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Portis v. City of Chicago

September 9, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiffs Ronald Portis, Madric Lance and Emmett Lynch brought a second amended class action complaint against defendant City of Chicago*fn1 alleging that the City has a practice of unconstitutionally delaying release of persons arrested for non-jailable ordinance violations that are punishable by fine only. The court certified a class defined as:

All persons who, from May 1, 2000, through September 3, 2004, were arrested on ordinance violations which carry no jail time in the City of Chicago and who were detained for more than two hours after all administrative steps incident to the arrest, except non-discretionary ministerial acts, were completed. The class is further limited to those persons who (1) were not fingerprinted by defendants after being brought into custody; and (2) were eligible for release on personal recognizance bond pursuant to Rule 553(d) of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs previously moved for summary judgment of liability against the City. In Portis v. City of Chicago, 510 F.Supp.2d 461 (N.D.Ill. 2007) ("Portis I"), the court denied plaintiffs' motion, but later granted plaintiffs leave to renew it to clarify whether certain material facts were genuinely in dispute. Because, as discussed below, the court is now satisfied that no genuine issues of material fact remain for trial, and that plaintiffs are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, plaintiffs' renewed motion for summary judgment of liability is granted.


Plaintiffs are a class of individuals who were arrested and detained for non-jailable ordinance violations under the City of Chicago's Municipal Code. That is, the violations with which the class members were charged are punishable by fine only, not by detention or incarceration. Although plaintiffs could simply have been issued a ticket for the offenses, they do not dispute the propriety of their arrests. Defendant, for its part, does not dispute that once the necessary administrative steps incident to the class members' arrests were completed, the arrestees were eligible to be released on an individual recognizance bond ("I-bond") pursuant to Ill. Supp. Ct. Rule 553(d).

Just as plaintiffs do not challenge the legality of their arrests, they do not complain about the length of time they were detained while the City established that they were eligible for release on an I-bond. The gravamen of plaintiffs' complaint is that the City violated their Fourth Amendment rights when it continued to detain them for more than two hours (and in some cases for as long as 16 hours or more) after it completed all of the administrative steps necessary to determine that they were eligible for release. In their first motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs argued that once the class members' eligibility for release had been established, any remaining administrative steps were non-discretionary, ministerial, and often redundant, and could not justify continuing to detain the class members any longer than the few minutes those steps reasonably required.

Although the court agreed with plaintiffs in theory, it appeared from the record that the order in which certain administrative steps were taken was disputed. Because the court could not resolve the legal issues presented by plaintiffs' claims until it had a firm grasp on when, in the sequence of administrative steps, plaintiffs' eligibility for release had been conclusively established, it denied summary judgment. Plaintiffs have now renewed their efforts to show that the administrative steps the City took in processing the class members' arrests are indeed undisputed, and that the class members had been determined eligible for release, at the latest, by the time they were issued a Central Booking ("CB") number, as discussed below. Plaintiffs again urge the court to find that their continued detention in excess of two hours after receiving a CB number violates the Fourth Amendment as a matter of law.


The standard for summary judgment remains unchanged since the court decided Portis I. As before, summary judgment is proper when the moving papers and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party has established undisputed facts entitling that party to judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Associates, Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 110 (7th Cir. 1990). The court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Fisher v. Transco Services-Milwaukee, Inc., 979 F.2d 1239, 1242 (7th Cir. 1992).

A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The non-moving party, however, "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for [the non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

To assist courts in sorting out which facts, if any, are genuinely in dispute, the Northern District of Illinois adopted Local Rule ("L.R.") 56.1. Having discussed the requirements of L.R. 56.1 in detail in Portis I, the court need not revisit them here. It bears repeating, however, that the court is entitled to demand strict adherence to L.R. 56.1 and may refuse to consider facts presented in a manner that does not comport with the rule. Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643 (7th Cir. 2008). In Portis I, the court admonished both parties for failing to observe the requirements of L.R. 56.1, deploring in particular defendant's consistently improper, obfuscatory, and argumentative statements. Portis I, at 464. Nevertheless, the court tried to piece together the material facts as best it could without the aid of a proper L.R. 56.1 "roadmap," and concluded that the order in which certain administrative steps were taken appeared to be in dispute. As a result, the court denied summary judgment "despite the strong possibility that had [the] motion been prosecuted properly plaintiffs would have been able to demonstrate that defendant has violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiff class." Portis I, at 465.

If plaintiffs succeed in their renewed attempt to show that no material facts are in dispute, they must then convince the court that class members' detention in excess of two hours after they were determined to be eligible for release is unreasonably lengthy under Fourth Amendment standards. Chortek v. City of Milwaukee, 356 F.3d 740, at 747 (citing Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975)). If plaintiffs are successful on that front as well, their final burden is to demonstrate that the City is liable under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Serv. Of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978), for the Fourth Amendment violations. Under Monell, plaintiffs must show that the violations were caused by a policy or custom carried out by the City's lawmakers "or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent an official policy." Portis I, at 469 (citing Chortek, at 748).


The City's Arrest Procedures

In Portis I, the court summarized its understanding of the City's basic arrest processing procedure. The first steps, which are not materially disputed, are that an individual suspected of an ordinance violation is arrested, searched, transported to a police station, and placed in a holding area.*fn2 At the station, the arresting officer enters the individual's available identifying information into the "hot desk" system, which has access to multiple law enforcement databases, to determine whether the individual is wanted on any outstanding warrants. Either before, after, or while completing this name/warrant check, the arresting officer also fills out an arrest report and a quasi-criminal complaint.

The arresting officer takes the paperwork generated by these steps, along with any other reports, to the desk sergeant, who reviews it and charges the arrestee. The paperwork then goes to the watch commander, who reviews the paperwork and the charge, determines whether the individual has been satisfactorily identified, and makes an initial determination of probable cause. At that point the arrestee is taken from the holding area to the lockup.

The lockup keeper reviews the paperwork and generates a CB number using information from the arrest report. Meanwhile, arrestees are prepared for custody: they are again searched, their belongings are inventoried, they fill out a medical screening form, and they are allowed to use the telephone. During this time, arrestees whose identity and/or warrant status was deemed inconclusive by the watch commander are fingerprinted, and additional name/warrant checks are run.*fn3 At the end of these additional steps, the watch commander again reviews the paperwork and signs off on the final charges. A desk officer then prepares an I-bond for the arrestee's signature. Once the individual has signed the I-bond, his or her belongings are returned, and the individual is released.

According to plaintiffs, class members became eligible for release, at the latest, by the time they received the CB number. Defendant contends, however, that a CB number could issue before (1) an arrested individual's identity was established and (2) it was determined whether that individual was the subject of any outstanding warrants. In such cases, defendant argues, one or more subsequent steps could be required to determine whether that individual was eligible for release. Because the court could not, based on the parties' previous L.R. 56.1 submissions, conclude that class members had systematically been determined eligible for release before receiving a CB number, it was left with no identifiable starting point for measuring the allegedly unconstitutional detention.

Mercifully, plaintiffs' renewed L.R. 56.1 statement heeds the court's previous directives, and more importantly, it resolves the apparent dispute identified in Portis I. Defendant, meanwhile, persists in muddling the record with argumentative and misleading responses. Wading through the morass of defendant's improper submissions, the court was tempted more than once to throw up its hands and deem the entirety of plaintiffs' L.R. 56.1 statement undisputed.*fn4 Reluctant to punish the City for the failings of its counsel, however, and in an effort to bring this drawn-out litigation to a meaningful close, the court persevered. Yet the substantive result is the same, because a considered analysis of defendant's responses reveals little more than smoke and mirrors.

Though the standard processing procedure summarized above reflects the general sequence of the various steps,*fn5 it is helpful to set forth relevant portions in a numbered list, highlighting in bold the crux of the apparent dispute that defeated summary judgment in Portis I:

1. The class member is arrested, searched, and transported to ...

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