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Mitchell v. White

September 5, 2007

PAULA B. MITCHELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JESSE WHITE ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Motions to Dismiss filed by:

(1) Defendants Jim Copeland and Glenn Tuxhorn (d/e 52); (2) Jesse White, Mike Pippen, Ellen Staab, and Brice Hager (d/e 55); and (3) John Schmidt and Gray Noll (d/e 66) (collectively the Moving Defendants). Plaintiff Paula Mitchell alleges several violations of her constitutional rights in a series of events related to two automobile traffic stops. Amended Complaint (d/e 45). For the reasons set forth below, the Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Staab, Copeland, and Tuxhorn are ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part, and the Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants White, Pippen, Hager, Schmidt and Noll are ALLOWED.

Mitchell alleges sufficient facts to state a claim of use of excessive force against Staab. She also states claims against Staab, Copeland, and Tuxhorn for making false reports to Mitchell's employer, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDR). Her claim against Defendant Hager is barred by the statute of limitations. She also fails to state a claim against Defendants White, Pippen, Noll, and Schmidt. Defendants Schmidt and Noll are also immune from claims arising from their acts as prosecutors.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

For purposes of the Motions, the Court must accept as true all of Mitchell's well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to her. Hager v. City of West Peoria, 84 F.3d 865, 868-69 (7th Cir. 1996); Covington Court, Ltd. v. Village of Oak Brook, 77 F.3d 177, 178 (7th Cir. 1996). The Court, however, is not obligated to give any weight to unsupported conclusions of law. R.J.R. Services, Inc. v. Aetna Cas. and Sur. Co., 895 F.2d 279, 281 (7th Cir. 1989). The Court further may take judicial notice of matters of public record, such as the court files of state criminal proceedings. Palay v. United States, 349 F.3d 418, 425, n.1 (7th Cir. 2003). The Motions should not be allowed unless it appears beyond doubt that Mitchell can prove no set of facts that would entitle her to relief. Doherty v. City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 322 (7th Cir. 1996).

Mitchell's claims are based on two traffic stops. The first occurred on Veteran's Day, November 11, 2003. Mitchell alleges that Defendant Hager, an Illinois State Police Officer, stopped her without probable cause, and then committed other constitutional violations.

The remaining claims are based on the second traffic stop that occurred on July 1, 2005. On that date, Defendant Ellen Staab, an Illinois Secretary of State Police Officer, stopped Mitchell because the license registration sticker on her vehicle had expired at the end of June 2005. A physical altercation ensued between Mitchell and Staab. Mitchell alleges that Staab initiated the altercation by harassing Mitchell verbally and then violently grabbing and pulling Mitchell. Mitchell alleges that she suffered permanent injuries as a result of the force Staab used to grab her and pull her. During the altercation, Illinois State Police officers, Defendants Copeland and Tuxhorn, arrived at the scene. Mitchell does not allege any use of excessive force by either Copeland or Tuxhorn.

Mitchell was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, and battery. Mitchell alleges that Staab, Copeland, and Tuxhorn falsely reported that Mitchell kicked Staab. A video recording was made of the incident by the officers. Mitchell alleges that the video recording was altered to indicate falsely that Mitchell kicked Staab.

Mitchell was subsequently released on bond. She alleges that while she was out on bond, Staab, Copeland, and Tuxhorn made false reports to Mitchell's employer, the IDR. Mitchell alleges that Staab, Copeland, and Tuxhorn falsely reported to the IDR that Mitchell threatened to tamper with the officers' state tax returns. Mitchell denies that she made any such threats.

Noll was the Assistant States Attorney prosecuting the charges against Mitchell based on the July 1, 2005, incident. Mitchell alleges that Noll acted improperly and that Defendant Sangamon County States Attorney John Schmidt failed to properly supervise Noll. Mitchell alleges that Noll brought the case based on false statements by the officers and the altered video recording. Mitchell alleges that Noll was overzealous in his prosecutorial efforts and should have done more to find the truth. She also alleges that Noll and Schmidt were only interested in winning and not in getting to the truth.

Mitchell was represented by counsel in the criminal case. Mitchell eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of battery for kicking Staab. She was ordered to serve a term of two years probation, perform 40 hours of community service, and pay $3,119.85 in medical bills incurred by Staab as a result of the July 1, 2005, incident.*fn1 Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss of Defendants John Schmidt, Gray Noll, Joe Aiello and John Moore (d/e 21), Exhibit 1, certified copy of record of People v. Mitchell, Sangamon County, Illinois, Circuit Court No. 2005 CF 001022, Docket Entries dated January 27, 2006. She alleges that Noll also required her to write letters of apology to Staab and Copeland.

Defendant Jesse White is the Illinois Secretary of State, and Defendant Mike Pippen was a Captain in the Secretary of State Police Department. Mitchell alleges that White and Pippen failed to train and supervise Staab properly, and thus, were responsible for the wrongful actions by Staab and the others involved. She also alleges that she filed complaints against Staab with the Secretary of State's Office, but Defendants White and Pippen refused to investigate her complaints or take any action against Staab.

Mitchell brought this action on January 22, 2007.*fn2 She named the Moving Defendants and several additional Defendants. The additional Defendants have not moved to dismiss the claims against them, so the Court has not detailed the allegations against those Defendants in this Opinion.* ...


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