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Snitzer v. City of Chicago

August 15, 2007

THOMAS A. SNITZER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, 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 in part and deny in part Defendants' motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Thomas A. Snitzer ("Snitzer") alleges that he was a member of River Village I, L.L.C. ("RVI") and other development entities. Defendant Stan-Lee Kaderbek ("Kaderbek") was allegedly the Commissioner for the City of Chicago Department of Buildings from June 2004 to August 2005. Snitzer contends that through RVI, he planned to develop a large single-family home development known as Bridgeport Village-Phase I ("Bridgeport Village") in Defendant City of Chicago's ("City") Bridgeport neighborhood. Snitzer was allegedly the manager for the development of Bridgeport Village. The project began in 1998 and for one year the alderman for the Bridgeport neighborhood allegedly refused to discuss the processing of any zoning request because the Democratic party leadership in that area ("Leadership") allegedly did not want an "outsider" to control or profit in that area. (Compl Par. 32).

Snitzer claims he was approached by Defendant Timothy Degnan ("Degnan") who is allegedly a main player in the Leadership. Degnan allegedly told John Kinsella ("Kinsella"), Snitzer's partner, that in order to secure the zoning approval for Bridgeport Village, Degnan's lieutenant, Thomas Dipiazza ("Dipiazza"), needed to be admitted to the development venture as a partner.

Snitzer claims that he initially refused to admit Dipiazza to the venture, but later agreed to retain Dipiazza as a real estate consultant for Bridgeport Village and other development projects in the Bridgeport neighborhood. According to Snitzer, the City approval process for Bridgeport Village then proceeded until the relationship among Snitzer and Dipiazza and Degnan deteriorated due to Snitzer's refusal to accede to their demands. Snitzer alleges that Degnan and Dipiazza made a series of demands for exorbitant fees, as well for preferential treatment in the purchase of homes in Bridgeport Village for associates of Degnan. Degnan also allegedly instructed Snitzer not to pursue the purchase of certain property because a predesignated individual associated with Degnan was supposed to win the bid for the property. Degnan and Dipiazza allegedly repeatedly threatened Snitzer that if he did not acquiesce to their demands they would use their alleged control over City officials to ensure that the development approval process for Bridgeport Village did not run smoothly.

From 2002 to 2004, the Bridgeport Village construction allegedly proceeded until Snitzer's disregard of the demands of Degnan and Dipiazza caused a complete breakdown in their relationship. Snitzer claims that despite Degnan's alleged instructions and threats, Snitzer bought certain property in March 2003. Also, in January 2005, Snitzer allegedly had a final fight with Degnan and Snitzer terminated Dipiazza's consulting contract.

Snitzer contends that after that point, Degnan used his influence with the City to inhibit the progress of the continuing development of Bridgeport Village. In November 2004 and January 2005, Snitzer claims the City Department of Buildings issued stop work orders for Bridgeport Village without justification. Kaderbek also allegedly refused to meet to discuss resolving the problems in order to delay the resumption of work on Bridgeport Village, which would result in the exposure of the unfinished houses to the winter weather. According to Snitzer, Kaderbek also threatened the project manager and the architect for Bridgeport Village because they were working for Snitzer. In addition, Kaderbek allegedly filed a false report about the architect with an architectural licensing board. Kaderbek also allegedly required unnecessary work to protect the homes from high winds and continued to refuse to meet with Bridgeport Village representatives to address problems.

Snitzer claims that Kaderbek also made statements to the public in order to discredit Snitzer by indicating that Snitzer was an incompetent developer and creating unwarranted fear among the Bridgeport Village residents. Kaderbek also allegedly attempted to interfere with the financing for Bridgeport Village. The culmination of Kaderbek's alleged attacks on Snitzer's character came at a public meeting on March 10, 2005, at which Kaderbek allegedly made false statements about Snitzer, criticized and threatened Snitzer, and encouraged Bridgeport Village residents to bring a class action suit against Snitzer. Snitzer claims that, afterwards, his partners in the Bridgeport Village venture brought an action in state court ("State Action") seeking to oust Snitzer as the venture manager based upon concerns about Snitzer's competence. Snitzer contends that Kaderbek and other City officials influenced Snitzer's partners in their decision to bring the State Action against Snitzer and that Kaderbek and the other officials even attended the court hearings in the State Action. The state court allegedly entered a temporary restraining order removing Snitzer from the manager position at Bridgeport Village in June 2005. Snitzer claims that once he was removed from the manager position, Kaderbek and the City suddenly became more lenient in the dealings with the Bridgeport Village project.

Snitzer brought the instant action and includes in his complaint a claim alleging a deprivation of his First Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") (Count I), a Section 1983 procedural due process claim (Count II), a substantive due process claim (Count III), an equal protection claim (Count IV), a conspiracy claim alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) ("Section 1985(3)")

(Count V), a claim alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1962(c) of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq. (Count VI), a claim alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1962(d) of RICO (Count VII), and a civil conspiracy claim (Count VIII). Defendants move to dismiss all claims.

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. Ill. 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). 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 Sch., 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998); Lucien v. Preiner, 967 F.2d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 1992). A plaintiff is required to include allegations in the complaint that "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level'" and "if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court.'" E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 2007 WL 2215764, at *2 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting in part Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007)). Under current notice pleading standard in federal courts a plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each element of a 'cause of action. . . .'" See Sanjuan v. Amer. Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)(stating that a "[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. Carter, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002); Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455. 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; Nance v. Vieregge, 147 F.3d 589, 590 (7th Cir. 1998)(stating that "[p]laintiffs need not plead facts or legal theories; it is enough to set out a claim for relief").

DISCUSSION

I. Standing

Defendants argue that Snitzer lacks standing to pursue his claims in the instant action since Snitzer is seeking a remedy for an injury to the companies that he owned. In general, a party only has standing to bring a claim if the party can establish "an injury in fact; a causal link between the injury and the challenged action; and redressability through a favorable court decision." Texas Indep.

Producers and Royalty Owners Assoc. v. E.P.A., 410 F.3d 964, 971 (7th Cir. 2005). Defendants cite Hammes v. AAMCO Transmissions, Inc., 33 F.3d 774 (7th Cir. 1994), which focused specifically on the context of corporate injuries and stated that "[s]hareholders do not have standing to sue for harms to the corporation, or even for the derivative harm to themselves that might arise from a tort or other wrong to the corporation." Id. at 777. However, Snitzer is not seeking to bring an action on behalf of the corporations he owned. Snitzer points out that he is not seeking lost profits or income from Bridgeport Village. Snitzer also specifically alleges in the complaint that he "seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief" and that he "does not seek relief for injuries done to the project venture entities." (Compl. Par. 15). Snitzer alleges specific injuries to himself in the complaint. Snitzer claims, for example, that Kaderbek, "engaged in numerous communications with the press and with Bridgeport Village residents in a manner that incited fear and publicly portrayed Snitzer as an incompetent developer." (Compl. Par. 122). Snitzer also contends more than that Defendants generally harmed the development of Bridgeport Village. Defendants' alleged conduct allegedly resulted in Snitzer eventually being removed from the manager position by a court. (Compl. Par. 147). Snitzer makes clear in his answer to Defendants' ...


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