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Beauchamp v. City of Dixon

September 5, 2012

BEAUCHAMP
v.
CITY OF DIXON, ILLINOIS, ET AL.



Name of Assigned Judge Philip G. Reinhard Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge than Assigned Judge

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT:

For the reasons stated below, the court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. The parties are to schedule a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Mahoney within 30 days of the date of this order.

O[ For further details see text below.] Electronic Notices.

Copy to Magistrate Judge Mahoney.

STATEMENT - OPINION

Plaintiff, Karen Beauchamp, filed, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois law, a five-count complaint against defendants, Nick Albert, a police officer for the City of Dixon, Illinois (City), Troy Morse, a police officer for the City, Danny Langloss, Jr., the chief of police for the City, and the City itself. Count I is a claim against Albert for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Count II is a claim against Morse for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Counts III and IV, against Langloss and the City respectively, are based on an official policy and custom pursuant to Monell v. City of New York Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Count V names the City and is based on indemnification under Illinois law. Albert and Morse have jointly moved for summary judgment on the excessive force claims against them, contending that they did not use excessive force, or, alternatively, that they are entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff has responded to the summary judgment motion.

Applicable Law

In considering a summary judgment motion, the court views all facts and construes all reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fleming v. Livingston County, Illinois, 674 F. 3d 874, 878 (7th Cir. 2012). Summary judgment is proper if the movant shows there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fleming, 674 F. 3d at 878.

Whether an officer uses excessive force during an arrest is determined under an objective reasonableness standard. Smith v. City of Chicago, 242 F. 3d 737, 743 (7th Cir. 2001). This assessment is made in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer and not in regard to his underlying intent or motivation. Smith, 242 F. 3d at 743 (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989)). The court must consider the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Smith, 242 F. 3d at 743. The court also considers whether the plaintiff was under arrest or suspected of a crime, was armed, or was attempting to interfere with the officer's execution of his duties. Padula v. Leimbach, 656 F. 3d 595, 602 (7th Cir. 2011). Not every push or shove, even if it later seems unnecessary, violates the Fourth Amendment. Leimbach, 656 F. 3d at 602. The court balances the amount of force used in relation to the danger posed to the community or the arresting officer. Smith, 242 F. 3d at 743.

Additionally, the doctrine of qualified immunity shields from liability officers who act in ways they reasonably believe to be lawful. Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F. 3d 678, 691 (7th Cir. 2008). This defense provides ample room for mistaken judgment and protects all but the plainly incompetent and those who knowingly violate the law. Chelios, 520 F. 3d at 691. In the excessive force context, to defeat qualified immunity, a plaintiff must show that there is either a closely analogous case that establishes a right to be free from the type of force the officer used on him or that the force used in effecting an arrest was so "plainly excessive that a reasonable officer would have been on notice that such force is violative of the Fourth Amendment." Chelios, 520 F. 3d at 691-92.

Analysis

While the evidence in this case is in dispute in some material respects, the court will, as it must at this stage of the proceeding, accept plaintiff's version as true. The court will address each defendant separately ...


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