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Sroga v. Weiglen

February 17, 2010

KEVIN SROGA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
P.O. WEIGLEN, STAR NO. 13384, P.O. NIEDZWIECKI, STAR NO. 11319, P.O. BLASZ, STAR NO. 10077, P.O. TARALA, STAR NO. 19323, P.O. JOHNSON, STAR NO. 17442, P.O. FICO, STAR NO. 6284, P.O. VASQUEZ, STAR NO. 19492, P.O. SCHILLING, STAR NO. 6449, P.O. LA CASA CALIZ, STAR NO. 8686, INDIVIDUALLY, AND THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Ronald A. Guzman United States Judge

Judge Ronald A. Guzmán

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Kevin Sroga has sued Chicago Police Officers Weiglen, Niedzwiecki, Blasz, Tarala, Johnson, Fico, Vasquez, Schilling, La Casa Caliz, and the City of Chicago for false arrest and conspiracy to violate his rights as guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I-IV). Sroga also brings supplementary state law claims of malicious prosecution against Officers Blasz, Tarala, Johnson, Fico and the City of Chicago (Counts V and VI). Before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons provided herein, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion. The Court grants summary judgment as to Sroga's federal claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I, II, III and IV). The Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over the supplemental state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3) and dismisses Counts V and VI without prejudice. This case is hereby terminated.

Facts

The pertinent facts are discussed below. However, the Court notes that portions of plaintiff's submissions fail to comply with Local Rule 56.1. (See, e.g., Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt.; Pl.'s Am. LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt.; see id. (failing to cite to Pl.'s Aff. Supp. Denying Summ. J.).) This Court provided Sroga with a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment" that clearly stated that he was required to comply with LR 56.1. The notice also stated: "You also need to explain how the documents or declarations that you are submitting support your version of the facts." (LR 56.2 Notice.) District courts may, and this Court does, insist upon strict adherence to LR 56.1, even from a pro se litigant. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993); Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004).

Discussion

A district court grants summary judgment when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). This Court must view the facts in a light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Haywood v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 323 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2003).

Section 1983 Claims (Counts I, II, III, and IV)

In Counts I through III, Sroga sues Chicago Police Officers Weiglen, Niedzwiecki, Blasz, Tarala, Johnson and Fico in their individual capacity. These defendants argue that based on the undisputed facts, each should be afforded qualified immunity.

"Whether a government official is entitled to qualified immunity is a legal question for resolution by the court, not a jury." Purtell v. Mason, 527 F.3d 615, 621 (7th Cir. 2008). Qualified immunity "ordinarily should be decided by the court long before trial," Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 228 (1991), "because [t]he entitlement is an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability," id. at 227 (quotation omitted). "Qualified-immunity claims are determined by reference to [a] two-part inquiry . . . ." Purtell, 527 F.3d at 621.

First, the court must consider . . . this threshold question:

Taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right? If the answer to this question is 'yes,' then the next, sequential step is to ask whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.

Id. (quotation omitted). "In the specific context of a damages action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 stemming from a warrantless arrest, the arresting officers will be immune from liability if a reasonable officer could have believed [the plaintiff's arrest] to be lawful, in light of clearly established law and the information the arresting officers possessed." Jones v. Watson, 106 F.3d 774, 778 (7th Cir. 1997) (quotations omitted). This is true no matter the motive of the officers in arresting the plaintiff. Schertz v. Waupaca County, 875 F.2d 578, 582 (7th Cir. 1989). As long as "officers of reasonable competence could disagree on this issue, immunity should be recognized." Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986). "[O]nly if no reasonable officer could have mistakenly believed that he had probable cause to arrest is the immunity forfeited." Jones v. City of Chi., 856 F.2d 985, 994 (7th Cir. 1988). Qualified immunity is intended to protect "all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." Malley, 475 U.S. at 341.

With regard to Count I, the Court must determine whether Officers Weiglen and Niedzwiecki should be afforded qualified immunity for arresting Sroga for disorderly conduct on March 30, 2006. Under Illinois law, "[a] person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly . . . [d]oes any act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace." 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/26-1(a)(1). "Whether particular conduct is disorderly therefore depends not only on the conduct itself but also on the conduct's unreasonableness in relation to the surrounding circumstances." Biddle v. Martin, 992 F.2d 673, 677-78 (7th Cir. 1993). "Three elements are required: the defendant's conduct must (a) be unreasonable, (b) disturb or alarm another, and (c) threaten to provoke or provoke a breach of the peace." Id. The term "breach of the peace embraces a great variety of conduct destroying or menacing public order and tranquility[,] . . . connotes conduct that creates consternation and alarm . . . [and] must be voluntary, unnecessary, and contrary to ordinary human conduct." People ...


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