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Degironne v. Furlong

May 14, 2010

MARK A. DEGIRONNE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DOUGLAS FURLONG, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge United States District Court

Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in Plaintiff's suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Plaintiff's Motion to Bar Defendant's Expert Witness. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied. Plaintiff's Motion to Bar Defendant's Expert Witness is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Mark Degironne (hereinafter, "Degironne") brings this lawsuit against Douglas Furlong (hereinafter, "Officer Furlong" or "Furlong"), an officer of the New Lenox, Illinois police force. On November 4, 2007, Officer Furlong was on patrol when he received a dispatch from the Will County Sheriff's Department indicating that the windows of the Gyro Shack had been broken and that the suspect was a white male driving an "older model" red F-150 Ford pick-up truck. Shortly afterwards, Officer Furlong stopped Degironne, a white male driving an older-model (1994) red F-150 Ford pick-up truck at a location about a five-minute drive from the scene of the crime and traveling in the direction that the suspect car was going when it left the scene.

As Officer Furlong approached the truck, he saw Degironne make what Furlong perceived to be a "furtive movement" below and to the side of his seat. Degironne admitted that he reached toward the glove box to get his wallet, which contained his license, registration, and proof of insurance. According to Degironne, Officer Furlong asked for permission to search the truck for a crowbar that was used in a vandalism and that, if he had no crowbar, he could leave. Degironne states that he never gave Officer Furlong permission to search his truck. Officer Furlong contends that Degironne gave him permission to search the truck for any weapons or tools that might have been used to perform "such a crime" as the breaking of windows.

The officer found no tools likely to have caused criminal damage to the Gyro Shack, but went on to remove, open, and search an eight-inch-long sunglass' case found under the driver's seat, in which he found cocaine. Officer Furlong also found a brown paper bag containing a six-pack of beer from which two cans had been removed and a Burger King cup containing a tool socket and a Brillo pad, which the officer perceived to be a pipe used to ingest crack cocaine. There is no evidence that Degironne showed any signs of intoxication. While police were searching Degironne's truck, a witness to the Gyro Shack incident was brought to the scene and determined that Degironne was not the perpetrator of that crime.

Degironne was arrested and charged with felony possession of cocaine. His truck was towed and impounded, and forfeiture proceedings were begun. Degironne moved to suppress the cocaine as the fruit of an unconstitutional search. A state court judge found the search of the sunglass' case unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment because it could not have held an instrument for smashing windows. Furthermore, the state court held that finding the tool socket and Brillo did not give Furlong probable cause to look for drugs in the sunglass' case because the officer opened the sunglass' case first. The court granted Degironne's motion to suppress. The felony charge was dismissed, and Degironne's truck was returned to him about eight months after it was seized.

Degironne then filed this action against Officer Furlong under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Furlong now moves for summary judgment.

Degironne moves to bar the testimony of Furlong's expert witness, Robert T. Johnson, a law enforcement expert.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

The summary judgment motion involves two issues: (1) whether Defendant is collaterally estopped from relitigating the constitutionality of the search of the truck, and (2) assuming that Defendant is not collaterally estopped, whether the undisputed facts of the case show that the search was justified and that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

1. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper if "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). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and a dispute is genuine where 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 (1986). The court's role when ruling on a motion for summary judgment is not to weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact that warrants trial. Id. at 249. In making this determination, the ...


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