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Simmons v. Stockstill

October 4, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge


This case is before the court following an Order to the Plaintiff to Show Cause why sanctions shall not issue for violations of Rule 11(b). Since this court has received the instant case from Judge McDade, it has had a chance to review the court file and documents filed herein, a prior related court case, Simmons v. Tarby, et al., 06-cv-01153, and Plaintiff's response to the Order to Show Cause. After careful and thorough consideration, the instant case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


After a careful review of the record and evidence, the court finds as follows. On September 2, 2008, Plaintiff Kenneth W. Simmons filed the instant pro se complaint in Case No. 08-cv-01219. The facts of the instant case are substantially similar to the facts in a previously- adjudicated case, Simmons v. Tarby, et al., 06-cv-01153. Tarby was filed on June 15, 2006, judgment entered and the case terminated on September 25, 2008, and appeals by Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed on April 19, 2010.

A. Prior case: Simmons v. Tarby, et al., 06-cv-01153

In a case preceding the instant one, Plaintiff Kenneth Simmons's deposition was taken. In the deposition, Plaintiff stated that his nephew and niece told him that their father, Robert Stockstill, who is Plaintiff's brother-in-law, had shot at the Stockstill family's dogs. Plaintiff admitted, however, that he failed to query Robert as to whether such accusations were valid. Plaintiff further stated that Robert mentally and emotionally abused his wife, Lori Stockstill, who is Plaintiff's sister, although he admitted he never saw Robert physically strike her. In an effort to "warn anybody in that neighborhood that has a wife or has a child or has a puppy that there was a man in their neighborhood that would beat his own wife and shoot his own puppies," Plaintiff created a sign out of scrap plywood approximately four foot square and lettered with black spray paint, strapped it in his pickup truck, and parked it in front of Robert's house. The sign read "Ask Me Bob Robert Stockstill Beats Lori & Shoots Puppies".

Plaintiff testified that on June 16, 2004, he saw Mildred Stockstill, who is Robert's mother, and Lori Stockstill, who is Robert's wife, break the straps attaching the sign to his truck, acquire the sign, and carry it into their garage. Plaintiff then called Tazewell County central dispatch. Chief of Police Gary Hartzell and Mark Skiles, from the Mackinaw Police Department, and Deputy Ryan Tarby, from the Tazewell County Sheriff's Department, were dispatched to the scene and encountered Plaintiff and Plaintiff's wife. During the incident, Plaintiff failed to comply with law enforcement directives, and was placed under arrest.*fn1 While being taken into custody, Plaintiff indicated to the officers that he had some type of chronic medical disability; following this, he fell to the ground, whereupon Plaintiff requested, and the officers called, an ambulance to take him to a local hospital. Plaintiff admits that he continued to be uncooperative and disrupt the peace while being placed in the ambulance. Plaintiff testified, "I wanted my sign back. I didn't stop talking about that sign. They hauled me off in the ambulance, and I was still yelling about that sign." Plaintiff was then held in Tazewell County Jail and released that evening when his wife posted bond for him. The next day, Plaintiff retrieved his truck from Midstate Collision, where it had been towed following the incident.

Plaintiff's pro se complaint was brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleged, among other things, that Ryan Tarby, Sheriff Huston, Tazewell County, Village of Mackinaw, Illinois, Gary Hartzell, and Mark Skiles violated his Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully seizing a vehicle and a sign that had belonged to him. On February 15, 2007, Judge McDade entered a lengthy order and granted, in part, a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants. Following this Order, Plaintiff's § 1983 claim for violations of the Fourth Amendment remained pending.

In January of 2008, Plaintiff filed three separate Motions for Summary Judgment. On June 25, 2008, Judge McDade entered an order ruling on the three motions. In his first motion, Plaintiff argued that Defendants illegally seized his vehicle in violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. Judge McDade found that the parties disagreed as to whether Plaintiff's truck had been legally parked and whether officers were personally responsible for causing the vehicle to be towed after he was arrested. However, in their opposition to summary judgment, Defendants neglected to support their disputed facts with citations to the record, as is required by Local Rule 7.1(D)(2)(b)(2). For this reason, Defendants effectively failed to present any evidence that the seizure was reasonable-that is, supported by probable cause. For this, and several other reasons, Judge McDade granted Plaintiff summary judgment on this claim as there was no genuine issue of material fact that the seizure was unreasonable, relying on United States v. Duguay, 93 F.3d 346, 353 (7th Cir. 1996).

In his second motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff claimed that Defendants illegally seized his sign in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Judge McDade found that (1) the evidence showed only that the Stockstills, acting as private citizens, took Plaintiff's sign; (2) Plaintiffs failed to allege that the Stockstills were agents of Defendants; and (3) there was no evidence that Defendants acted in concert with the Stockstills to illegally seize his sign. Therefore, Plaintiff's second motion was denied with prejudice.

In his third and final motion, Plaintiff claimed, for the first time in those proceedings, that the Stockstills conspired with Defendants to take his sign. Judge McDade found that Plaintiff failed to state this claim in any complaint. Further, Plaintiff proffered absolutely no evidence to support this claim. Judge McDade did acknowledge in a footnote that while Rule 56 does not require citation to evidence, a plaintiff still bears the burden at trial to prove his case with admissible evidence. Judge McDade stated that, as such, Plaintiff was required on summary judgment to present at least some evidence that would support his claim. Because Plaintiff failed to present any evidence on summary judgment, his motion was denied.

On August 1, 2008, Defendants filed their own motion for summary judgment. On August 28, 2008, Judge McDade issued an order regarding that motion. The order noted that notwithstanding numerous notices to Plaintiff, Plaintiff refused to respond to any of Defendants' pending motions. Each notice delineated the consequences of failing to respond, the deadlines for when responses were due, and that responses must be supported by evidence. The court found that, due to a complete failure to respond, Plaintiff waived his opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the claim that Defendants took Plaintiff's sign. Judge McDade found, as above, that there was no evidence that Defendants seized Plaintiff's sign, and accordingly granted summary judgment for Defendants.

On September 25, 2008, Judge McDade entered judgment against the Defendants for the costs of towing Defendant's vehicle, for the amount of $168.84. The case was terminated on this date. On October 3, 2008, the court provided notice that costs were taxed in the amount of $778.69. Defendants indicated to the court that they had sent payment to Plaintiffs on October 20 and 30, 2008.

Following Defendants' Motions for Satisfaction of Judgment of April 23, 2009 and March 30, 2010, which were denied, Plaintiff moved to sanction Defendants for meritless motions on April 1, 2010. Judge McDade denied the motion for sanctions. On April 12, 2010, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and appealed from the denial of his motion for sanctions with the Seventh Circuit, but subsequently moved to voluntarily withdraw on April 16, 2010. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal on April 19, 2010. This court notes that as a result of having to rule on motions without substantive merit, including, but not limited to, incorrectly filed motions, frivolous motions to sanction opposing counsel, and motions to reconsider the court's denial of sanctions, this case, which would otherwise be an easily-adjudicated dispute, was on the court's docket for nearly four years.

B. Instant case: Simmons v. Stockstill et al., 10-cv-02167

On September 2, 2008, before Plaintiff's prior action was terminated, but after his motion for summary judgment in that prior action, which was in regard to a conspiracy between the police officers and the Stockstills, had been dismissed with prejudice, Plaintiff filed the instant § 1983 action. This case was given Case No. 08-cv-01219. In his Complaint (#1), Plaintiff named the same defendants as in the prior case, but also included three more defendants: Robert Stockstill, Harold Stockstill, who is Robert's father, and Mildred Stockstill, who is Robert's mother. Plaintiff's complaint alleges, in unclear prose, that Defendants violated § 1983 when they conspired with each other and acted in concert to deprive Plaintiff of his sign. Plaintiff alleged specific acts putatively performed by Defendants, but failed to allege any facts supporting a theory of conspiracy.

On April 30, 2009, Judge McDade, having presided over the prior case and well aware that the issues contested had previously been litigated, ordered Plaintiff to show cause in writing by May 18, 2009 why sanctions should not issue for violation of Rule 11(b). Judge McDade denied all pending motions without prejudice until the court considered whether ...

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