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Donald Williams v. City of Chicago

July 6, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Before the Court is Defendants' motion [53] for relief from the Court's March 14, 2011 order [52] granting in part and denying in part Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendants' motion [53].

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Chicago Police Officers ("Defendants") arrested and detained Plaintiff Donald Williams ("Plaintiff") on November 8, 2006, as a suspect in a homicide that had taken place in Chicago ten days earlier. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants had information implicating another individual in the homicide. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants nonetheless subjected him to a lengthy interrogation, during which they concocted and coerced a false confession that Plaintiff had committed the homicide. On the basis of the coerced confession, Plaintiff was charged with homicide and prosecuted in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Plaintiff filed a motion to suppress the allegedly coerced confession. The motion was continued several times, and ultimately rendered moot by the dismissal of the charges against Plaintiff on June 15, 2009. Plaintiff was then released from custody.

On April 20, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Defendant Officers and Defendant City of Chicago. The initial complaint set forth four counts: (1) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim of coerced confession in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count I); (2) a § 1983 claim that Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated when the Defendant Officers withheld material exculpatory evidence from Plaintiff during the criminal prosecution (Count II); (3) a § 1983 claim that the Defendant Officers failed to intervene to prevent violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights (Count III); and (4) a state law malicious prosecution claim (Count IV).

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss [21] Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants sought to dismiss Count I of Plaintiff's complaint on statute of limitations grounds. Specifically, Defendants stated that Plaintiff filed a motion to suppress the coerced confession on December 19, 2007, and thus could be charged with knowledge of the alleged constitutional violation as of that date. As more than two years had elapsed between the filing of the motion to suppress and the filing of the instant lawsuit, Defendants argued that the case was time-barred. Defendants attached to their motion a criminal docket sheet indicating that Plaintiff had filed a motion to suppress on December 19, 2007, as well as a motion to suppress on August 20, 2008. The docket sheet did not, however, indicate what statements or other evidence either motion sought to suppress. Plaintiff stated that the coerced confession was the subject of the August 20 motion, which rendered his case timely. Plaintiff further stated that the coerced confession was "used" against him in courtroom proceedings each time the motion was considered and continued in court -- March 18, 2009; May 21, 2009; and May 29, 2009 -- as well as on June 15, 2009, the date on which the court dismissed the charges against Plaintiff because they had been brought as a result of the coerced confession.

Plaintiff argued that the accrual date should be the date on which the coerced confession was last used in court -- that is, June 15, 2009.

In its prior opinion [52], the Court rejected Plaintiff's "last used accrual date" theory. After extensive discussion of relevant case law, the Court concluded that Fifth Amendment violations arising from coerced confessions begin to accrue on the date that the coerced confession was first used in a courtroom proceeding. See Sornberger v. City of Knoxville, 434 F.3d 1006 (7th Cir. 2006); Large v. County of Montgomery, 307 Fed. Appx. 606 (3d Cir. 2009); Hannon v. Sanner, 2008 WL 2492410, at * 1 (Minn. App. Ct. Jun. 24, 2008); Crowe v. County of San Diego, 608 F.3d 406 (9th Cir. 2010). However, the Court held that because the docket sheet was insufficiently specific as to whether the December 19, 2007, or the August 20, 2008, motions to suppress concerned the coerced confession, and because the Court must accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, the statute of limitations could only be deemed to have begun running on August 20, 2008, and thus the claim was not time-barred. The Court therefore denied Defendant's motion to dismiss with respect to Count I of Plaintiff's complaint.

Defendant also argued in its motion to dismiss that Count II should be dismissed because no Brady claim exists if a case has not been brought to trial, that Count III (failure to intervene to prevent violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights) should be dismissed because it is premised on time-barred claims of constitutional violations, and that the state law claims in Counts III and IV should fail as a matter of law because they were predicated on Counts I and II. The Court granted Defendant's motion with respect to Count II of Plaintiff's complaint after concluding that Plaintiff could not maintain a Brady claim because the charges against Plaintiff were dismissed before he was brought to trial. The Court denied Defendants' motion as to Count III after concluding that, as with Count I, it was not time-barred. The Court also denied Defendants' motion as to Count IV because the Court continued to have supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims as long as one or more federal claims remained viable.

II. Legal Standard on a Rule 60(b) Motion

A motion for reconsideration may be brought "to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Murray v. GMAC Mortgage Corp., 2005 WL 3088435, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 15, 2005) (quoting Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269-70 (7th Cir. 1996)); see also Telewizja Polska USA, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite Corp., 2005 WL 289967, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 4, 2005). Thus, a motion to reconsider is appropriate where "a court has patently misunderstood a party, made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented, [or] made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension * * *." Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990)). A motion to reconsider also may be appropriate if there has been "a controlling or significant change in the law or facts since the submission of the issue to the Court." Id. at 1191. However, because judicial opinions "are not intended as mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant's pleasure" (Quaker Alloy Casting Co. v. Gulfco Indus., Inc., 123 F.R.D. 282, 288 (N.D. Ill. 1988)), "motions to reconsider are not appropriate vehicles to advance arguments already rejected by the Court or new legal theories not argued before the ruling" (Zurich Capital Mkts., Inc. v. Coglianese, 383 F. Supp. 2d 1041, 1045 (N.D. Ill. 2005)).

"Relief under Rule 60(b) is an extraordinary remedy that is to be granted only in exceptional circumstances." Provident Sav. Bank v. Popovich, 71 F.3d 696, 698 (7th Cir. 1995). A Rule 60(b) motion permits relief from judgment when it is based on one of six specific grounds listed in the rule:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.

See FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b); see also United States v. Deutsch, 981 F.2d 299, 301 (7th Cir. 1992) (explaining that Rule 60(b) motions "must be shaped to the specific grounds for modification or reversal found in 60(b) -- they cannot be general pleas for relief"). "A contention that a judge erred with respect to the materials in the record is ...

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