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Tucker v. Fulton County

July 9, 2010

KENDALL TUCKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FULTON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, AN ILLINOIS GOVERNMENTAL ENTITY, WEST CENTRAL ILLINOIS TASK FORCE, AN ILLINOIS INTER-GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY, JEFF STANDARD, SHERIFF OF FULTON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND KARL WILLIAMS, DEPUTY SHERIFF OF FULTON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant Karl Williams' ("Williams") Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Williams' Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment [#42] is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The relevant background was sufficiently set forth in the Court's June 8, 2010, Order and need not be restated here. Suffice it to say that Plaintiff, Kendall Tucker ("Tucker"), was in possession of a 1998 Case 580 Super L Extend a Hoe, serial number JJG0202923. Williams, an Inspector with the West Central Illinois Task Force, received a report that this backhoe was stolen. Following an investigation into the ownership of the backhoe, Williams seized the backhoe and ultimately returned it to ICMC, the company that he determined was the rightful owner.

On July 10, 2008, Tucker brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violation of his constitutional rights and damages from the purportedly unlawful search and seizure of his property in connection with investigating the illegal sale of narcotics and possession of stolen property, as well as state law claims for conversion, defamation, respondeat superior, and § 9-102 of the Illinois Local Governmental Tort Immunity Act. The Court previously granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims except the claim against Williams for denial of Tucker's post-deprivation due process rights. Williams has now filed a Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment based on information not provided in the first motion. The matter is fully briefed, and this Order follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court of portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of disputed material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988).

If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party then has the burden of presenting specific facts to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and produce evidence of a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Nevertheless, this Court must "view the record and all inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to the [non-moving party]." Holland v. Jefferson Nat. Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). Summary judgment will be denied where a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995).

ANALYSIS

"Procedural due process claims require a two-step analysis. The first step requires us to determine whether the plaintiff has been deprived of a protected interest; the second requires a determination of what process is due." Luellen v. City of East Chicago, 350 F.3d 604, 613 (7th Cir. 2004), citing Strasburger v. Board of Education, Hardin County Comm. Unit School Dist. No. 1, 143 F.3d 351, 358 (7th Cir. 1998). In order to establish that he was deprived of a right, privilege, or immunity guaranteed by the Constitution, Tucker must show that: (1) the claimed interest is a protected property or liberty interest; (2) the alleged loss amounted to a deprivation; and (3) that the deprivation was without due process of law. Id.

Tucker claims that he was deprived of post-deprivation due process where Williams provided him with no notice or opportunity to be heard to demonstrate his claimed ownership interest prior to the time the property was turned over to ICMC. Williams responds that Tucker had actual notice of the investigation and the possibility that the backhoe was stolen from the two occasions when Williams interviewed him. He further maintains that he gave Tucker the opportunity to produce any documentary evidence of ownership of the backhoe, which Tucker was unable to do.

The Court previously noted that when Williams spoke to Tucker, Williams had not yet received evidence of ownership from ICMC and told Tucker that whether the backhoe was stolen was still under investigation. The record is devoid of undisputed evidence indicating that Williams ever directly informed Tucker that the backhoe was in fact stolen and was being seized, much less advised of any process or hearing through which he could seek its return. However, rather than addressing the issue of the adequacy of notice on the merits, the Court assumed the inadequacy of notice and resolved the issue on the question of post-deprivation opportunity to be heard.

On August 10, 2007, while being interviewed by Williams as part of his investigation into the ownership of the backhoe, Tucker stated, "if it's stolen go ahead and take it then." Williams states that at the time of the seizure on August 29, 2007, he informed Mike Krulac, who was using the backhoe on his property at the time, that the backhoe was stolen and was being seized. He then relies on Tucker's admission that Krulac immediately called him after the Task Force confiscated the backhoe and told him that Williams was among the officers involved. The backhoe was not turned over ...


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