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Moorish Science Temple of America, A Religious Corporation v. City of Berwyn

September 6, 2011

MOORISH SCIENCE TEMPLE OF AMERICA, A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF BERWYN, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Court Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case arises from interactions between police officers of the City of Berwyn and members of the Moorish Science Temple of America ("Moorish Science Temple"). The City of Berwyn has filed a motion to dismiss all claims on several grounds. The motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The initial complaint in this case was filed by Marcel A. Walton-El ("Mr. Walton-El"), who identifies himself as a Grand Sheik of the Moorish Science Temple, a religious organization.*fn1 (Init. Compl. ¶¶ 3--4.) Mr. Walton-El is pro se. (Dkt. No. 3.) In the initial complaint, Mr. Walton-El describes a series of encounters between Berwyn police officers and members of the Moorish Science Temple that he alleges are violative of the federal constitution.

The first encounter occurred on March 24, 2011. Mr. Walton-El describes how on that date Berwyn police officers, led by an Officer Galiger, star number 299, coerced Elodia Rodriguez-Bey ("Ms. Rodriguez-Bey") to consent to a search of her home. (Init. Compl. ¶ 1.) The officers then took "unlawful possession" of three vehicles owned by Everardo Rodriguez-Bey ("Mr. Rodriguez-Bey"). (Id. ¶¶ 2, 6.) Mr. Rodriguez-Bey is a member of the Moorish Science Temple. (Id.)

Following this incident, on April 5, 2011, Mr. Walton-El went to the Berwyn Police Department in order to secure the return of two of the three vehicles that had been seized on March 24.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 3.) Mr. Walton-El, who was accompanied that day by Ronald Garrett-Bey, Bob Shults, and Robert Shults, tendered certificates of title for the vehicles to the desk officer at the police station located at 6401 West 31st Street in Berwyn. (Id. ¶¶ 3--4.) After the desk officer reviewed these documents, Mr. Walton-El asserts that the same Officer Galiger from the March 24 incident appeared. Mr. Walton-El says that Officer Galiger proceeded to say that members of the Moorish Science Temple, including Mr. Walton-El and Mr. Garrett-Bey, were "con-artist niggers" who "make me sick." (Id. ¶ 4.) Officer Galiger also repeatedly addressed the Moorish Science Temple members as "you people," described their Moorish identification cards as fraudulent, and told them to leave. (Id.) Later, in what seems to have been a separate incident, Mr. Walton-El also accuses Officer Galiger of ordering the removal of "a Moorish Religious sign from the outside wall of the property located [at] 1926 South Clarence Ave.[,] Berwyn, Illinois 60402." (Id. ¶ 5.)

In the wake of these incidents, Mr. Walton-El filed the initial complaint on May 25, 2011, which names the Moorish Science Temple as the sole plaintiff and the City of Berwyn as the sole defendant. (Id. at 1.) After being served with the initial complaint and summons, the City of Berwyn filed a motion to dismiss on June 20, 2011. (Mot.) In that motion and supporting memorandum, the City of Berwyn asserted that the initial complaint failed to state a claim and that Mr. Walton-El lacked standing to sue on behalf of the Moorish Science Temple. (Mem. at 2--5.) We ordered the plaintiff, the Moorish Science Temple, to respond to the City of Berwyn's motion on or before July 15, 2011. (Dkt. No. 14.)

Before any response was filed, however, another document labeled "Amendment to Case #11-cv-03519" was filed on June 29, 2011. (Dkt. No. 15.) That document begins: "I, Grand Sheik Marcel A. Walton-El, agent of the Moorish Science Temple of America . . . make an amendment to original pleadings, which was filed on 05-25-2011[.]" (Id. at 1.) Because the document is styled as an amended complaint, we will refer to it as such. The amended complaint continues: "Sheik Everardo Rodriguez-Bey is an Ecclesiastical Officer of this religious society . . . [who] has a cause of action based on pecuniary damages on March 24[t]h, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. . . . when Officer Galiger (star #299) commanded the officers of the Berwyn Police Department to take unlawful possession of his three vehicles." (Id.) The amended complaint then states that "Sheik Everardo Rodriguez-Bey, according to Rule 12(b), (e) or (f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures has amended as a plaintiff." (Id.) Elsewhere, the amended complaint states that "Everardo Rodriguez-Bey is represented by the Moorish Science Temple of America[.]" (Id. at 2.)

The amended complaint also contains a section labeled "Jurisdictional Allegations" and another labeled "Causes of Action." (Id. at 3--4.) Under Causes of Action, the amended complaint makes references to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal constitution. (Id. at 4.) In terms of specific facts, the amended complaint alleges that "Berwyn's police officers" entered 1926 South Clarence Avenue in Berwyn "without probable cause . . . [and] without any judicial search warrant or proper consent of search." (Id.) The officers then "confiscated three vehicles owned by Ever Auto Sales. . . which is owned by Sheik Everardo Rodriguez-Bey." (Id.) Lastly, the amended complaint alleges that the officers made "unlawful arrests of Parmeno Rodriguez-Bey and Cesar Rodriguez-Bey, who are the cousin and brother of Everardo Rodriguez-Bey." (Id.) The amended complaint is signed and dated by Everardo Rodriguez-Bey. (Id. at 4.) Mr. Rodriguez-Bey also filed a pro se appearance in conjunction with the amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 16.)

Next, on July 21, 2011, a response to the City of Berwyn's motion to dismiss was filed. (Dkt. No. 18.) Although it begins by stating "[n]ow comes the Plaintiff Moorish Science Temple of America pro se," the response is signed by Mr. Rodriguez-Bey. (Id. at 1, 3.) Attached to the response are the initial complaint filed by Mr. Walton-El, as well as a purported affidavit from Jeffrey Deer ("the Deer affidavit"). In the affidavit, Mr. Deer identifies himself as "the personal attorney for Everardo Rodriguez Bey." (Deer Aff. at 1.) Mr. Deer has not filed an appearance on behalf of Mr. Rodriguez-Bey or any other possible party in this case. Nevertheless, Mr. Deer states that he contacted the Berwyn Police Department regarding the taking of Mr. Rodriguez-Bey's cars. (Id.) In response to his inquiry, Mr. Deer claims to have been told:

[T]hat the cars were taken because Mr. Rodriguez was a member of the Moorish Science Temple and that they had an expert to state the Vin numbers on the car were all fake and that these people (Moorish Science Temple Members) are known for washing titles to car and land. (Id.) The purported affidavit is signed but not dated by Mr. Deer on the first page. (Id.) The second page is signed, sealed, and dated by Tanina Aguinaga, a notary public. (Id. at 2.)

On July 26, 2011, the City of Berwyn filed a reply to the response to the motion to dismiss. In the reply, the City of Berwyn asserts that "the Complaint" fails to state a claim for individual or municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that standing and jurisdiction are not adequately pled, and that punitive damages are unavailable against a municipality. (Reply at 1--3.) Although the reply acknowledges that an "amended Complaint" was filed, it leaves unclear whether its references to "the Complaint" encompass the initial complaint, the amended complaint, or both. (Id. at 1.)

II. PROCEDURAL ISSUES

The filings in this case present several threshold procedural issues. We must begin by determining who the proper parties are and what filings are ...


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