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Jones v. Navia

November 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge


Pro se Plaintiff Cleve Jones filed a seven-count complaint alleging that various Illinois law enforcement officers and municipalities, as well as a state's attorney, violated federal and state laws in connection with his arrest, detention, and eventual conviction for crimes related to his possession of a stolen vehicle. Presently before us are Defendants' motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, we grant their motions in part and deny them in part. We also deny Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint (Dkt. No. 68).


At approximately 12:52 a.m. on November 6, 2007, Officers Navia and Cho ("Arresting Officers") stopped Plaintiff while he was driving a car near the intersection of 111th St. and Michigan Ave. in Chicago. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Arresting Officers radioed the dispatcher to report they had made the stop on the basis of a "flash zoned message" they had received from another unit. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff alleges that Arresting Officers were lying to the dispatcher and that the message had never actually existed. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Arresting Officers then searched Plaintiff and the car without Plaintiff's consent, handcuffed him, and placed him in the back of their squad car. (Id. ¶¶ 5--6.) During the arrest, Officers Valcanski and Brown ("Assisting Officers") looked on. (Id. ¶ 7.) Navia and Cho again radioed dispatch to say that the stop and search had been made based on a "flash zoned message" received from another unit-comprised of Officers Webb, Chatys, and Poradzisz-which had identified the car Plaintiff was driving as one that had been reported stolen two days prior on November 4, 2007. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Arresting Officers were again lying, and contends that it was impossible for this particular unit to send the message, because the officers were "performing police functions with a female at a remote location" at the time.*fn2 (Id.) Arresting Officers then took Plaintiff to the Fifth District Police Department. (Id. ¶ 8.)

According to Plaintiff, Arresting Officers next checked the status of the vehicle Plaintiff had been driving. (Id. ¶¶ 10--11.) He alleges Arresting Officers only then discovered the car had been reported stolen based on a November 4, 2007 police report filed by Melissa J. Frohm, the owner of the vehicle, and recorded by Officer Buchanan of the Bloomington Police Department. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, various inconsistencies in this police report should have made Buchanan aware that Frohm's report was fabricated. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff claims Arresting Officers and an unnamed assistant state's attorney, while knowing Frohm fabricated the police report, used the report and other evidence to hold Plaintiff at the station and charge him with crimes related to the theft of Frohm's vehicle and various possessions. (Id. ¶¶ 12--15.) Plaintiff alleges they did so to cover up the fact that Frohm had given Buchanan a false report on November 4. (Id. ¶ 15.) Officer Bara approved the incident reports and complaints against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff claims Officer Timmothy McCoy had approved Frohm's initial police report though he knew it was "unreasonable," and Detective Sergeant Scott and an unnamed dispatcher allowed it to happen despite knowledge that the report was flawed. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 20.) Plaintiff alleges that an unnamed Cook County state's attorney knowingly used the falsified police report and other evidence to maliciously prosecute the Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff further alleges that unwritten policies of both the City of Bloomington and the City of Chicago ("Cities") created a culture that contributed to the previously-mentioned actions of the police officers and state's attorneys. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff pled guilty to an amended charge of attempted possession of a stolen motor vehicle in response to the charges he faced stemming from this incident. (Id. ¶ 30.)

On November 5, 2009, Jones filed a Complaint against Arresting Officers, Assisting Officers, Cities, Cook County, state's attorneys for the Chicago Police Department*fn3 and Cook County ("State's Attorneys"), Melissa J. Frohm and her boyfriend Chad Lommatsch; and Officer Supervisor Bara, Officer Supervisor McCoy, Officer Buchanan, Detective Sergeant Scott, and dispatchers for the Chicago and Bloomington Police Departments ("Supervisors"). As we noted in our Order granting Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"), the Complaint's lack of clarity makes it difficult to analyze. (1/13/10 Order, Dkt. No. 11.) Nonetheless, because Jones is proceeding pro se, we have a responsibility to construe the Complaint liberally. Donald v. Cook Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 95 F.3d 548, 555 (7th Cir. 1996). It is the "well established duty of the trial court to ensure that the claims of a pro se litigant are given a fair and meaningful consideration." Palmer v. City of Decatur, 814 F.2d 426, 428--29 (7th Cir. 1987).

As best we can determine, Jones's Complaint alleges seven claims: false arrest under 42 U.S.C § 1983 against Arresting Officers (Count I); failure to intervene during a false arrest against Assisting Officers (Count II); conspiracy to commit a civil rights violation under §1985(3) against all Defendants (Count III); failure to prevent a civil rights violation under §1986 against Assisting Officers and Supervisors (Count IV); a Monell claim against Cities and Cook County (Count V); false imprisonment claims under § 1983 and Illinois state law against Arresting Officers and State's Attorneys (Count VI); and a malicious prosecution claim under Illinois state law against Arresting Officers and State's Attorneys (Count VII). Plaintiff filed his application to proceed IFP on November 5, 2009, which we granted.*fn4 (See 1/13/10 Order, Dkt. No. 11.) Defendants Arresting Officers, City of Chicago, Supervisor Bara, dispatcher for the Bloomington Police Department, the State's Attorney for Cook County, and Cook County now move to dismiss all claims against them. We consider these motions below in Part I.

On September 16, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his Complaint, seeking to add Officers Brown, Valcanski, Webb, Chatys, and Poradzisz to the caption of the Complaint and arrange service of process. (Dkt. No. 68, Pl.'s Mot. at 2 ¶ 4.) He also requested that we subpoena the last known addresses of Defendants Frohm and Lommatsch, presumably so they can be served as well. (Id. ¶ 6.) We consider this motion below in Part II.


A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is meant to test the sufficiency of the Complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). A court may grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) only if a complaint lacks "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949--50 (2009) (extending Twombly from antitrust to litigation generally and stating that a court's determination "whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task"); Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618--19 (7th Cir. 2007); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776--77 (7th Cir. 2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Although a facially plausible complaint need not give "detailed factual allegations," it must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964--65. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. These requirements ensure that the defendant receives "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, we must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the Complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949--50; Thompson v. Ill. Dep't. of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002).


A. Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights and Neglect to Prevent (Counts III and IV)

Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants conspired to violate his civil rights and that certain Defendants neglected to prevent the conspiracy. (Compl. ¶¶ 32--40.) To state a claim for conspiracy to deprive an individual of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), a plaintiff must allege class-based animus. Nowicki v. Ullsvik, 69 F.3d 1320, 1325 (7th Cir. 1995) (explaining that § 1985(3) requires an allegation of "class-based invidious discriminatory animus"); Wright v. Illinois Dep't. of Children & Family Servs., 40 F.3d 1492, 1507 (7th Cir. 1994). In addition to class-based animus, a plaintiff must also allege: "(1) the existence of a conspiracy, . . . [(2)] an act in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy, and [(3)] an injury to person or property or a deprivation of a right or privilege granted to U.S. ...

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