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Anthony Phillips v. City of Chicago

December 2, 2010

ANTHONY PHILLIPS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, CITY OF CHICAGO JUDGE DAVID H. COAR POLICE DEPT., OFFICER SALVADOR ENRIQUEZ, OFFICER ARTURO BRACHO, AND OTHER UNNAMED POLICE OFFICERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Anthony Phillips brings this action against Defendants the City of Chicago, City of Chicago Police Department, Officers Salvador Enriquez and Arturo Bracho, and other unnamed police officers (collectively "Defendants") under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging unreasonable seizure and false arrest in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment and malicious prosecution in violation of Illinois state law. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment in GRANTED.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Anthony Phillips was the owner of a mixed-breed, part German shepherd dog named Spike. (Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts ("DSOF") ¶ 12.) As of August 1, 2008, Spike was approximately 15 years old. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Spike was unable to walk, suffered from hip dysplasia, and had a mucus-like film around his eyes. As a result of Spike's condition, several complaints were lodged with the Anti-Cruelty Society during the summer of 2008. (Id. at ¶ 22.) At that time, both Phillips and Spike were living with Phillips's elderly mother, Lorraine Phillips, at 6128 N. Monticello Avenue. (Id. at ¶ 11.) On June 2, 2008, the Anti-Cruelty Society received a complaint that an older dog at 6128 N. Monticello could not walk, was outside 24 hours a day, and would scream in pain. (Id. at ¶ 23.) The next day, the Anti-Cruelty Society dispatched an investigator who found no one home at 6128 N. Monticello and no dog in the yard. The investigator left a legal notice indicating that there had been a complaint of inhumane treatment and requesting that Phillips call the Anti-Cruelty Society. When the investigator returned a week later on June 10, 2008, he observed an older, mixed-breed German shepherd in the yard. (Id. at ¶ 24.) He noted that the dog was "in poorer condition." (Id.) Unable to contact Phillips, the investigator left another notice under the door. (Id.) The investigator returned on June 19, 2008 and recorded that he observed the same situation as on his previous visit, he was unable to contact the dog's owner or neighbors, and he left another legal notice in the mailbox. (DSOF- Ex. 8 at D00056.) On June 26, 2008, the investigator noted no change from previous visits and observed that the dog had food and water out in the driveway. (Id.) Again, the investigator was unable to contact anyone at the house. (Id.)

On July 9, 2008, the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control ("ACC") received a call from a concerned citizen who reported that a dog at 6128 N. Monticello Avenue was living outside for long periods of time, and it appeared that the dog could not walk. (DSOF ¶ 27.) Meanwhile, on July 15, 2008, the Anti-Cruelty Society investigator returned to 6128 N. Monticello and finally connected with Phillips. (Id. at ¶ 28.) When questioned about his dog's condition, Phillips related that the dog was 15 years old and "probably not in the greatest shape" and that he feeds the dog, has cream for the dog's ears, and "just cannot [put the] dog down."

(DSOF- Ex. 8 at D00055.) The investigator recorded his opinion that the case should be closed. (Id.)

Back at the ACC, another complaint of abuse was recorded on July 29, 2008. Animal Control officer Daniel Nutley was sent to 6128 N. Monticello, where he observed a dog in the front yard by the driveway who could not open his eyes and "ha[d] to drag both of its back legs in pain." (Id. at D00061.) A citation was issued, and the status of the ACC service request was elevated from "urgent" to "emergency." (Id.) Based on Nutley's report, ACC supervisor Bradley Block reported abuse allegations to Sergeant Eldon Urbikas of the City of Chicago Police Department Animal Crime Unit on August 1, 2008. (DSOF- Ex. 14, John Paul Norton Aff. ¶ 7, Aug. 16, 2010.) Sergeant Urbikas informed Defendant Officers Bracho and Enriquez of Block's complaint of alleged animal abuse and dispatched them to 6128 N. Monticello Ave. (DSOF ¶ 31.)

When they arrived at 6128 N. Monticello Ave., Officers Enriquez and Bracho found a mixed-breed German shepherd lying on the ground. (Id. at ¶ 32.) The officers observed that the dog was unable to see or use its rear legs, he had a buildup of mucus around both eyes, he was mangy, and he appeared as though he had not been cared for in months. (Id.) They also noted that there was no wholesome food or water readily available to the dog. (Id.) The officers claim that they interviewed Phillips's mother, who stated that she was the owner of the dog and that the dog was fine. (DSOF- Ex. 12, Salvador Enriquez Aff. ¶ 6, Aug. 12, 2010; DSOF- Ex. 13, Arturo Bracho Aff. ¶ 7, Aug. 12, 2010.) According to Officer Enriquez, while he and his partner interviewed Phillips's mother, he saw Phillips "drag the dog through the side door and throw it in the hallway of his house." (Enriquez Aff. ¶ 7.) Phillips denies this and posits that if he had behaved as Officer Enriquez alleges, he would have injured his frail dog. (Pl.'s Resp. to DSOF ¶

34.) In their arrest report, the officers noted that when they questioned Phillips, he stated that he could not provide veterinary records and that his dog had not received medical attention. (DSOF- Ex. 5 at D00028.) Phillips concedes that he had never taken Spike to a veterinarian before his arrest but claims that he provided for the dog's medical needs by purchasing supplies such as fly ointment and cream for his ears. Phillips claims that, during his exchange with the officers, they stood at the side door of his mother's house, peered inside to see Phillips's dog, and said they wanted to take him. (Pl.'s Resp. to Summ. J. at 3.) Phillips refused to allow the officers to enter the house or take the dog. (Id.) He claims that, over his objection, the arresting officer placed his foot in the doorway so that Phillips could not close the door and proceeded to follow him up the stairs before garnishing handcuffs and arresting him. (Id.) Phillips then called his lawyer, and his mother called the police station to report to a supervisor that the cops were making a mistake. (Id.) Nevertheless, Officers Enriquez and Bracho placed Phillips into custody and charged him with animal cruelty under 510 ILCS 70/3.01. (DSOF ¶ 35.) Phillips was then transferred to the 17th Police District for processing. (Id. at ¶ 36.) Phillips complains that, rather than transporting him directly to the police station, the driver of the police wagon drove down side streets, barreling into turns to give him an "amusement park thrill ride effect." (Pl.'s Resp. to DSOF ¶ 36.)

Meanwhile, after Phillips's arrest, ACC officer Norton arrived at 6128 N. Monticello Avenue to conduct a follow-up investigation. (DSOF ¶ 38.) Although Phillips's mother refused to permit Norton to take Spike, Norton was able to observe the dog inside the back area of the house. (Id. at ¶¶ 38, 41.) According to Norton, the dog appeared dehydrated and extremely underweight, and he could not stand. (Id. at ¶ 41.) As Norton was leaving, a neighbor informed him that she was concerned for the dog's health and reported that he had been mistreated and in poor condition for a long time. (Id. at ¶ 42.)

Phillips was released from Cook County jail on August 2, 2008, and the charges against him were eventually dropped. (Id. at ¶¶ 44-45.) On August 11, 2008, Phillips took Spike to a veterinarian, Dr. Jean Claus, who opined that Spike had not been abused. (DSOF ¶ 46; Ex. 17, Jean Claus Dep. 16:24-17:4, Jul. 7, 2010.) In particular, Dr. Claus noted that "the owner had to be doing something right" because Spike had lived longer than the average life expectancy for German shepherds. (Claus Dep. 16:24-17:11.) At the time that he offered his opinion, Dr. Claus was not aware of the Anti-Cruelty Society's allegations that Phillips had abused and neglected Spike. (DSOF ¶ 47 On August 23, 2008, Spike was euthanized. (DSOF ¶ 46.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must set forth specific facts (a "scintilla of evidence" is insufficient) demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Schuster v. Lucent Tech., Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2003). At summary judgment, the "court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a ...


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