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Salcedo v. City of Chicago

July 8, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Before the court is Defendants' motion to stay discovery pending the resolution of criminal proceedings that run parallel to this case [24], as well as Defendants' motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted [22]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to stay [24] is granted and their motion to dismiss [22] is denied without prejudice. The action is stayed for an initial period of six months, at which point the Court will hold a status hearing to determine if the stay will remain in place. The stay may be lifted or modified upon a showing of good cause at any time.

I. Background

On August 28, 2009, Plaintiffs filed suit against the City of Chicago and six Chicago Police Officers, all of whom were members of the Chicago Police Department's Special Operations Section ("SOS"). Plaintiffs allege that [o]n August 21, 2002, in Chicago, Illinois, the individual defendants arrested plaintiffs without probable cause and charged them with obstructing a police officer. The individual defendants made false statements about their conduct concerning the stop, seizure and arrest. These false statements caused plaintiffs to be charged, prosecuted, incarcerated, and convicted on June 9, 2005 and later sentenced * * *. On August 29, 2007, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office filed an agreed motion to vacate the guilty verdicts and sentence imposed on the plaintiffs * * *.

FAC ¶¶ 6-7, 9.*fn1 Plaintiffs' complaint comprises two counts. Count I alleges a due process violation and is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count I names as Defendants six former SOS officers; they are Jerome Finnigan, John Burzinski, James McGovern, Carl Suchocki, James Ryke, and Timothy McDermott. Count II seeks recovery against the City of Chicago for the violations alleged in Count I, based on the Supreme Court's holding in Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Plaintiffs contend that the alleged violations arose from the City's practices, policies, or customs.

The State of Illinois has indicted Defendants Finnigan and McGovern, along with other former SOS officers, on charges of armed violence, armed robbery, home invasion, residential burglary, theft, unlawful restraint, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct. In addition, the federal government has charged Finnigan in a murder for hire plot, in which it is alleged that Finnigan solicited someone to murder unnamed police officers who he believed were going to testify against him. See United States v. Finnigan, Case No. 07-CR-634. Finnigan currently is in federal custody.

On December 04, 2009, the City of Chicago and four individual defendants moved to stay this case until the resolution of related state and federal criminal proceedings, and they also filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As to the stay motion, Defendants contend that it would be fundamentally unfair to force certain individual Defendants to choose between protecting their Fifth Amendment rights and defending a civil lawsuit. Defendants also contend that it would be unfair to force the unindicted individual Defendants and the City of Chicago to defend themselves without the full benefit of discovery from all Defendants. Defendants' motion to dismiss maintains that Plaintiffs' complaint must be dismissed because Plaintiffs have hitched their case to the wrong constitutional wagon (and because Plaintiffs are time-barred from pursuing the only otherwise-viable theory).

Plaintiffs sought and were given an extension of time to respond to Defendants' motions. That extension expired on February 19, 2010. To date, Plaintiffs have not filed responses to Defendants' motions nor have they filed a motion for another extension of time.

II. Analysis

A court has the inherent power to manage its docket "with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936). Exercising this power requires balancing the competing interests of plaintiffs, defendants, and the public. Id.; Hare v. Custable, 2008 WL 1995062, at *2 (N.D.Ill. 2008). Although stays in light of parallel criminal proceedings are not of constitutional magnitude (United States v. All Meat and Poultry Prods. Stored at Lagrou Cold Storage, 2006 WL 27119, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 4, 2006)), courts nonetheless retain discretion to issue stays in those circumstances. A court may stay a civil proceeding pending resolution of criminal proceedings "when the interests of justice" require it. See United States v. Kordel, 397 U.S. 1, 12 n. 27 (1970).

To determine whether a stay will issue, the Court considers the following non-exhaustive factors: (1) whether the civil and criminal proceedings involve the same subject matter; (2) whether the government has initiated both proceedings; (3) the posture of the criminal proceeding; (4) the effect on the public interest of granting or denying a stay; (5) the interest of Plaintiffs in proceeding expeditiously, and the potential prejudice that Plaintiffs may suffer from a delay; and (6) the burden that any particular aspect of the civil case may impose on Defendants if a stay is denied. Hare, 2008 WL 1995062 at *2 (citing Cruz v. County of DuPage, 1997 WL 370194, at *2 (N.D.Ill. 1997)). The court examines each factor in turn.

1. Relationship between civil and criminal matters. In support of their motion to stay the case, Defendants state that the pending state and federal criminal charges against certain individual Defendants are related to the general allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint. This factor weighs in favor of a stay, albeit only slightly because Defendants have not provided extensive briefing as to the extent of the overlap in the cases; indeed, they indicate that the overlap may not be particularly great. See, e.g., Chagolla v. City of Chicago, 529 F. Supp. 2d 941, 946 (N.D.Ill. 2008) (citing the potential that a plaintiff would "use other similar events as evidence to support his claims against the individual defendants and the near-certainty that he will attempt to use other similar events to support his Monell claim"); Doe v. City of Chicago, 360 F. Supp. 2d 880, 881 (N.D. Ill. 2005) (stay was warranted where "[t]he state criminal charges pertain to the same time period and same general sets of allegations made in the Plaintiffs' civil suit").

2. Government involvement in both civil and criminal proceedings. When both civil and criminal proceedings are brought by the government, there is a concern that the government may use the civil discovery process to obtain evidence for use in the criminal proceedings. Cruz v. County of Dupage, 1997 WL 370194, at *3 (N.D.Ill. 1997). That concern is not present in this case because neither the state nor the federal government is ...

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