holding in Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).*fn1
In order to make out such a claim, Plaintiff must come forth with evidence of a policy or regulation that, if enforced, results in a deprivation of a Constitutional right. Id. at 690-691. Plaintiff can accomplish this by presenting evidence of an express policy, a "widespread practice that, although not authorized by written law or express municipal policy, is so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law," or by presenting evidence that "the constitutional injury was caused by a person with final policymaking authority." Roach v. City of Evansville, 111 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff has presented no evidence of an express policy, or that there is a custom or usage, or that any deprivation was caused by a person with final policymaking authority. The one incident that Plaintiff complains of is insufficient to establish such a claim. City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823-824 (1985) ("Proof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability under Monell, unless proof of the incident includes proof that it was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy, which policy can be attributed to a municipal policymaker.").
The record is simply devoid of any evidence that would support a Monell claim. Plaintiff's failure to present such evidence is fatal to his claims against the Village of Creve Coeur and the Creve Coeur Police Department. Both are entitled to summary judgment in their favor as a matter of law. Koszola v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, 385 F.3d 1104, 1111 (7th Cir. 2004)(noting that the summary judgment stage is when a party must come forth with evidence that he would use to convince a trier of fact of his version of events).
B. Plaintiff's claims against Brian K. Despines
1. Qualified Immunity
Defendants first argue that Despines is entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity must be determined at the earliest possible time in a lawsuit because it is immunity from suit rather than a defense to liability. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200-201 (2001). In order to determine whether Despines is entitled to qualified immunity, the Court must first ask: "Taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right?" Id. at 201. At the summary judgment stage, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in repeating this first question, held that "First, the plaintiff must present evidence that, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, would allow a reasonable fact finder to determine that he has been deprived of a constitutional right." Washington v. Haupert, ___ F.3d ___, 2007 WL 896186, *4 (7th Cir. 2007); See also Mannoia v. Farrow, 476 F.4f 453, 457 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Although the privilege of qualified immunity is a defense, Plaintiff carries the burden of defeating it."). If the answer is yes, the Court must then ask whether the right was clearly established. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. Plaintiff has alleged three Constitutional violations: his Equal protection rights were violated; his right to travel was violated; and his right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure was violated. Each allegation will be taken in turn.
b. Equal Protection
Plaintiff alleges that his equal protection rights were violated when Despines issued him a ticket on account of his race.*fn2 Police officers are prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from "selective enforcement of the law based on considerations such as race." Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996). In order to prevail on this claim, Plaintiff must show that "the defendants' actions had a discriminatory effect and were motivated by a discriminatory purpose." Chavez v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 621 (7th Cir. 2001); Billings v. Madison Metropolitan School District, 259 F.3d 807, 812 (7th Cir. 2001) (indicating that a Plaintiff can show an equal protection violation by showing that "a state actor has treated him differently from persons of a different race and that the state actor did so purposefully"); See also United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 465 (1996) (in a selective prosecution case stating that a plaintiff must show the government's policy "had a discriminatory effect and that it was motivated by a discriminatory purpose" (citations and quotation marks omitted)).
In order to determine whether the Despines' actions had a discriminatory effect, Plaintiff must come forth with evidence that he is a member of a protected class, that he is similarly situated to members of the unprotected class, and that he was treated differently from members of the unprotected class. Chavez, 251 F.3d at 636; United States v. Barlow, 310 F.3d 1007, 1011 (7th Cir. 2002) (stating that in order "to establish discriminatory effect, an African American claimant must demonstrate that a law or regulation was enforced against him, but not against similarly situated individuals of other races."). There is no question that Plaintiff, an African-American, is a member of a protected class. However, Plaintiff has identified no similarly situated person of the unprotected class who was treated differently.*fn3 Nor has Plaintiff presented any statistical evidence that he was treated differently from other motorists in the unprotected class who were similarly situated. Chavez, 251 F.3d at 640. As Plaintiff has failed to come forth with any evidence showing a discriminatory effect, it is unnecessary to discuss whether there was a discriminatory intent.*fn4 Plaintiff therefore has failed to show that Despines' conduct violated his equal protection rights. As such, Despines is entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.
c. Right to Travel
Plaintiff next claims that his right to travel and other human rights were violated by Despines. It is unclear from Plaintiff's Complaint, his motions, and his responses before the Court, exactly what other rights Plaintiff alleges the Defendant violated that would fall under the umbrella of his "human rights." However, the right to travel, to generally move about freely, is a cognizable claim. In Chavez, the Seventh Circuit held that:
The right to travel 'embraces at least three different components:' (1) the right of a citizen of one state to enter and leave another state; (2) the right to be treated as a welcome visitor rather than an unfriendly alien when temporarily present in the second state; and (3) for those travelers who elect to become permanent residents, the right to be treated like other citizens of that state.
Id. 251 F.3d at 648 (citing Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489, 500 (1999)).
Plaintiff has presented no evidence that his right to enter or leave Illinois has been prevented by Despines' enforcement of Illinois' traffic laws. He has presented no evidence that his treatment as a temporary visitor has been infringed (or that he is merely a temporary visitor to Illinois and not a resident therein); nor has he presented evidence that he has been treated differently than other citizens of the state as a new permanent resident. There is simply no showing that any action of Despines in enforcing Illinois' traffic laws has actually deterred interstate travel, or any other type of travel. See Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez, 476 U.S. 898, 903 (1986). Thus, Despines is entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.
d. Right to be Free from Unreasonable Seizures Plaintiff's further claim with respect to Despines is that he did not have probable cause to detain him.
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures and even a momentary detention can lead to a Constitutional violation. See Whren, 517 U.S. 809-810 ("Temporary detention of individuals during the stop of an automobile by the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a 'seizure' of 'persons' within the meaning of this provision."). A search or seizure is not unreasonable if it is supported by probable cause. "Probable cause exists when 'the circumstances confronting a police officer support the reasonable belief that a driver has committed even a minor traffic offense.'" United States v. Muriel, 418 F.3d 720, 724 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v. Cashman, 216 F.3d 582, 586 (7th Cir. 2000)). The relevant inquiry is whether Despines had a reasonable basis to approach Plaintiff and a subsequent reasonable belief that Plaintiff violated the law.
Notwithstanding Plaintiff's assertions that he was "arrested," Despines' initial contact with Plaintiff was nothing more than an investigatory stop. See Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 439 (1984) (stating that "the usual traffic stop is more analogous to a so-called 'Terry stop', than to a formal arrest." (citation omitted)).*fn5 In the situation that confronted Despines, it was reasonable of him to approach Plaintiff's vehicle and inquire: Despines was in the process of issuing a traffic citation and Plaintiff pulled his car behind Despines' police cruiser. No jury would find that Despines behaved unreasonably in approaching Plaintiff.
With respect to the momentary detention in order to issue the speeding ticket, the ulterior motives of Despines, even assuming racial animus based upon his statement, will not invalidate Despines' action in issuing the ticket if probable cause existed. See United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 221 n.1 (1973); Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 136-138 (1978); Whren, 517 U.S. at 809-813. All of these cases stand for the proposition that an officer's ulterior motive does not invalidate objectively justifiable behavior under the Fourth Amendment. See United States v. Bass, 325 F.3d 847, 850 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court further notes that probable cause to believe that Plaintiff was speeding does not require that the officer be certain that the law was violated. A stop can be reasonable even if it is later revealed that there was no violation of the law so long as "the officer reasonably believed an offense occurred." United States v. McDonald, 453 F.3d 958, 961 (7th Cir. 2006).
As indicated above, the first question in the qualified immunity analysis is: "Taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right?" Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. As this case is at the summary judgment stage, the Plaintiff must affirmatively come forth with evidence that would lead a reasonable jury to believe that Despines violated his rights.
In this case, the only fact that Despines has presented is that the Plaintiff admitted to following a car that was stopped for speeding. Did this admission, standing alone, provide Despines with a reasonable belief that Plaintiff also was speeding? Whether or not this conclusion (without any supporting facts) is sufficient to allow this Court to find that Despines is entitled to qualified immunity requires analysis. See United States v. Cashman, 216 F.3d 582, 587 (7th Cir. 2000) (stating "so long as the circumstances confronting a police officer support the reasonable belief that a driver has committed even a minor traffic offense, the officer has probable cause to stop the driver"); See also United States v. Mounts, 248 F.3d 712, 715 (7th Cir. 2001) (same).
Without any more information than this conclusory statement, could a reasonable jury find probable cause? I doubt it. At a minimum, the jury would need to know the circumstances prompting Despines' conclusion, e.g.: the distance between the two vehicles when he decided that the first car was speeding and the time between the stop of the first car and the arrival of Plaintiff's car at the stop. This information may be supplied, somewhat, by the Plaintiff's only evidence, his affidavit. In this affidavit, the Plaintiff indicates:
3. That I drove roughly approximately between 50ft to 100ft behind the vehicle my white female friend was riding in at all time. I was driving the legal speed limit posted on the highway and roads on that day and maintains legal speed limit. That I was not speeding. [sic]
4. While driving on Rout 474 and Main ,Public highway, there were other motorist driving in front of plaintiff and passing plaintiff on the same direction. [sic]
5. I noticed that the vehicle that my friend was riding was stopped by a vehicle who appears to be a police cruiser. I notice the officer was out of his cruiser talking to the driver of the vehicle. [sic]
6. I pulled to the side of the road and stopped about 25ft to 30 ft behind the police cruiser. [sic] (Idahosa Aff., Doc. 35, Ex. D).
Defendants do not address the statements made in Plaintiff's affidavit.*fn6 With only the bare information that Despines' acknowledges -- that he gave Plaintiff a speeding ticket because the car he admitted to following was speeding -- and Plaintiff's statement that he was not speeding, that he pulled in behind Despines after he already had exited his police cruiser and was talking to persons in the first car, this Court cannot find, as a matter of law, that Despines did have probable cause to detain Plaintiff in order to issue a ticket. Rather, it would appear that the Plaintiff was given a ticket merely because he happened to pull in behind the officer and not because the officer had any objective reason to believe that he had been speeding. As such, a jury could find that Despines lacked probable cause to detain Plaintiff.
In light of this conclusion, it is necessary to address the second Saucier question: whether the right was clearly established. Id. 533 U.S. at 201; See County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841 n.5 (1998). Defendants do not address this issue. The Supreme Court held, in 1997, that:
An automobile stop is thus subject to the constitutional imperative that it not be 'unreasonable' under the circumstances. As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is unreasonable where the police lacks probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.
Whren, 517 U.S. at 810.
Thus, there can be no doubt that the right to be free from unreasonable seizures was clearly established prior to the relevant time period. See Dreibel v. City of Milwaukee, 298 F.3d 622, 652 (7th Cir. 2002) (holding that "innumerable decision . . . have clearly established the right to be free from arrest without probable cause"); Jacobs v. City of Chicago, 215 F.3d 758, 773 (7th Cir. 2000) (holding that "it was clearly established that a citizen may not be detained by law enforcement officials without probable cause"). Therefore, Despines is not entitled to qualified immunity on the claim that he unreasonably seized Plaintiff.
e. The Right to be Free from Unreasonable Searches
In Plaintiff's briefs before the Court, he also argues that Despines unreasonably searched his vehicle or that he directed the unreasonable search by the second officer. This claim was not made in Plaintiff's Complaint, nor can this claim be reasonably construed from the Complaint, and Plaintiff has not sought to amend his Complaint in order to add this claim. Even if Plaintiff did assert such a claim, it is undisputed in the record that Despines only visually inspected Plaintiff's vehicle during the brief stop. Merely looking into the windows of Plaintiff's car does not constitute a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. See Edmond v. Goldsmith, 183 F.3d 659, 662 (7th Cir. 1999) (stating that "the peering into the car windows and the sniffing of the car by the dog outside does not rise to the level of a search as that term of the amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court" (citing United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 707 (1983) (concerning dog sniffs) and Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 739-740 (1983) ("It is likewise beyond dispute that Maples' action in shining his flashlight to illuminate the interior of Brown's car trenched upon no right secured to the latter by the Fourth Amendment."), among other cases). As no Constitutional right has been violated, Despines is entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.
In addition, Despines cannot be liable for the actions of another officer under a theory of respondeat superior, Perkins v. Lawson, 312 F.3d 872, 875 (7th Cir. 2002), or under any theory that he directed the conduct of the unknown officer: there is no evidence that Despines played a supervisory role in the stop of Plaintiff or that he directed the conduct of the second officer. As the second officer is not a party to this lawsuit, any claims relating to this officer must fail.
In sum, while Plaintiff has the Constitutional rights to the equal protection of the laws and to travel freely, the facts before the Court reveal that Despines' conduct did not violate those rights. Therefore, Despines is entitled to qualified immunity on these Constitutional claims. Despines also is entitled to qualified immunity on the Plaintiff's unreasonable search claims as the facts presented do not reveal a Constitutional violation. The Plaintiff, however, has presented sufficient evidence to withstand the defense of qualified immunity on the claim of unreasonable seizure. As a jury could reasonably find that Despines lacked probable cause to detain Plaintiff in order to issue the traffic citation, Despines is not entitled to qualified immunity on that claim.
2. Res Judicata and Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)
Defendants next argue that Plaintiff pled guilty to the speeding ticket and is therefore barred by res judicata from challenging the ticket in this proceeding. Illinois law governs the preclusive effect of Illinois state court judgments, Hicks v. Midwest Transit, Inc., 479 F.3d 468, 471 (7th Cir. 2007). The doctrine of res judicata provides that "a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action." Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980). In order for a prior judgment to have preclusive effect, there must be "(1) a final judgment on the merits in an earlier action; (2) an identity of the cause of action in both the earlier and the later suit; and (3) an identity of parties or privies in the two suits." Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 913 (7th Cir. 1993) (federal law); Hicks, 479 F.3d at 471 (state law). The doctrine bars issues that were raised in the prior proceedings and those that could have been raised. Hicks, 479 F.3d at 471. Defendant appears to argue that Plaintiff could have raised the issue of the constitutionality of the stop in the state court proceedings and that the failure to do so forecloses his current claim.
The problem with this argument is that it is unclear from the evidence cited that there was a final judgment on the merits of the Plaintiff's traffic case. The only evidence that the Defendant cites to that would indicate a resolution of Plaintiff's traffic case is his deposition testimony.*fn7 This testimony is not a model of clarity. With respect to his ticket, Plaintiff testified that:
I wanted to, you know, fight a ticket. And then I look at a ticket, which was a little bit confusing. One of them saying go to court, the other one saying you have to pay the ticket. I wanted to go to court and defend it. The day come, I have to go to Florida to see -- my daughter was sick. I could not make the court date, and so I call, I call the courthouse to let them know, hey, I'm in a bind, can I move for extension. They say when you get back, you can do it.
So when I get back, I was on military duty and I was doing my two weeks military training and that on the schedule, that was on the 4th of June, so I could not make it, so they say you file a motion to vacate it. I said okay. So I went and filed a motion to vacate so I can challenge the ticket.
Q: And did you file a motion?
A: I did, yes, I did.
Q: And the court denied that motion?
A: They denied it. Of course the judge stated that he wanted me to pay -- if I paid the fees, they would dismiss it. I said, No, why should I pay the fees, you know. I said, For one thing, I was not wrong, you know, on this case, so that's why I am here. Why should I be paying them? Me paying them means, you know, I accept the ticket. I say, No.
The Judge says, There's no way I'm going to dismiss it. So that's how he did it. I went back to the court and what do I do from here? This will allow me to contest a ticket, they wanted me to file an appeal, so I went ahead and filed an appeal. They were represented by the state, and during that process I thought I filed my brief, right, because I don't know anything about filing it. So I file it the way I know it. They object to I didn't file it properly. I can't follow the -- I didn't follow through. I could not afford a lawyer to help me out. (Idahosa Dep. 31-32).
He then goes on to state:
I remember the judge told me we don't deal with the race. You got to take it down to the court, the federal court on that one. I'm here for the ticket. If you want to file something, you go down to the different court. . . . That's why I file under the federal court. (Idahosa Dep. 33)
Finally he states:
Q: Did you miss any work because of the incident?
A: I did not, but my ticket*fn8 was suspended because I refused to pay the ticket. I said, I'm not going to pay. But the secretary suspend my ticket because there was a request from the clerk here to have it suspended because I didn't pay. So that's why I went ahead and finally paid. Driving, you know how it goes.
Q: So your driver's license got suspended because you didn't pay the fine?
A: The fine, right. So but later I paid it and they gave me my license back. But during that time I could not drive. (Idahosa Dep. 34)
Thus, it appears that Plaintiff did not pay the fine, was told to file a motion to vacate, that the motion was denied, that a judge told him that he would not deal with "race" issues, that he appealed, that his appeal was dismissed for the failure to file a brief, and that he eventually paid a fine in order to recover his license.
Defendant does not explain how this series of events leads to the conclusion that "there was a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction." Defendant points to no Illinois law which provides that the payment of a ticket in order to recover a license constitutes a guilty plea on the speeding ticket. Defendant also provides no state court judgment that adjudged Plaintiff guilty of the speeding violation on the merits. Indeed, it is unclear whether Plaintiff was afforded an opportunity to address the Constitutional issues that he raises here.
An exception to res judicata applies where "the plaintiff did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claim in state court." Hicks, 479 F.3d at 471 (citation and quotation marks omitted). A "full and fair opportunity" means that the "state court proceedings complied with the minimum procedural requirements of the Due Process Clause." Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). There is no indication that, given the state court judge's statement that he would not consider "race" issues and the dismissal of the appeal on procedural grounds, Plaintiff was afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate the Constitutional issues that could have been raised. Defendants also have presented no argument that there is identity with respect to the parties or the causes of action. For these reasons, Defendants' res judicata argument must fail at this time.
Similarly, the Defendants' brief is woefully deficient in arguing with respect to the applicability of Heck. Heck provides that a Plaintiff seeking money damages in a lawsuit that, if successful, would render a previous conviction invalid cannot bring suit pursuant to § 1983 unless the previous conviction has been expunged or otherwise invalidated. Id. 512 U.S. at 486-487. At minimum, Defendant must show that Plaintiff was convicted of speeding in order for this lawsuit to be dismissed (or at least the damages portion). Plaintiff's deposition only offers a confusing rendition of events at the state court level and Defendant has presented no other documentary evidence of Plaintiff's guilt. The Court is mindful that, generally speaking, paying a speeding ticket without seeking a hearing is an admission of guilt. However, Defendant points to no Illinois statute or case authority that states as much; nor has Defendant presented any Court document that holds as much.
The only evidence that would tend to indicate that Plaintiff was found guilty of speeding is a document that Plaintiff provides. The last page of Document 31 appears to be an official court document which shows Plaintiff paid $75.00 for the speeding ticket and that such payment constituted payment in full of the outstanding fine and cost. The Illinois Code provides that if a person fails to pay a "traffic fine, penalty, or cost imposed for a violation of the code," that person's diving privileges can be suspended. 625 Ill.Comp.Stat. §5/6-606.6(a). The Code goes on to provide that once the fine has been paid, driving privileges will be reinstated. Id. at § 5/6-306.6(d)(2). This Code section and the court document provide clarity to Plaintiff's deposition testimony regarding the procedures he went through.
However, the documents, in-and-of-themselves, do not provide clarity as to whether Plaintiff pled guilty to speeding or whether he was adjudged guilty. Traffic Court procedures are outlined by Illinois Supreme Court Rules 501 to 600. Rule 529(a) provides that "[a]ll traffic offenses . . . may be satisfied without a court appearance by a written plea of guilty . . . and payment of fines, penalties, and costs . . . ." Rule 552 provides that "[a] final disposition noted on the reverse side of the 'Complaint' [i.e. the ticket] shall be evidence of the judgment in the case." Rule 556 goes on to provide procedures for when a person fails to appear for a court date -- in each instance, a "judgment of conviction" is entered by the Court depending on the circumstances. Each of the Rules indicate that a written document evidences a guilty plea or adjudication. Thus, the mere fact that Plaintiff paid the fine does not necessarily render him guilty. Based on the limited evidence before the Court, the Court cannot find that Plaintiff was adjudged guilty of speeding. As such, it would appear that Heck does not apply.*fn9
For the foregoing reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants on November 15, 2006 [Doc. 27] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff on December 21, 2006 [Doc. 31] is DENIED. Summary judgment is GRANTED in favor of Defendants Creve Coeur Police Department and Village of Creve Coeur and against Plaintiff Robert O. Idahosa. Summary Judgment also is GRANTED in favor of Brian K. Despines and against Plaintiff Robert O. Idahosa on Plaintiff's Equal Protection claim, Right to Travel claim, and Unreasonable Search claims. Summary Judgment is DENIED with respect to Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Unreasonable Seizure claim against Defendant Despines.