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Kelly v. Chambers

March 23, 2009

KAREN KELLY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEAN CHAMBERS, CRAIG ESPLIN, RAMTIN SABET, MAYNARD WILLIAMS, AND THE VILLAGE OF OAKWOOD HILLS, IL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

Presently before us is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Dean Chambers ("Chambers"), Craig Esplin ("Esplin"), Maynard Williams ("Williams"), Ramtin Sabet ("Sabet"), and the Village of Oakwood Hills, Illinois ("Village") (collectively, "Defendants"). Also before us is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statements. For the reasons stated below, we grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and deny Plaintiff's Motion to Strike.

SUMMARY OF THE FACTS*fn1

Plaintiff is a resident of Oakwood Hills, Illinois and a former trustee of the Village. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 1.) She is also the co-founder of the Independent Citizens Police Committee ("Committee"). (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 1.) Part of Plaintiff's work on the Committee included leading a campaign to eliminate the Oakwood Hills Police Department. (Id.) At all times relevant to this motion, Chambers served as the Village President (also known as the Mayor); Esplin was a fellow Village Trustee; Williams was the Oakwood Hills Chief of Police; and Sabet was an Oakwood Hills patrol officer. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 2.)

On August 26, 2006, Sabet stopped Plaintiff's son for a traffic violation. (Id. ¶ 7.) While Sabet conducted the stop, Plaintiff and her husband arrived on the scene. (Id. ¶ 8.) Although Plaintiff disputes the following allegation, Sabet claims that Plaintiff obstructed him at the stop by standing at the door of his car and ignoring his requests to move, forcing him to gently push her away from the door so that he could open it.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s SOF ¶ 11.) During the stop, Sabet called his supervisor, Sergeant Goldman, to inform him of the situation.*fn3

(Def.'s SOF ¶ 10.) The two decided not to issue any tickets to either Plaintiff's son or Plaintiff. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 8.) Goldman testified that he contacted Deputy Chief Lezon while Sabet was still at the scene of the traffic stop.*fn4 (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 33-36.) Lezon advised Goldman to tell Sabet to allow the situation to "calm down" and to "let it go." (Id. ¶ 36.) Within a week after the incident,*fn5 Lezon spoke to Chief Williams about the incident and Williams mentioned it to Mayor Chambers. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 73, Ex. G, Chambers Dep. 24-25.) Although the timing is unclear, at some point after the traffic stop, Sabet had a conversation about the incident with Williams. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 49.) Chambers discussed the incident with Village attorney, Susan McCabe, in mid-September.*fn6 (Def.'s SOF ¶ 75 & Ex. H, Chambers Dep. 55-56.) McCabe advised Chambers to get more information about the situation. (Id. ¶ 76.)

Beginning on October 17, 2006, Plaintiff circulated flyers advertising an October 24th meeting, at which Sheriff Nygren was scheduled to speak about Plaintiff's proposal to replace the Oakwood Hills Police Department with the McHenry County Police Department. (Id. ¶ 11-12.) Williams and Chambers both attended this meeting. (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 22.) There is evidence that Defendants opposed this proposal. For example, Williams and Sabet would have lost their jobs if this proposal were accepted. Additionally, both Williams and Chambers expressed opposition to this position. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)

Around the time of the meeting, Chambers sought more information about the traffic stop, per McCabe's instructions. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 76.) During that time he spoke with the Village prosecutor and spoke with Officer Sabet about the situation. (Id. ¶¶ 77-78, Ex. H, Chambers Dep., pp. 58-59.) Although Sabet's and Chambers' testimonies were inconsistent regarding when they met and the circumstances under which they met,*fn7 both ultimately testified that they met in late October, a day or two before October 25, 2006. (Id. ¶¶ 14-16, 77-80.) The day after Chambers' conversation with Sabet, he contacted Chief Williams to request a copy of the police report and the videotape of the incident. (Id. ¶ 81.) Williams testified that he first realized Sabet had not prepared a report of the incident upon Chambers' request for a copy of the report.*fn8 (Id. ¶ 58.) Upon that realization, Williams ordered Sabet to prepare a report. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 60-61.) Sabet prepared the report on October 25, 2006, one day after Plaintiff's meeting. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 17.)*fn9

The report indicated that after asking Neil Kelly, the Plaintiff's son, for his driver license and proof of insurance, Neil responded that he did not have his driver's license and he did not give Sabet his insurance card. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. B.) Sabet returned to his vehicle just before Plaintiff and her husband approached. The report indicated that Plaintiff blocked Sabet from exiting his vehicle, that Sabet had to ask Plaintiff to move four times, that he had to slowly push Plaintiff with the door of his car to exit the vehicle, and that he advised them that they were obstructing his duties and requested them to step aside. (Id.) Deputy Chief Lezon approved this report on October 31, 2006. (Mem. at 4.)

The day after Sabet prepared the report, on October 26, 2006, Mayor Chambers emailed Village Trustee Esplin, to determine whether to pursue the issue any further. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 87, Ex. B.) Williams presented this information at the November 2006 meeting of the Village's public safety and finance committee ("Committee"), of which Esplin was a member. (Id. ¶¶ 109-11.) The committee voted unanimously to request the entire Board of Trustees to consider the issue and determine whether Plaintiff abused her office. (Id.¶¶ 110, 113-14.) The issue was addressed by the full Board in December 2006. (Id. ¶ 112.) After Esplin introduced the matter, the Board asked Plaintiff to speak. (Id. ¶ 115.) Plaintiff, however, refused to answer any questions about the incident and stated that this was "a bunch of bullshit." (Id. ¶ 116.) The committee sent a letter to Kelly in January 2007, requesting a meeting with her so she could explain her version of the events. (Id. ¶ 117.) Finally, in April 2007, the Board voted unanimously to censure Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 120.)

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Defendants for First Amendment Retaliation (Counts IIV, VII-X) and conspiracy to retaliate under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count V). (3d Am. Compl.) Plaintiff also alleged a § 1983 equal protection, class of one claim against the individual Defendants (Count VI), a § 1983 defamation claim against the Village (Count XI), and an individual state-law claim against Sabet (Count XII).*fn10 (3d Am. Compl.) However, in her response, Plaintiff withdrew the latter three counts, as well as the claims against Esplin. (Resp. at 8, n.2.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper only when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue for trial 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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). This standard places the initial burden on the moving party to 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, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden of production, the nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading" but rather "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue [of material fact] for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). In deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, we must accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true, and draw all inferences in that party's favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, "our favor toward the nonmoving party does not extend to drawing 'inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture.'" Argyropoulos v. City of Alton, 539 F.3d 724, 732 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Fischer v. Avanade, Inc., 519 F.3d 393, 401 (7th Cir. 2008)). Therefore, the plaintiff cannot merely "raise some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts; [she] must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Keri v. Bd. of Trs. of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006).

ANALYSIS*fn11

I. Count V -- ยง 1983 Conspiracy Claim Against Chambers, ...


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