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Johns v. Amtrak Police Unit

March 16, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Before the Court is Defendant Amtrak Police Unit' s motion for summary judgment [77].

For the reasons set forth below, Defendant' s motion is granted.

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiff, Marcus Augustus Johns, acting pro se, filed a complaint on or about February 23, 2006 in the Circuit Court of Cook County. See [1]. Defendant was not served; the claim was dismissed. See id. On December 7, 2006, the dismissal was vacated and Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (and of his constitutional rights) stemming from his September 2005 arrest by Amtrak police officers. See id. The action was removed (id.), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1349, and 1367, to the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, where it initially was assigned to Judge Moran.

Plaintiff amended his complaint on multiple occasions. [13], [39]. Defendant filed its answer [54] on December 13, 2007. On March 11, 2008, Plaintiff filed another amended complaint [70], but it did not seek leave to file the pleading and in any event it appears to be identical to the earlier amended complaint [39]. Therefore, the Court will disregard the March 11, 2008, filing. Cf. Dale v. Poston, 548 F.3d 563, 568 (7th Cir. 2008) ("Judges * * * must construe pro se pleadings liberally * * * [b]ut procedural rules cannot be ignored") (citation omitted).

"Amtrak Police Unit" is the only remaining defendant in this action. National Railroad Passenger Corporation has answered as the named Defendant in this case, stating that it was "incorrectly sued as Amtrak Police Unit," but not raising any objection to the apparent misnomer or alleging any prejudice. See 2 MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE § 10.02[2][b], at 7-9 (3d ed. 2001). In addition to Defendant Amtrak Police Unit, however, Plaintiff refers in the body of his complaint (¶ 3) to defendant "Michael Columbo" a police officer who, it now appears, is actually named Richard Fedorchak. (Michael Columbo, as discussed in the facts section of this opinion, is actually Michael Columb, a building engineer.) Officer Fedorchak has not been served with process, and Defendant' s Answer (see ¶ 3) put Plaintiff on notice that "Michael Columbo" is not an Amtrak police officer and was never served with process.

Plaintiff has not sought leave to amend his complaint in order to add Fedorchak as a defendant, despite apparently becoming aware of his true identity.*fn1 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a) specifies that the "title of the complaint must name all the parties." Because Plaintiff has not done so, Fedorchak is not a party to this action. See Moran v. Commanding General of U.S. Army Fin. Ctr., 360 F.2d 920, 922 (7th Cir. 1966); cf. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261-62 (9th Cir. 1992) (dismissal of pro se plaintiff's complaint for repeated failure to properly caption parties was not an abuse of discretion). Even if Fedorchak were a properly named defendant, he would be entitled to summary judgment based on the record before the Court.

As it now stands, Plaintiff's amended complaint commingles citations to, and analysis of, the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.) ("ADA" or "the Act") with facts about the incident that led to his arrest and with at-times unspecified references to his civil rights. Read with a searching eye, Plaintiff alleges that (i) he attempted to use a public toilet but was denied access and not shown to an alternative facility in violation of the ADA (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5, 16); (ii) that he was unlawfully detained and arrested by the police (Compl. ¶¶ 12-15, 25), (iii) that police used "excessive force" in using four pairs of handcuffs to arrest him after "[i]n ' urgency'[to use the bathroom, he] unzipped [his] fly behind a light post" while he was being detained (Compl. ¶ 15); and (iv) that he was discriminated against based on his race (Compl. ¶ 16, 28).*fn2

Plaintiff seeks more than $30.5 million in damages, but would accept a settlement of about $15 million "and a public apology." Compl. ¶ 26. On June 5, 2008, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment [77].

II. Facts

A. Local Standards on Summary Judgment

The Court takes the relevant facts from the parties'respective Local Rule ("L.R.") 56.1 statements of material fact: Defendant' s Statement of Facts ("Def. SOF") [77], Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Facts ("Pl. SOAF") [81], and Defendant' s Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Facts ("Def. Resp. Pl. SOAF") [83].

Local Rule 56.1 requires that statements of fact contain allegations of material fact, and that the factual allegations be supported by admissible record evidence. See L.R. 56.1; Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. at 583-85 (N.D. Ill. 2000). The Seventh Circuit teaches that a district court has broad discretion to require strict compliance with L.R. 56.1. See, e.g., Koszola v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 385 F.3d 1104, 1109 (7th Cir. 2004); Curran v. Kwon, 153 F.3d 481, 486 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1317 (7th Cir. 1995) (collecting cases)). Where a party has offered a legal conclusion or a statement of fact without offering proper evidentiary support, the Court will not consider the statement. See, e.g., Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 583. Additionally, where a party improperly denies a statement of fact by failing to provide adequate or proper record support for the denial, the Court deems admitted that statement of fact. See L.R. 56.1(a), (b)(3)(B); see also Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 584. The requirements for a response under Local Rule 56.1 are "not satisfied by evasive denials that do not fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2000). In addition, the Court disregards any additional statements of fact contained in a party's response brief but not in its L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B) statement of additional facts. See, e.g., Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 584 (citing Midwest Imports, 71 F.3d at 1317).

Plaintiff failed to file a response to Defendant' s Statement of Facts as L.R. 56.1(b)(3) requires, despite Defendant's compliance with the pro se notice requirements of L.R. 56.2.

Pursuant to that rule, Defendant provided Plaintiff with notice [80] about Plaintiff's need to comply with L.R. 56.1, specifically stating, "[i]f you disagree with any fact offered by the defendant, you need to explain how and why you disagree with the defendant * * * If you do not do so, the judge will be forced to assume that you do not dispute the facts which you have not responded to." Because of Plaintiff's failure to submit responses to Defendant's statement of facts, the Court deems admitted each of Defendant' s fact statements. See, e.g., Dale v. Poston, 548 F.3d 563, 568 (7th Cir. 2008) (upholding district court' s decision to disregard pro se litigant' s L.R. 56.1 statement); Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006) ("[T]he Supreme Court has made clear that even pro se litigants must follow rules of civil procedure.") (citing McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993)); Greer v. Bd. of Educ., 267 F.3d 723, 726 (7th Cir. 2001); Walridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 924 (7th Cir. 1994) (failure to comply with L.R. 56.1 is "not a harmless technicality").

However, like the plaintiff in Adams v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 324 F.3d 935, 937 (7th Cir. 2003), Plaintiff "should not feel too bad about" deeming admitted Defendant' s statement of facts, "because it * * * appears that most of the relevant, material facts submitted by [Defendant] * * * are not disputed." Defendant' s L.R. 56.1 Statement of Facts based 43 out of 49 fact statements on Plaintiff's deposition testimony. Moreover, this memorandum opinion and order describes the extent to which the other six statements do not comport perfectly with Plaintiff's version of events and concludes that the differences are immaterial. Further, the Court has taken into consideration Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Facts and the limited evidence that Plaintiff has presented as exhibits to his pleadings, and has broadly construed the contentions set forth in Plaintiff's complaint, briefs, and other ...

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