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Young v. Rogers

December 15, 2008

L.C. YOUNG, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF DAN YOUNG, JR., DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ASSISTANT COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY MICHAEL ROGERS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In his seven-count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff L.C. Young ("Plaintiff"), the Special Administrator of the Estate of Dan Young, Jr. ("Young"), brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of Young's constitutional rights and state law stemming from Young's wrongful conviction. Before the Court is Defendant Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rogers' ("Rogers") Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants Rogers' motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Parties

In March 1992, Rogers was a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney in the felony review unit. (R. 227-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 6.) On March 22, 1992, the police arrested Young for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Kathy Morgan and the burning of the building in which these crimes occurred. (Id. ¶ 8.) In September 1994, a jury found Young and his co-defendant, Harold Hill, guilty of first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, and arson. (Id.) After being exonerated by forensic evidence, Young's wrongful conviction was vacated in January 2005 by agreement with the Cook County State's Attorneys' Office. (R. 258-1, First Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 5.) On April 27, 2006, Young was killed by a hit and run driver. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff L.C. Young is the Special Administrator of Young's Estate. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 10.)

II. Plaintiff's Claims

In this lawsuit, Plaintiff contends that certain Chicago Police Detectives, along with Rogers, coercively interrogated Young and ultimately fabricated Young's confession to Morgan's kidnapping, rape, and murder. (Id. ¶ 11; First Amend. Compl. ¶ 3.) On October 27, 2008, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint bringing the following claims against Rogers:

(1) a due process claim based on Young's right to a fair trial; (2) a federal conspiracy claim; (3) a federal denial of access to courts claim; (4) a state law malicious prosecution claim; (5) a state law intentional infliction of emotional distress claim; (6) an Illinois conspiracy claim; and (7) a state law negligence claim.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper when "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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In determining summary judgment motions, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). After "a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e)).

ANALYSIS

I. Absolute Prosecutorial Immunity

Rogers first contends that Plaintiff's constitutional claims pursuant to Section 1983 and his Illinois state law claims must fail based on absolute prosecutorial immunity. Prosecutors are protected by absolute immunity from liability in Section 1983 actions for core prosecutorial functions, such as commencing a criminal prosecution. See Levy v. Pappas, 510 F.3d 755, 764 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976)). More specifically, a "prosecutor is shielded by absolute immunity when he acts'as an advocate for the State' but not when his acts are investigative and unrelated to the preparation and initiation of judicial proceedings." Smith v. Power, 346 F.3d 740, 742 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273, 113 S.Ct. 2606, 125 L.Ed.2d 209 (1993)). The Supreme Court instructs that when "determining whether particular actions of government officials fit within a common-law tradition of absolute immunity, or only the more general standard of qualified immunity, [courts] have applied a'functional approach,'" looking to "the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it." Buckley, 509 U.S. at 269 (internal citations omitted). Thus, a prosecutor involved in a conspiracy to target a criminal suspect is not protected by absolute immunity, see Johnson v. Dossey, 515 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. 2008), nor is a prosecutor who fabricates evidence. See Buckley, 509 U.S. at 274-75. Based on the Buckley and Imbler decisions, Illinois courts recognize the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity as applied to state law causes of action. See White v. City of Chicago, 369 Ill.App.3d 765, 769, 308 Ill.Dec. 518, 861 N.E.2d 1083 (Ill.App.Ct. 2006).

Here, Plaintiff asserts that Rogers took part in investigating Young as a suspect, and thus absolute immunity does not apply under the circumstances. In support of his argument, Plaintiff sets forth Rogers' testimony at the suppression hearing in which Rogers admitted that he assisted in the investigation of the kidnaping, rape, and murder of Morgan prior to Young giving his confession. (Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 1; Def.'s Ex. M, H'rg Tr., at 129-31.) Plaintiff also presents evidence that Rogers, along with certain police officers, interviewed Young before Young had been charged. (Id. ¶ 16; Defs.' Ex. K, Christophersen Dep., at 130.) Viewing these facts and all reasonable inferences in ...


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