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Mitchell B. Davis v. Nickolas Tavares and Joseph Vandenbranden

January 7, 2011

MITCHELL B. DAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NICKOLAS TAVARES AND JOSEPH VANDENBRANDEN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Sharon Johnson Coleman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Mitchell B. Davis ("Plaintiff") filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that he was unlawfully arrested by Defendant Chicago Police Detectives Nickolas Tavares and Joseph Vandebranden (collectively "Defendants"), and seeking monetary relief for his alleged injuries. (Dkt. No. 1). Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 44). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The following relevant facts are undisputed unless indicated otherwise. On January 23, 2009, Robert Watson ("Watson") reported to the Chicago Police Department that Plaintiff pointed a handgun at Watson and threatened him earlier that day. (Dkt. Nos. 46 at 2; 60 at 2). The general offense case report for the incident was completed that same day by investigating Chicago police officers Turner #10752 and Coats #14331. (Dkt. No. 45-7 at 2). An investigation alert was issued stating that there was probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest. (Dkt. No. 46 at 2).

Two months later, on March 27, 2009, Defendants received a call from the City of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications Department informing them that Plaintiff was at the Dynamic Hair Salon at 6016 N. Broadway in Chicago. (Dkt. No. 46 at 2). Defendants went to the salon and spoke to Plaintiff, who, in turn, identified himself by producing his State of Illinois Identification Card. (Id.). The manner of Plaintiff's arrest is in dispute. Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 statement, supported by their affidavits, asserts that Defendants arrested Plaintiff and provided him Miranda warnings. (Id.). Plaintiff refutes this, claiming that the Defendants never gave him Miranda warnings before asking him to come to the police station. (Dkt. No. 60 at 2). Plaintiff also claims that he was under the impression that he was not under arrest when the Defendants took Plaintiff into custody at the hair salon. (Id.). In his complaint, however, Plaintiff alleged Defendants arrested Plaintiff on March 27, 2009 at the Dynamic Hair Salon where Plaintiff worked. (Dkt. No. 7 at 5).

Defendants transported Plaintiff to the Chicago Police Department's 24th District station. (Dkt. No. 46 at 2). Defendants contacted Watson and asked him to come to the station to sign a complaint. (Id.). Defendants also determined that Plaintiff was in violation of two separate parole terms from Texas and Illinois. (Id.). Plaintiff was charged with aggravated assault in violation of 720 ILCS 5/12-2(a)(1) for the incident involving Watson, but that charge was later dropped. (Id.).

Plaintiff claims that he did not threaten Watson with a gun and that Watson lied to the police because Watson previously dated Plaintiff's current girlfriend. (Dkt. No. 62). Plaintiff provides an affidavit from Carl Davis in support of his version of events. (Dkt. No. 63).

Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because there is probable cause to support Plaintiff's arrest and because their actions are shielded by qualified immunity. (Dkt. No. 45). Plaintiff believes Defendants should have investigated the situation further before arresting him. (Dkt. No. 61). Had this occurred, Plaintiff claims Defendants would have determined that Watson falsely accused Plaintiff, and, in turn, Defendants would not have arrested Plaintiff. (Id.).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is an appropriate remedy if the pleadings, discovery materials, 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 judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court construes all evidence and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The Court may not evaluate the weight of the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the ultimate truth of the matter, but must simply determine whether there exists a genuine issue of triable fact. Poer v. Astrue, 606 F.3d 433, 439 (7th Cir. 2010). To survive summary judgment, the non-moving party must present evidence sufficient to establish a triable issue of fact on all essential elements of its case. Lewis v. CITGO Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 702 (7th Cir. 2009). If there is no triable issue of fact on even one essential element of the non-moving party's case, summary judgment is appropriate.

Id. Finally, it is important that the Court not make a credibility determination on a motion for summary judgment because those issues are for the fact finder. See, e.g., Betaco, Inc. v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 32 F.3d 1126, 1138 (7th Cir. 1994). With these legal principles in mind, this Court considers the matter at bar.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants contend that summary judgment should be entered in their favor because probable cause existed for Plaintiff's arrest and because Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (Dkt. No. 45 at 1-2, 5). The Seventh Circuit explained that the principles governing probable cause and qualified immunity are closely related:

Whether police officers had probable cause to arrest a suspect and whether they are entitled to qualified immunity for the arrest are closely related questions, although qualified immunity provides the officers with an "additional layer of protection against civil liability" if a reviewing court finds that they did not have probable cause. In an unlawful arrest case in which the defendants raise qualified immunity as a defense, this Court will determine if the officer actually had probable cause or, if there was no probable cause, whether a reasonable officer could have mistakenly believed that probable cause existed. If the officers can establish that they had arguable probable cause to arrest the plaintiff, then the officers are entitled to qualified immunity, even if a court later determines that they did not actually have probable cause. Accordingly, [this Court will] grant [] summary judgment ...


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