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Ray v. City of Chicago

October 7, 2009

NONA RAY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, AND P.O. MALINOWSKI #7028, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. BACKGROUND

On October 17, 2008, Defendant Officer Malinowski ("Malinowski") observed Plaintiff operating a motor vehicle at night without headlights turned on. Malinowski and his partner proceeded to effect a traffic stop of which Plaintiff does not dispute the validity. Malinowski then ordered Plaintiff and her passenger, Morgan Boyd ("Boyd"), out of the car. After Plaintiff and Boyd stepped out of the vehicle, a controlled substance was confiscated from inside the car. Plaintiff alleges that Malinowski, or his partner, planted the controlled substance in Plaintiff's vehicle. Plaintiff was then arrested and charged with criminal offenses. These charges were later dismissed. Additionally, pursuant to Chicago Municipal Code § 7-24-225, Plaintiff's vehicle was impounded. According to this section of Chicago's Municipal Code, the owner of record of any motor vehicle found to contain any controlled substance is liable to the City for a penalty of $1,000 plus any applicable towing and storage fees. On November 19, 2008 the Department of Administrative Hearings found Plaintiff liable under Chicago Municipal Code § 7-24-225 (a) and entered a judgment in the amount of $2,180.

Plaintiff asserts two claims in her complaint. She brings Count I against Malinowski under 42 U.S.C § 1983 alleging that she was deprived of rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Count II is a supplemental state claim for administrative review of the administrative finding that Plaintiff was "liable" under Chicago Municipal Code § 7-24-225 (a). Additionally, in Count II Plaintiff asserts that Chicago ordinance, Chicago Municipal Code § 7-24-225 (a), is unconstitutional because it does not provide a defense to innocent vehicle owners who are found liable because of wrongdoing by police officers. Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and Count II pursuant to Rule 12(b)(7).

This is a case that should have been brought in state court. Assuming the truth of all allegations asserted in the complaint, which I do, all this federal filing did was to delay substantially the remedy Plaintiff ought to have based on the facts stated in her complaint. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) requires that I analyze the legal sufficiency of the complaint, and not the factual merits of the case. Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). I must take all facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the Plaintiff. Caldwell v. City of Elmwood, 959 F.2d 670, 671 (7th Cir. 1992). Plaintiff, for her part, must do more than solely recite the elements for a violation; she must plead with sufficient particularity so that her right to relief is more than a mere conjecture. Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must plead her facts so that, when accepted as true, they show the plausibility of her claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Plaintiff must do more than plead facts that are "consistent with Defendants' liability" because that only shows the possibility, not the plausibility, of her entitlement to relief. Id. (internal quotations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Count I

Plaintiff's first count asserts violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff alleges that Malinowski had no probable cause to take her into custody and that he withheld exculpatory evidence from the prosecutors relating to her criminal charges. Plaintiff also asserts that she was maliciously prosecuted by Malinowski. For the purposes of clarity and thoroughness I will analyze the merits of Count I under both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments individually.

1. Fourth Amendment

The Supreme Court has made clear that probable cause "applie[s] to all arrests, without the need to 'balance' the interests and circumstances involved in particular situations." Atwater v. City of Lago Vista 532 U.S. 318, 354-355, 121 (2001) (citing Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 208 (1979)). When an officer has probable cause to believe that even a minor offense has been committed in his presence, "he may, without violating the Fourth Amendment, arrest the offender." Id. at 354. Plaintiff does not dispute the fact that a minor traffic violation was committed in the presence of Malinowski. In fact, Plaintiff admits in her complaint that the traffic stop, prompted by her driving a motor vehicle at night without headlights, was legal. In accordance with Atwater, this lawful traffic stop alone provides sufficient basis for Plaintiff's arrest.*fn1 Therefore, Plaintiff's Count I for relief under the Fourth Amendment fails.

2. Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to due process. U.S. CONST. amend. XIV ยง 1. Plaintiff asserts in her complaint that she suffered due process violations because Malinowski withheld exculpatory ...


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