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Carrillo v. City of Chicago

August 30, 2010

OMAR CARRILLO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, BRIAN SWIATKOWSKI, AND LAURA KUC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Omar Carrillo has sued the City of Chicago and Chicago police officers Brian Swiatkowski and Laura Kuc. Carrillo asserts claims of unreasonable seizure, false arrest and imprisonment, violation of substantive due process, and willful and wanton conduct. He seeks to hold the City liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior on the state law claims and for statutory indemnification of the officers on all of the claims against them. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendants' motion in part and denies it in part.

Facts

On December 9, 2008, Swiatkowski and Kuc stopped Carrillo for an alleged traffic violation while he was driving on South Damen Avenue in Chicago. When the officers asked for Carrillo's driver's license, he informed them that he was "driving on a ticket," and he presented the ticket and his state-issued identification card. The officers checked Carrillo's name via computer and found an arrest warrant for a man named Omar Bucio that listed several aliases, including Omar Busio Carrillo, Omar BucioCarrillo, and Omar Carrillo-Bucio. The officers told Carrillo about the warrant. Carrillo says he gave the officers an order from a DuPage County circuit judge stating that he was not to be arrested on the warrant in question. According to Carrillo, the officers took the court order from him, tore it up, and made disparaging comments about it.

Despite Carrillo's repeated pleas that he was not the person named in the warrant, the officers transported him to the police station. The officers checked the LEADS database and verified the warrant was active. They proceeded to process Carrillo, and other officers later transported him to the Cook County Jail. Jail personnel released Carrillo the next day after he post bond. He then appeared before a judge in DuPage County, who released Carrillo and entered an order stating that he was not to be arrested on the warrant again. Carrillo then filed this suit.

The Court will discuss other facts as necessary below.

Discussion

A party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P 56(c). Summary judgment is appropriate "where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence and draws reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

A. Unreasonable Seizure Claim

Carrillo's first claim is that Swiatkowski and Kuc unreasonably stopped his car in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. It is undisputed that temporary detention of a person during the stop of an automobile is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979). "As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred." Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810 (1996).

Defendants contend that Carrillo committed traffic violations that justified the stop. Specifically, they say that while driving north on South Damen, Carrillo stopped at a traffic light at the corner of 67th Street. After the signal turned green, defendants say, Carrillo did not accelerate but instead just released his brake and then started to make a right turn onto 67th Street. Carrillo did not complete the turn, defendants say, but rather straightened out his wheel and continued to travel north on South Damen.

This, defendants contend, gave the officers probable cause to believe that Carrillo had violated four traffic laws. The first, 625 ILCS 5/11-305, says that a driver "shall obey the instructions of any official traffic-control device" unless otherwise instructed by a police officer. According to defendants, Carrillo disobeyed the light by failing to accelerate after it turned green,. The second law, 625 ILCS 5/11-606, prohibits a person from driving "at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic"; the third, Chicago Municipal Code § 9-08-150(b), prohibits willful and unnecessary hindrance, obstruction, or delay of traffic "so as to interfere with the effective movement of traffic." Defendants contend that Carrillo's slow acceleration contravened these laws. Finally, defendants argue that by starting to turn onto 67th Street, Carrillo crossed a lane boundary in violation of Chicago Municipal Code § 9-08-180, which says that when there are marked traffic lanes, a driver cannot fail to keep his vehicle within the designated boundaries except when lawfully passing another vehicle.

The problem with defendants' argument is that it requires reading Carrillo's testimony in the light most favorable to defendants, which is the opposite of what the law requires on a motion for summary judgment. Carrillo testified that when the light changed, he "pulled not even, you know, five feet" and then realized there were police cars blocking 67th Street, "so I kept going straight. As soon as I barely got to crossing [67th Street], that's when the lights go on and they pulled me over." Carrillo Dep. 74. A bit later in his deposition, Carrillo specifically denied initiating a right turn. He said, "I just pulled up a little bit. I didn't make the official right turn. I just pulled up and I noted that it was two squad cars blocking the street. So I just kept going straight." Id. 79-80. When asked, "Did you turn your car at all towards the street,?" Carrillo replied, "not, barely, barely, you know, two inches did I turn the steering wheel just to see, and I noticed it was squad cars there. So I kept going straight. I didn't like swerve and then, you know, come back into the lane.... I pulled up a little bit just because I wanted to make a turn, and then I noticed it was copes there, so I went straight." Id. 80.

Viewing this testimony in the light most favorable to Carrillo, which is what the Court must do at this juncture, there are genuine issues of fact that preclude summary judgment. Carrillo absolutely does not admit crossing any sort of lane boundary, even by a little bit, and if his testimony about momentarily turning his steering wheel "two inches" is viewed in the light most favorable to him, there was no basis for a reasonable officer to believe that he improperly crossed a lane boundary. Nor, if the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to Carrillo, was there information suggesting that he was in any way hindering, impeding, or obstructing the traffic behind him for the second or two that he hesitated. Finally, Carrillo testified that when the light changed to green he took his foot off the brake, and then, after a second or two, accelerated. This ...


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