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Juan Jose Ochoa v. City of Chicago

April 3, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. George W. Lindberg


Before the Court are defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiff Juan Jose Ochoa's ("plaintiff" or "Ochoa") Second Amended Complaint ("complaint") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). Defendant City of Chicago (the "City") seeks to dismiss Count I, alleging unlawful arrest and wrongful imprisonment by the City in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Count II, alleging willful and wanton conduct by the City, arguing that neither count alleges a viable cause of action. Defendant Cook County Sheriff ("Sheriff") seeks to dismiss Count III, arguing that plaintiff has not pled a viable claim for wrongful imprisonment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons set forth more fully below, the City's motion to dismiss is granted and the Sheriff's motion to dismiss is denied. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed as to the City pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and the City is terminated as a defendant.

I. Relevant Facts

For the most part, the following relevant facts are taken from a November 8, 2011 memorandum opinion and order the Court entered, which dismissed three counts in plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. The instant case stems from plaintiff's April 29, 2010 arrest pursuant to an arrest warrant for a different individual with the same first and last name, same date of birth, and same race. According to the complaint and arrest warrant attached as an exhibit to the complaint, plaintiff was arrested in his home in Burbank, Illinois on April 29, 2010 pursuant to an arrest warrant for an individual named Juan L. Ochoa, with a date of birth of August 30, 1977, and with a race described as Hispanic.*fn1 The arrest warrant described an individual shorter and heavier than plaintiff, who had tattoos. Plaintiff does not have any tattoos and claims that he does not look like the individual described in the arrest warrant. While at his home, plaintiff advised the arresting officers and civilian personnel that he was not Juan L. Ochoa and provided valid identification and other documentation identifying himself as Juan Jose Ochoa. Plaintiff concedes that his date of birth is also August 30, 1977 and that his race can be described as Hispanic.

Despite plaintiff's protests, Chicago Police Officers arrested plaintiff and detained him at the Chicago Police Department ("CPD") facility located at Harrison and Kedzie for approximately 24 hours. During his detention at the Harrison and Kedzie facility, CPD employees never attempted to fingerprint plaintiff to confirm his identity. Members of plaintiff's family provided valid identification and other documents to CPD personnel, but plaintiff was not released from custody.

On April 30, 2010, CPD personnel transferred plaintiff to Cook County Jail. As he did with CPD personnel, plaintiff advised Cook County Jail personnel that he was not Juan L. Ochoa and provided them with valid identification and other documentation identifying himself as Juan Jose Ochoa. Similar to CPD personnel, Cook County Jail personnel detained plaintiff for four days without fingerprinting him to confirm his identity. Plaintiff remained in the Cook County Jail until May 3, 2010, when he was transported to the Lake County Jail. Lake County Jail personnel finally fingerprinted plaintiff. The fingerprints confirmed that plaintiff was not the Juan L. Ochoa listed on the arrest warrant and plaintiff was released from the Lake County Jail on May 4, 2010.

On April 19, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County against two named defendants, the City of Chicago and Cook County. Plaintiff served both defendants with summons and a copy of the complaint on April 27, 2011. In May 2011, Cook County moved to dismiss the complaint. In response to that motion to dismiss, plaintiff sought and was granted leave to file an amended complaint in state court. Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on July 29, 2011. In the amended complaint, plaintiff added the Sheriff and "unknown Sheriff deputies, officers, and employees of the Cook County Sheriff" as defendants and removed Cook County as a defendant. The Sheriff removed this case to federal court on August 15, 2011.

On November 8, 2011, this Court dismissed all claims against all "unknown" defendants and the willful and wonton conduct claims against the Sheriff with prejudice. The Court also dismissed the 1983 claim against the Sheriff without prejudice. Thereafter, plaintiff filed the instant complaint. The most recent amended complaint named the City and the Sheriff as the only defendants.

II. Legal Analysis

In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court treats all well-pleaded allegations as true, and draws all reasonable factual inferences in Ochoa's favor. Justice v. Town of Cicero, 577 F.3d 768, 771 (7th Cir. 2009). Under Rule 8(a), the complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The factual allegations must be sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.E.2d 929 (2007). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim of relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 929 (2009).

A. Count I

In Count I, plaintiff alleges claims against the City for false arrest and unlawful detention in violation of §1983. The City moves to dismiss these claims, arguing that the allegations do not state a constitutional violation against City employees, and plaintiff failed to allege a basis for municipal liability. If an arrest warrant is valid on its face, its execution does not violate the Fourth Amendment merely because, due to a mistake in identification, the person arrested is not the person named in the warrant. See Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797 (1971). Specifically, "[w]hen the police have probable cause to arrest one party, and when they reasonably mistake a second party for the first party, then the arrest of the second party is a valid arrest." Hill, 401 U.S. at 802. The Seventh Circuit has routinely found that arrests based on a reasonable, but mistaken belief that the arrestee is the person named in the warrant do not violate the constitution. See Tibbs v. City of Chicago, 469 F.3d 661, 664-65 (7th Cir. 2006); U.S. v. Marshall, 79 F.3d 68, 69 (7th Cir. 1996); Brown v. Patterson, 823 F.2d 167 (7th Cir. 1987). "In circumstances where the police mistake a person for someone else they seek to validly arrest, the arrest is constitutional if the arresting officers (1) have probable cause to arrest the person sought and (2) reasonably believe that the person arrested is the person sought." Marshall, 79 F.3d at 69.

In this case, Chicago Police Officers had a valid arrest warrant for Juan L. Ochoa, whose race is described in the warrant as Hispanic and whose date of birth is August 30, 1977. The police reasonably believed that plaintiff was the Juan L. Ochoa named in the arrest warrant because both men have the same first and last name, same date of birth, and same race. The fact that plaintiff claims to be taller and lighter than the Juan L. Ochoa described in the arrest warrant, does not render plaintiff's arrest unreasonable. Police action can be reasonable despite an arrestee's protests that police have the wrong person and discrepancies between the arrestee and the description on the arrest warrant. Brown, 823 F.2d at 169. Accordingly, based on the facts in the complaint, plaintiff's claim for false arrest against the city is dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.

Plaintiff's unlawful detention claim is also dismissed. Claims stemming from the continued detention of a person arrested on a valid warrant are governed by the Due Process Clause and not the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Brown, 823 F.2d at 169. The Due Process Clause does not require an immediate investigation of an arrestee's claim that he is not the person named in a valid arrest warrant. Baker v. McCollan, 43 U.S. 137, 143-44 (1979). The Seventh Circuit has repeatedly held that failure to investigate for two to three days does not raise a due process concern. See McCollan, 43 U.S. at 145 (a three day detention did not amount to a deprivation of liberty); Tibbs, 469 F.3d at 665 (a two day detention was not unconstitutional). The Chicago Police Department only held plaintiff in their custody for approximately 24 hours. Further, plaintiff has not cited to and the Court is not aware of any case law to support plaintiff's attempt to impute the ...

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