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Miller v. Karner

May 29, 2008

LEELA MILLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DET. KARNER, 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 Defendant Detective Karner's ("Karner") and Defendant Village of Flossmoor's ("Village") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion for summary judgment in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Leela Miller ("Miller") alleges that on July 7, 2006, Karner, acting on behalf of the Village, placed Miller under arrest for theft of services or property. Miller alleges that Karner did not have a search warrant or an arrest warrant and that he illegally stopped and searched her. According to Miller, Karner also wrote false and misleading police reports alleging that Miller had engaged in theft of services or property. Charges were allegedly brought against Miller, but later dismissed on October 6, 2006, when Karner did not show up to the hearing.

Miller brought the instant action on June 13, 2007, and includes a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") for false arrest (Count I), a state law claim for malicious prosecution (Count II), and a claim for statutory indemnification against the Village (Count III). Defendants have brought the instant motion for summary judgment on all claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment, the moving party must identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

Defendants make several arguments to support their motion for summary judgment. First, Defendants argue that Karner is entitled to summary judgment on the Section 1983 false arrest claim and the state law claim for malicious prosecution since the undisputed facts establish that probable cause existed to arrest Miller for both identity theft and theft of services. Second, Defendants argue that Karner is entitled to qualified immunity since he "arguably" had probable cause to arrest Miller. (Mot. 10). Third, Defendants argue that Miller's state law claim for malicious prosecution fails, by virtue of the fact that Miller cannot satisfy all of the elements of the claim. Finally, Defendants argue that the Village is entitled to summary judgment on the statutory indemnification claim because no employee of the Village is actually liable to Miller. Miller argues, in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, that there was no probable cause to arrest her and that Karner is not entitled to qualified immunity. Miller, however, concedes that "Karner is entitled to summary judgment on the malicious prosecution claim." (Ans. 14).

I. Probable Cause to Arrest Miller

At issue with respect to both Miller's Section 1983 claim is whether or not a reasonable jury could find that probable cause did not exist for Karner to arrest Miller. Pursuant to Seventh Circuit precedent, "[a] finding of probable cause absolutely bars a claim for false arrest under § 1983." Reynolds v. Jamison, 488 F.3d 756, 765 (7th Cir. 2007). Furthermore, the Seventh Circuit has found that a defendant can defeat a Section 1983 claim for false arrest if there was probable cause to arrest the plaintiff for any offense and that the probable cause need not be limited to the offense charged. Williams v. Rodriguez, 509 F.3d 392, 399 (7th Cir. 2007). According to Defendants, no reasonable jury could conclude other than that probable cause existed to arrest Miller at the time she was arrested and, therefore, Miller's Section 1983 claim must fail. In opposition to summary judgment, Miller has not challenged Defendants' legal conclusion that a showing of probable cause would defeat Miller's Section 1983 claim. Miller has, however, challenged Defendants' assertion that Karner had probable cause to arrest Miller.

A. Facts Relating to Miller's Arrest

Both parties, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1, have submitted statements of facts relating to summary judgment. In these statements, the parties agree on many of the basic underlying facts surrounding Miller's arrest. Miller objects to facts presented by Defendants relating to Karner's thoughts and state of mind prior to the arrest. Defendants also ...


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