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Justice v. Town of Cicero

October 10, 2007

JOHN C. JUSTICE AND MIKE WOODWARD, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TOWN OF CICERO, DENNIS DOE, JERRY JAROSZ, AND ONE TO TWO DOZEN UNKNOWN OTHER EMPLOYEES OF THE TOWN OF CICERO, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs John Justice and Mike Woodward filed this lawsuit against the Town of Cicero, Dennis Doe, Jerry Jarosz, and one or two dozen other unidentified Town employees, alleging civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Plaintiffs also assert an antitrust claim against the Town and seek a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all counts of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

For the following reasons, we grant the motion.

BACKGROUND

On February 24, 2006, Town of Cicero police officers served an administrative search warrant at a business owned by Plaintiff John Justice. The warrant had been issued that day by a Cook County Circuit Court judge who found that there was probable cause to believe that Justice may be violating as many as nine Town ordinances. The warrant was granted primarily based on information contained in an affidavit submitted by Larry Hippert, a Town business license and building inspector. Hippert claimed, among other things, that Justice had failed to apply for a business license, that he believed Justice was using a chemical solvent inside the building, that Justice had violated an administrative judge's February 16, 2006, order to let Town inspectors onto the premises, and that the health and safety of the community was at risk if Justice was improperly storing, using, and/or disposing of chemical solvents. Plaintiff Justice admits that, at the time the warrant was issued, he was operating a business in the Town without a license, asserting that he had a constitutional right to do so. During the execution of the search warrant, police officers found and seized six unregistered handguns belonging to Plaintiff Justice. They arrested Justice and issued him six tickets for violating the Town's firearms registration ordinance.

On February 8, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint against the Town, Dennis Doe, Jerry Jarosz, and one or two dozen other unidentified Town employees. Count I alleges civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in violation of Plaintiffs' Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Count II seeks a declaration that the Town's business licensing ordinance is unconstitutional. Count III asserts an antitrust claim against the Town for the operation of its water department. And Count IV requests that the court appoint a receiver to review the billing practices, imposition of late fees, and expenditures of the Town's water and business licensing departments. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all counts under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, 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 Reg., 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The Supreme Court recently interpreted that language to impose two minimal hurdles. "First, the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant 'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 18487, at *6 (7th Cir. Aug. 3, 2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the complaint's allegations "must plausibly suggest that the defendant has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level'; if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court." Concentra Health, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 18487, at *6 (citing Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1973 n.14).

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff Mike Woodward's Claim

In Count I, Plaintiff Mike Woodward, a 24-hour security guard at Plaintiff Justice's business, alleges that the Town's police officers violated his civil rights the day the officers served the administrative search warrant. Woodward alleges that he was awakened from a nap by the commands of the police officers who had the laser sights on their weapons pointed at his eyes. To state a claim under Section 1983, two elements are necessary: (1) the plaintiff must prove that the defendant deprived him of a right secured by the "Constitution and laws" of the United States; and (2) the plaintiff must show that the defendant deprived him of this constitutional right "under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory." Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970). In the third amended complaint, Plaintiff Woodward is mentioned only briefly and only in Count I. Woodward claims he is entitled to relief under Section 1983 because he "suffered the start of his life" when he woke up and found the police officers with their guns pointed in his direction. The complaint alleges that "[t]he officers intended to fire the weapons if he moved mere inches." The rest of the complaint deals exclusively with issues raised by Justice.

We presume Woodward is alleging excessive force by the police officers, but the complaint does not allege any facts to support such a claim. Thus, we dismiss Woodward's claim under Count I. The rest of this opinion will focus on Justice's claims.

II. Section 1983 Municipal Liability

Count I of Justice's complaint alleges a Section 1983 violation against all of the defendants, jointly and severally, including the Town. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Defendants "violated federally protected constitutional rights against unreasonable and illegal searches and seizures, under the 2nd, 4th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, protected by the Bill of Rights and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983." The doctrine of respondeat superior cannot be used to hold local governmental entities liable for Section 1983 violations. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). In Monell, the Supreme Court stated:

[A] local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983. 436 U.S. at 694. Therefore, a local government "is only responsible for its employees' actions if taken pursuant to an unconstitutional policy or custom of the municipality itself," Garrison v. Burke, 165 F.3d 565, 571 (7th Cir. 1999), or when a "valid policy is unconstitutionally applied by a municipal employee" who has not been adequately trained and the "constitutional wrong has been caused by that failure to train." City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 387 (1989). A policy or custom can take one of three forms: (1) an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) 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 (3) an allegation that the constitutional injury was caused by a person with "final policymaking authority." Garrison, 165 F.3d at 571-72.

In this case, Plaintiff's complaint states that the Town's business license and firearms registration ordinances are unconstitutional on their face or as applied to him. Defendants argue that the Town's ordinances are not unconstitutional, and, therefore, Plaintiff cannot state a valid Section 1983 claim. We agree with Defendants.

A. The Town's Business License Ordinances

The Town of Cicero has home-rule powers. Article VII, ยง 6(a) of the Illinois ...


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