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Catherine A. Short v. Samuel Fitzpatrick

August 1, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States Senior District Judge

E-FILED Tuesday, 02 August, 2011 08:38:34 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arises from an improperly executed search warrant. Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 74); Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Samuel Fitzpatrick's Affidavit (Doc. 82); and Samuel Fitzpatrick's Corrected Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 102).*fn1


Plaintiff's Residence

On March 26, 2008, Catherine Short and her 67 pound pit bull resided at 140 East Mazon Avenue, Apartment 1, Dwight, Illinois, 60420. (Doc. 102 at 2). This apartment complex in which Plaintiff resided (the "Apartment Complex" or the "Building") is a two-story apartment building which contains a total of 12 units. (Doc. 102 at 3). There are three entry doors located on the front of the Apartment Complex which faces Mazon Avenue. (Doc. 102 at 3). Plaintiff's apartment was located on the first floor of the Building. (Doc. 102 at 3). There are five units on the first floor of the Apartment Complex. (Doc. 102 at 3). There is only one public access door located on the back of the Building, which leads to the main hallway. (Doc. 102 at 3). Upon entering the main hallway from the back of the Building, the order of apartments, from the rear of the Building to the front, is apartment 1, apartment 11 and, finally, apartment 12. (Doc. 102-1 at 2). Apartments 9 and 10 are not located in the main hallway. (Doc. 102-1 at 2; Doc. 102 at 3). Instead, apartments 9 and 10 share a semi-private hallway which is only accessible from the front of the Building. (Doc. 102-1 at 2; Doc. 102 at 3). Apartments 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are located on the second floor of the Apartment Complex. (Doc. 102 at 3). On March 26, 2008, there was no exterior signage at the Building identifying the location of the apartments on the first floor. (Doc. 102 at 4).

The Search Warrant

On March 26, 2008, Officer Michael Nolan of the Village of Dwight Police Department received information from a confidential informant regarding cocaine use at apartment 10 at the Apartment Complex. (Doc. 104-1 at 3-4). Nolan had this informant appear before a judge in Livingston County, Illinois that same day, and the judge issued a search warrant for apartment 10. (Doc. 104-1 at 3, 6; Doc. 107-3). The warrant commanded that the following be seized; "Cocaine or off-white powder, chunk, rock or crystalline substances . . . cannabis, cannabis smoking devices, pipes, bongs . . . ." (Doc. 107-3). Nolan was unfamiliar with the Apartment Complex, so he asked the informant to explain what he should expect to encounter upon arrival at the Building. (Doc. 104-1 at 6). The informant told Nolan that apartment 10 was located on the first floor of the Building and that a pit bull resided there. (Doc. 107-2 at 1; Doc. 104-1 at 4; Doc. 104-2 at 42). With warrant in hand and a basic understanding of the Apartment Complex and apartment 10, Nolan determined to execute the warrant that same evening. (Doc. 104-1 at 7-8). Consequently, Nolan quickly put together a search team and arranged to have this team meet at 10:00 pm at police headquarters for the Village of Dwight. (Doc. 104-1 at 7-8). One of the officers on this team was Samuel Fitzpatrick, who was the most junior officer. (Doc. 104-2 at 25). At approximately 10:00 pm, the officers, including Fitzpatrick, arrived for the briefing. (Doc. 104-1 at 8; Doc. 104-2 at 38). Nolan told the officers what they would be looking for, explained how the warrant would be executed, and assigned tasks to each officer. (Doc. 104-2 at 39-40; Doc. 104-3 at 10).

The Execution of the Search Warrant The officers departed for the Apartment Complex immediately after the briefing. (Doc. 104-2 at 44). Upon arrival, the search team entered the main hall of the Apartment Complex through the rear entrance of the building. (Doc. 104-2 at 44-45). The search team then walked the entire length of the main hall, seeing only apartments 1, 11, and 12. (Doc. 104-2 at 46-49; Doc. 104-1 at 11). Nolan and the other officers also heard a large dog bark from behind the door to apartment 1. (Doc. 107-1 at 2; Doc. 104-3 at 20; Doc. 104-1 at 11). In light of the foregoing, Nolan, the officer in charge of the operation, believed that the apartment labeled as apartment 1 must be apartment 10 and that the "0" had probably just fallen off. (Doc. 104-1 at 11). Consequently, Nolan instructed the team to line up outside apartment 1. (Doc. 104-1 at 11). The officers then announced their presence and subsequently entered apartment 1. (Doc. 104-2 at 49-50). Fitzpatrick, as the junior officer, was at the back of the line of officers and was the last to enter apartment 1. (Doc. 104-2 at 31; Doc. 104-2 at 49).

Inside, the team found Plaintiff, her boyfriend, and her 67 pound pit bull. (Doc. 104-2 at 54, 60; Doc. 104-3 at 14). By the time Fitzpatrick entered apartment 1, Plaintiff was lying face down on the floor. (Doc. 104-2 at 54). Fitzpatrick then went over to the Plaintiff and handcuffed her for safety reasons while the officers finished securing the apartment. (Doc. 104-2 at 55-56; Doc. 104-3 at 14). Around this time, the officers discovered a marijuana pipe in plain view and Fitzpatrick was instructed by a senior officer to take Plaintiff and her boyfriend back to the police station for questioning. (Doc. 104-1 at 12; Doc. 104-2 at 57-58). Fitzpatrick complied, and Plaintiff and her boyfriend were taken to the police station, which was only two blocks away from the Apartment Complex. (Doc. 104-2 at 15). Shortly thereafter, one of the officers on the search team who had remained behind discovered a piece of mail on Plaintiff's coffee table addressed to apartment 1. (Doc. 104-3 at 13-14). It was at this moment that the officers realized they had entered the wrong apartment. (Doc. 104-3 at 13).

Upon realizing their mistake, the team instructed Fitzpatrick to return Plaintiff and her boyfriend to apartment 1, and Fitzpatrick complied. (Doc. 104-2 at 25). From start to finish, Plaintiff was detained for no more than 20 or 25 minutes. (Doc. 107-1 at 7).

On March 12, 2009 Plaintiff filed the instant suit asserting a cause of action against Fitzpatrick*fn3 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, unlawful arrest and detention, and the use of excessive force. Plaintiff also asserted claims for assault and battery under Illinois state law. (Doc. 7).


Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying the evidence it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323--24 (1986). If the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party cannot rest on conclusory pleadings but "must present sufficient evidence to show the existence of each element of its case on which it will bear the burden at trial." Serfecz v. Jewel Food Stores, 67 F.3d 591, 596 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585--86 (1986)). A mere scintilla of evidence is not sufficient to oppose a motion for summary judgment; nor is a metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Robin v. Espo Eng. Corp., 200 F.3d 1081, 1088 (7th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). Rather, the evidence must be such "that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, Ind., 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). The court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence. Id.


ยง 1983 ...

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