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Evaristo Rodriguez v. the City of Chicago

March 26, 2012

EVARISTO RODRIGUEZ PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS J.D. MORALES (#14163),
D.E. KOLODZIEJSKI (#7043) AND OTHER UNKNOWN OFFICERS, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Evaristo Rodriguez, sued the City of Chicago, Chicago Police Officers J.D. Morales and D.E. Kolodziejski (collectively "Defendants") and other unknown officers for violations of state and federal law stemming from his arrest on July 25, 2008.*fn1 Rodriguez's five-count complaint asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful search and seizure (Count I) and excessive force (Count II); state law claims for false imprisonment (Count IV) and malicious prosecution (Count V); and a Monell claim against the City of Chicago (Count III).

Defendants move for summary judgment [76] on all but the excessive force claim. Rodriguez has since abandoned his Monell claim against the city, leaving only his unlawful search and seizure, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims as the subject of this motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Counts I, III, IV, and V [76].

I.Background*fn2

On July 25, 2008, between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., Rodriguez was driving home with his wife and mother after attending a graduation party in Chicago. (Pl. Resp. ¶ 6, Pl. SOAF ¶ 7). As Rodriguez exited the Kennedy Expressway at California Avenue, he saw a man lying on the exit ramp, with his feet on the street and the rest of his body on the curb. (Pl. Resp. ¶ 8). Trying to help, Rodriguez used the OnStar button in his car to connect to the Chicago Police Department and report what he had seen. (Id. at ¶ 9). When Rodriguez reached a stop sign at the intersection of California Avenue and Thomas Street an unmarked police car, driven by Officers Morales and Kolodziejski, pulled onto California in front of Rodriguez's vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 11, Pl. SOAF ¶ 9).

Rodriguez was aware that the car in front of him was an unmarked police car because he was familiar with the style of the car and knows many Chicago police officers. (Pl. Resp. ¶ 13). Rodriquez, in fact, mistakenly believed that his friend, Officer Luis Arroyo, was driving the unmarked police car. (Id. at ¶ 14). Attempting to get the attention of who he believed to be Officer Arroyo, Rodriguez took a laser pointer out of his pocket and flashed the laser pointer at a one-way street sign in front of the police car. (Id. at ¶ 15). At this point, the unmarked police car was about two to three car lengths ahead of Rodriguez's car and there were no other vehicles travelling southbound on California Avenue between his car and the police vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 18).

After Rodriguez flashed the laser pointer on the sign, the Officers pulled to the side of the road and signaled for Rodriguez to pull over. (Id. at ¶¶ 20, 21). Officer Morales approached Rodriguez on the driver's side of Rodriguez's car. (Id. at ¶ 22, 36). Rodriguez explained that he thought his friend was driving the unmarked police car and was trying to signal to him in order to tell him about the man he had seen lying on the exit ramp. (Id. at ¶ 40).

The Officers arrested Rodriguez and charged him with violating two provisions of the Illinois Criminal Code: 720 ILCS 5/12(a)(6) (aggravated assault against a peace officer), and 720 ILCS 5/24.6-20(a) (aiming a laser pointer at a peace officer). (Id. at ¶ 42). However, on September 22, 2008, the Assistant State's Attorney assigned to the case moved to "SOL" or strike all charges against Rodriguez with leave to reinstate. (Id. at ¶ 50). The State's Attorney has not sought to reinstate the charges against Plaintiff. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 35).

There are several disputed facts in this case. The parties disagree as to whether the laser pointer hit anywhere other than the one-way sign, particularly whether it hit the Officers themselves or their vehicle, and about the Officers' conduct between the stop and the arrest. But none of the disputed facts are material to the Court's resolution of the Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II.Legal Standard on Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Factual disputes that are irrelevant to the outcome of the suit "will not be counted." Palmer v. Marion County, 327 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2003) (quotation marks and citations omitted). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of fact, the Court "must construe the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Foley v. City of Lafayette, 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004). To avoid summary judgment, the opposing party must go beyond the pleadings and "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). Summary judgment is proper against "a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. V. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986). In other words, the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

III.Discussion

A. Unlawful Search and ...


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