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Martinez v. Haleas

March 30, 2010

NOE MARTINEZ, MONTOYA WILLIAMS, ARMANDO NUNEZ, CHRISTOPHER MORRIS, ANTONIO BENAVIDES, FEDERICO RIVERO, JOSE CERVANTES, EDWIN RAMIREZ, HENRY PALOMO, DANIEL ORTIZ, LUIS GUERRERO, KENNETH REYES, AND LAWRENCE KOSCAL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER JOHN HALEAS, (STAR # 6719) AND THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Noe Martinez ("Martinez"), Montoya Williams ("Williams"), Armando Nunez ("Nunez"), Christopher Morris ("Morris"), Antonio Benavides ("Benavides"), Federico Rivero ("Rivero"), Jose Cervantes ("Cervantes"), Edwin Ramirez ("Ramirez"), Henry Palomo ("Palomo"), Daniel Ortiz ("Ortiz"), Luis Guerrero ("Guerrero"), Kenneth Reyes ("Reyes"), and Lawrence Koscal ("Koscal") have brought a seven count first amended complaint against defendants City of Chicago (the "City") and Chicago Police Officer John Haleas ("Haleas") alleging: a Monell claim by all plaintiffs against the City of Chicago (the "City") (Count I); indemnity by all plaintiffs against the City (Count II); false imprisonment, in violation of plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment rights, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III); illegal search and seizure, in violation of plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV); malicious prosecution by all plaintiffs against the City and Haleas (Count V); intentional infliction of emotional distress against the City and Haleas (Count VI); and a state law claim for false imprisonment against the City and Haleas (Count VII). Defendants have moved to dismiss the newly added plaintiffs for improper joinder pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 21, or in the alternative, to sever plaintiffs' claims for trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). Plaintiffs oppose the motions, arguing that permissive joinder is proper under Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a). For the reasons stated below, defendants' motions to dismiss the newly added plaintiffs are granted, and the motions to sever under Rule 42(b) are deemed moot.

BACKGROUND

The original complaint in this matter was filed by Martinez as a putative class action.*fn1

On September 2, 2009, the court denied Martinez's motion for class certification, and on November 5, 2009, Martinez along with twelve other plaintiffs filed the instant complaint.

Plaintiffs were each arrested by Haleas and charged with Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") in separate incidents during a two year period beginning in June 2006 and spanning to June 2008.*fn2 Plaintiffs claim that in each case Haleas falsified evidence, failed to administer the Standardized Field Performance Tests, falsified police reports and testimony to indicate that he had administered the field tests that plaintiffs had all failed, falsified police reports to indicate that plaintiffs refused breathalyzer tests, and used identical language in his reports and testimony to describe the purportedly drunken behavior of plaintiffs during their arrests. All charges were eventually dismissed as to each plaintiff.

Plaintiffs allege their false arrests violated their constitutional rights to due process and resulted in damages including court costs, vehicle impoundment costs, and attorney's fees. They further allege that Haleas personally profited from engaging in a pattern and practice of making false DUI arrests because, as a midnight shift officer, he was paid overtime every time he made a daytime court appearance. Additionally, plaintiffs allege that the City maintained policies that allowed and encouraged Haleas and other Chicago police officers to engage in a continuing course of false arrests and overtime pay abuses.

DISCUSSION

Defendants have moved to dismiss the twelve newly added plaintiffs on the ground that they were improperly joined, or in the alternative, to sever plaintiffs' claims for trial. Defendants argue that joinder is improper here because plaintiffs' claims arise out of thirteen individual DUI arrests that were made under different circumstances, at a different locations, and over a span of two years. Additionally, defendants argue that independent inquiry into the presence of probable cause is necessary to resolve each plaintiff's claims, and that trying all thirteen actions together would potentially confuse the jury and ultimately prejudice the defendants. Plaintiffs argue in response that defendants' motion is premature because it was filed prior to the filing of a responsive pleading. They also contend that they have met the joinder requirements of Rule 20(a)(1) because the plaintiffs' individual claims share numerous common questions of law and fact and the equities favor joinder.

A. Timeliness of Motions

As a preliminary matter, plaintiffs argue that defendants' motions are premature because defendants have not yet answered the amended complaint. There is no rule precluding consideration of such motions before a responsive pleading is filed. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 21, the court has broad discretion to "at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party... [or] sever any claim against a party." See Rice v. Sunrise Express, Inc., 209 F.3d 1008, 1016 (7th Cir. 2000). The cases cited by both sets of parties illustrate that the timing of such motions is soundly within the discretion of the court. See Harris v. Spellman, 150 F.R.D. 130 (N.D. Ill. 1993)(Rule 21 motion granted before responsive pleading filed); Byers v. Illinois State Police, 2000 WL 1808558 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 6, 2000)(motion to join new plaintiff to amended complaint denied); Benitez v. Am. Standard Circuits, Inc., 2009 WL 742686 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 18, 2009)(Rule 21 and 42 motions filed before responsive pleadings deemed premature); Nelson v. Chertoff, 2008 WL 4211577 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 10, 2008)(motion to sever denied because of "newness" of the case and minimal discovery). Based on the facts alleged in the amended complaint and defendants' papers in support of the instant motions, it is clear that plaintiffs' individual claims arise from thirteen separate incidents, and any responsive pleadings or discovery are not likely to disrupt this pivotal fact. Moreover, unlike cases where the litigation is new, the instant case has been pending since 2007, and there was extensive discovery conducted in connection with the motion for class certification. For these reasons, the court finds that defendants' motions are timely and will consider the merits of the parties' arguments.

B. Motions to Dismiss for Misjoinder of Newly Added Plaintiffs

The permissive joinder standard of Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(1) ...


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