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Young v. County of Cook

June 8, 2007

SAMMIE L. YOUNG, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF COOK ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Sammie L. Young, Jr. ("Young" or "Plaintiff") has brought this suit against Defendants County of Cook and related parties (collectively "Defendants") under 18 U.S.C. § 1983, and related state law claims. Before this Court are the motions to dismiss of: Defendants Thomas Dart, Salvador Godinez, Scott Kurtovich (collectively "Sheriff Defendants") (Docket No. 17); Defendant William M. Beavers (Docket No. 29); and Defendant County of Cook (Docket No. 32). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are GRANTED.

FACTS*fn1

Plaintiff was hired as a correctional officer at the Cook County Jail, operated by the Sheriff of Cook County, on October 1, 1978. He was subsequently promoted and transferred to the point where, at the time of his termination in 2006, Plaintiff was working as superintendent of Division 5 of the Cook County Jail ("Division 5"), a medium security facility.

Throughout his employment with the Sheriff of Cook County, Plaintiff has been an active Democrat. He and approximately 100 fellow employees have engaged in door-to-door-campaigning, hanging political signs, passing out literature, and raising money for candidates. Plaintiff also actively campaigned for the election of current Sheriff Tom Dart ("Sheriff Dart"), including the donation of the use of a building. On September 16, 2006, Plaintiff met with William Beavers ("Beavers"), then Alderman of the 7th Ward, at Beaver's request. At this meeting Beavers claimed he was "the most powerfullest politician in Chicago" and that he was the "hog with the big nuts." Beavers encouraged Plaintiff to enlist the aid of his co-workers in helping Todd Stroger ("Stroger") get elected as President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Plaintiff did so. Afterward, again at Beavers' request, Plaintiff and his co-workers helped Beavers' daughter Darcel get elected as 7th Ward alderwoman.

On October 20, 2006, Plaintiff encountered Officer Valerie Stubbs ("Officer Stubbs") selling tickets to a Stroger political fundraiser within the Cook County Jail ("Jail"). Any such selling of tickets or soliciting of money for political purposes violates General Order 3.28. After witnessing Officer Stubbs violate this rule, Plaintiff reported the incident to internal affairs, and then filed a written report as well.

At Beavers' request, Plaintiff returned to the Alderman's office on October 28, 2006. By this time, Beavers had become a Commissioner. While there, Beavers tried to convince Plaintiff to drop the complaint against Officer Stubbs. Plaintiff refused. Once again at Beavers' request, the scene was duplicated on December 16, 2006, with Beavers requesting leniency for Officer Stubbs, who was "like family," and Plaintiff refusing to comply. As he was preparing to leave, Plaintiff noticed that Officer Mark Wolfe ("Officer Wolfe") was there in uniform waiting to meet with Beavers. At that point, Beavers explained that Wolfe was there "to get [the Commissioner] to promote him to sergeant."

Plaintiff discovered that Officer Wolfe had been off-duty that day and therefore may have violated a rule against wearing one's uniform at those times. On December 18, 2006, Plaintiff wrote a disciplinary report regarding Officer Wolfe and the perceived violation of General order 3.12B(1) and (3). Beavers contacted Plaintiff the next day, asking questions about the Wolfe incident and berating Plaintiff. On December 19, 2006, Plaintiff reported the Beavers phone call to Internal Affairs Chief Investigator Kaufman ("Kaufman"), orally and in writing. Plaintiff also filed a written report to Investigator April S. Williams of the Cook County Board of Ethics. To date, Plaintiff has not received a response to these complaints.

Over the course of twenty-nine years, Plaintiff satisfactorily completed the duties of his positions and was generally held in high esteem by his colleagues. On January 11, 2007, Plaintiff met with Executive Director Godinez ("Godinez") at his office, along with Assistant Executive Director Scott Kurtovich ("Kurtovich"). Godinez informed Plaintiff that he was being reassigned "to Division 10 as a sergeant." Plaintiff began work in Division 10 on January 16, 2007. The change in position involved a decrease in salary, fewer pension benefits, and removal of earned administrative days. It also forced Plaintiff to interact regularly with the worst inmate population, at least one of whom was under ongoing investigation in a matter with which Plaintiff had been involved. In his new position, Plaintiff found that he was required to answer to younger and less-experienced officers, at least one of whom he himself had trained.

Political issues are endemic to the Sheriff's Office.*fn2 While working as superintendent, Plaintiff was required to purchase a number of tickets for political fundraising and social events. Plaintiff refused to do this. The Sheriff's Office practiced a "closed" hiring system, whereby applications and transfers could be processed without the official hiring process by means of internal recommendations and lists. Other employees who did not challenge the status quo, and who were less qualified as a result of disciplinary actions or a general failure to distinguish themselves, were nonetheless allowed to maintain their positions. Generally, when a new administration takes over at the Sheriff's Office, only those individuals with conflicting political orientations are re-assigned.

On January 29, 2007, Plaintiff filed this action based on events related to his termination, claiming that all Defendants are liable for: civil rights violations under 18 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); unlawful retaliation under 18 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II); violation of the Local Government Employees Political Rights Act of the State of Illinois 50 ILCS 135 et seq. ("LGEPRA") (Count III); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV).*fn3

STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR MOTION TO DISMISS

On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true. Fed. R. Civ. Plaintiff. 12(b)(6). The purpose of a 12(b)(6) motion is to decide the adequacy of the complaint, not to determine the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). A complaint should not be dismissed "unless it appears beyond all 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).

A complaint that complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure cannot be dismissed because it fails to allege facts. The Rules require simply that the complaint state a claim; they do not require the complaint to plead facts that would establish the validity of that claim. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). "All that need be specified are the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Id. (citing Beanstalk Group, Inc. v. AM Gen. Corp., 283 F.3d 856, 863 (7th Cir. 2002)). The Seventh Circuit has held that stating a claim in a complaint in federal court requires only "a short statement, in plain (that is, non-legalistic) English, of the legal claim." ...


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