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Douglas Lemon v. John Haleas

February 25, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiff, a state prisoner, has brought thispro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that defendants, Chicago police officers, violated his constitutional rights by falsely charging him with (and manufacturing evidence concerning) traffic offenses in 2006. This matter is before the court for ruling on defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is granted.

It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff must state only his basic legal claim and provide "some indication . . . of time and place."

Thompson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2004). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a claim will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts-as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom-in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 563, citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002); Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556. Nevertheless, the factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. at 555. Further, a plaintiff can plead himself out of court by pleading facts that undermine the allegations in the complaint. See, e.g., Whitlock v. Brown, 596 F.3d 406, 412 (7th Cir. 2010) ("A judicial admission trumps evidence. This is the basis of the principle that a plaintiff can plead himself out of court.") (citations omitted).


Plaintiff is a state prisoner currently serving an eight-year sentence for aggravated kidnaping and multiple counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. Those convictions, however, are not a subject of this lawsuit. Rather, plaintiff's claims arise from a prior prosecution and conviction for driving under the influence on a revoked license. Defendants, Paul Meagher, John Haleas, and an unnamed "Shift Commander," are Chicago police officers.

Plaintiff alleges the following facts, which will be accepted as true for purposes of this motion. On an unspecified date,*fn1 plaintiff's brother was driving a car in which plaintiff was a passenger. Defendant Meagher and another, unknown, officer stopped the car and cited plaintiff for various traffic violations. Although plaintiff was neither drunk nor driving the car, he was falsely charged with-and ultimately convicted of-driving under the influence on a revoked license.

At some point during plaintiff's criminal prosecution, he learned from his attorney during a hearing that there was an investigation into alleged misconduct on the part of defendant Haleas, who apparently served as a "Breathalyzer Technician" as well as a police officer. Due to the investigation into Haleas's lab work, a charge that plaintiff had refused to blow into a Breathalyzer was "automatically" dismissed. (In the alternative, the results of the Breathalyzer test were excluded from evidence-the complaint is unclear on this point.) A jury nevertheless convicted plaintiff of the "bogus" DUI charge. Plaintiff was sentenced to two years and six months' imprisonment.


Even accepting plaintiff's factual allegations as true, the court finds that the complaint fails to state a claim as a matter of law. Any claim relating to plaintiff's 2005 or 2006 arrest is time-barred. In addition, plaintiff has alleged no injury stemming from the dismissed or excluded Breathalyzer charge or report. Allowing plaintiff to amend would be futile; even if plaintiff could state facts alleging evidence tampering or a Brady violation, Younger abstention concerns and the Heck doctrine would bar those claims.

Noting that plaintiff's criminal case is still on appeal, defendants move for dismissal based on the ground that the court should not interfere in ongoing state criminal proceedings. SeeYounger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971); see also Simpson v. Rowan, 73 F.3d 134, 138-39 (7th Cir. 1995). In the alternative, defendants seek dismissal on the ground that a collateral attack on a conviction is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994) ("[W]hen a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless plaintiff can demonstrate the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated."). But because the complaint fails to state a tenable claim, a stay or dismissal under Younger or Heck is not required.

I. Plaintiff's False Arrest Claim

Plaintiff's false arrest claim against defendant Meagher is time-barred. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for § 1983 actions is two years. See, e.g., Dominguez v. Hendley, 545 F.3d 585, 588 (7th Cir. 2008); 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202. Illinois law does not toll the statute of limitations for prisoners. Schweihs v. Burdick, 96 F.3d 917, 919 (7th Cir. 1996); Turner-El v. Davis, No. 10 C 5188, 2010 WL 3526379, at *1, n.1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2010). Here, plaintiff is challenging an arrest that occurred ...

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