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Danny Britt v. Peoria County

May 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Shadid United States District Judge

E-FILED Friday, 20 May, 2011 01:32:41 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This matter was before the Court for oral argument on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss or Strike on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss by Deputies Hoffman and Merna [#14] is GRANTED. The Motion to Dismiss by Deputy McCoy [#9] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and the Motion to Dismiss by Deputies Corpus and Kenny [#12] is GRANTED. The portions of the Motions requesting that portions of the Complaint be stricken are DENIED.


This action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, Danny Britt ("Britt") alleges claims arising out of two traffic stops at approximately 12:30am on July 27, 2010, and approximately 11:56pm on August 3, 2010. The first stop involved Deputy Hoffman and Deputy Merna. The second stop involved Deputy McCoy, Deputy Kenny, and Deputy Corpus. On both occasions, Britt was purportedly pulled over for having a rear registration light out on his truck but was not ticketed. He subsequently filed complaints with the Sheriff's Department and then brought this suit against Deputies Hoffman, Merna, McCoy, Kenny, Corpus, two unidentified deputies, and Peoria County. At oral argument, Britt clarified that he does not state any separate claim against Peoria County and agreed that the County should be dismissed from this action.


A. Legal Standard

Courts have traditionally held that a complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears from the pleadings that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, a complaint should be construed broadly and liberally in conformity with the mandate in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f). More recently, the Supreme Court has phrased this standard as requiring a showing sufficient "to raise a right to relief beyond a speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). Furthermore, the claim for relief must be "plausible on its face." Id.; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1953 (2009).

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; its well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as true, and all reasonably-drawn inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984); Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1997); M.C.M. Partners, Inc. V. Andrews-Bartlett & Assoc., Inc., 62 F.3d 967, 969 (7th Cir. 1995); Early v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 959 F.2d 75 (7th Cir. 1992).

B. Analysis - July 27, 2010 Traffic Stop Deputies Hoffman and Merna

As clarified by Britt during the May 18, 2011, hearing, he asserts two claims against Hoffman and Merna: (1) racial profiling, and (2) obstruction of justice. Each claim will be addressed in turn.

1. Racial Profiling

Challenges of racial profiling are deemed to be claims under the Equal Protection Clause. Chavez v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 620 (7th Cir. 2001). Such claims require proof that the defendant's actions had a discriminatory effect and were motivated by discriminatory purpose. Id., at 635-36; United States v. Barlow, 310 F.3d 1007, 1010 (7th Cir. 2002). Discriminatory effect in turn requires a showing "that they are members of a protected class, that they are otherwise similarly situated to members of the unprotected class, and that plaintiffs were treated differently from members of the unprotected class." Id., citing Greer v. Amesqua, 212 F.3d 358, 370 (7th Cir. 2000). To show discriminatory intent, a plaintiff must demonstrate that "decisionmakers in [his] case acted with discriminatory purpose." Id., at 645. This requires "more than . . . intent as awareness of consequences. It implies that the decisionmaker . . . selected or reaffirmed a particular course of action at least in part 'because of' . . . its adverse effects upon an identifiable group.'" Id., citing McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 298 (1987).

Although the stray remarks in the Complaint that he was driving in a "hot spot" or asking where he worked that he could afford his truck could be broadly characterized as a claim of racial profiling, Britt's Complaint does not name any similarly situated individual who was not stopped or searched under similar conditions or utilize any statistics to support this conclusion. Nor can Britt's allegations against these Defendants reasonably be construed as a demonstration of discriminatory intent without resorting to pure speculation and conjecture. Britt's failure to allege ...

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