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Rodriguez v. Barrera

September 8, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge


Raquel Rodriguez has sued Jose Barrera, asserting a number of state law tort claims and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an alleged violation of the Due Process Clause. Barrera has moved for partial summary judgment on two of Rodriguez's claims: her section 1983 claim (Count 5) and her intentional infliction of emotional distress claim (IIED) (Count 3). For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion with respect to Count 5 and denies the motion with respect to Count 3.


Because Barrera has moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to Rodriguez and draws reasonable inferences in her favor. See, e.g., Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

Rodriguez was the parent of two students attending Columbia Explorer's Academy, a Chicago public school. She had also been elected to and served as a member of Columbia's Local School Council (LSC). During the relevant time frame, Barrera was the principal of Columbia and a member of the LSC. Rodriguez contends that she was the victim of a course of harassing conduct by Barrera going back to 2002. The alleged conduct stemmed from their interactions as members of the LSC and from Barrera's position as principal of the school that Rodriguez's children attended.

Rodriquez alleges that Barrera harassed her by, among other things, obstructing her efforts to perform her duties as an LSC member, withholding information regarding the school, intentionally rescheduling LSC meetings to her detriment, and insulting her on numerous occasions, including in front of other parents of Columbia students and other Columbia LSC members. Rodriguez also claims that Barrera refused to place her two children on the same school-year track even though other parents had similar requests granted. Barrera denies these accusations.

The dispute between Rodriguez and Barrera came to a head on April 19, 2006, when parents of Columbia students went to the school to pick up their report cards. Elections for members of the LSC were held on the same date. Chicago School Board regulations prohibit candidates for the LSC from distributing campaign literature within 100 feet of the entrance to the school grounds on election day. A parent and LSC candidate informed Barrera that Rodriguez was improperly distributing campaign flyers at Columbia on April 19. Rodriguez denies that she was distributing any campaign materials but admits that she was carrying some campaign flyers attached to a clipboard. Barrera confronted Rodriguez about the election materials in a stairwell. According to Rodriguez, Barrera demanded that she turn her personal belongings over to him and, when she declined, attempted to grab the clipboard. During the ensuing struggle for the clipboard, Barrera touched Rodriguez on her left breast with his hand and fingers. It is undisputed that the entire verbal exchange and struggle in the stairwell lasted only two minutes. Barrera claims that Rodriguez turned over the clipboard voluntarily and no struggle occurred.

Despite the altercation on April 19, 2006, Rodriguez was reelected to the LSC. Another parent challenged the results of the election. That challenge was denied, and Rodriguez retained her position on the LSC.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

1. Due process claims (Count 5)

To succeed on her section 1983 claim, Rodriguez must prove that Barrera "acted under color of state law to deprive her of a constitutional right." Wudtke v. Davel, 128 F.3d 1057, 1062 (7th Cir. 1997). In Count 5, Rodriguez alleges that she was deprived of due process of law with respect to her right to serve on the LSC and her right to live free of the threat of intimidation and bodily harm. 3d Am. Comp. ¶ 131.

In her response brief, Barrera makes no arguments concerning her right to serve on the LSC. Accordingly, the Court considers her to have abandoned that claim. See Laborers' Int'l Union of N. Am. v. Caruso, 197 F.3d 1195, 1197 (7th Cir. 1999) (noting that arguments not presented in response to a summary judgment motion are waived); Scott-Riley v. Mullins Food Prods., Inc., 391 F. Supp. 2d 707, 718 (N.D. Ill. 2005). Morever, even if Rodriguez had argued the point, it is undisputed that the challenge to her re-election in 2006 failed, and she retained her position on the LSC.*fn1

Barrera's response to the motion focuses primarily on her right to protection of her bodily integrity. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects "bodily integrity . . . and is infringed by a serious, as distinct from a nominal or trivial, battery." Alexander v. DeAngelo, 329 F.3d 912, 916 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted) (collecting cases). To rise to the level of a due process infraction, a ...

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