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Obrycka v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 20, 2012

Karolina OBRYCKA, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO and Anthony Abbate, Jr., Defendants.

Page 599

Terry A. Ekl, Patrick Laurence Provenzale, Tracy L. Stanker, Ekl, Williams & Provenzale LLC, Lisle, IL, Gustavo Munoz, Munoz & Wilkes, Ltd., Summit, IL, for Plaintiff.

George John Yamin, Jr., Matthew Alan Hurd, Scott J. Jebson, Daniel J. Chester, Barrett Elizabeth Rubens, Corporation Counsel, Raoul Vertick Mowatt, Attorney at Law, Michael J. Malatesta, Apicella & Malatesta LLC, Chicago, IL, Kenneth C. Apicella, Apicella Law Firm, LLC, Palatine, IL, for Defendants.


AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) and (b)(6), the parties in this lawsuit filed a joint motion for relief from the November 13, 2012 judgment in which a jury found in favor of Plaintiff Karolina Obrycka. On December 7, 2012, the Court held a motion hearing on the parties' joint motion and granted the University of Chicago Mandel Legal Aid Clinic's and Northwestern University School of Law MacArthur Justice Center's motion to intervene in order to file an amicus brief.[1] For the following reasons, the Court, in its discretion, denies the parties' joint motion to vacate.

Page 600


On April 30, 2007, Plaintiff Karolina Obrycka brought a Complaint alleging that Defendants City of Chicago and former Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate, Jr. violated her constitutional rights in relation to an incident on February 19, 2007 at Jesse's Shortstop Inn, a bar located in Chicago, Illinois, and the subsequent investigation into that incident.[2] On that night, Abbate beat Obrycka at Jesse's Shortstop Inn, and the beating was captured on videotape. On September 10, 2007, the Court granted Defendant Abbate's motion to stay because the Cook County State's Attorney charged him with aggravated battery based on his February 19, 2007 beating of Obrycka. After a bench trial, a Circuit Court of Cook County judge found Abbate guilty of aggravated battery and sentenced him to two years of probation. The Court then lifted the stay in this case.

Meanwhile, the parties engaged in extensive discovery, especially in light of Plaintiff's claim pursuant to Monell v. Department of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), which contained serious allegations concerning the Chicago Police Department (" CPD" ) and the Office of Professional Standards. Furthermore, the parties filed multiple motions to compel. On February 23, 2012, 2012 WL 601810, the Court granted in part and denied in part the City's motion for partial summary judgment. (R. 434.) Prior to trial, the Court conducted numerous hearings pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993), and issued six Daubert orders. (R. 317, 324, 341, 344, 351, 552, 563.) The parties filed over twenty-five motions in limine, including omnibus motions that contained up to eighteen separate motions in limine. (R. 457-71, 475-89, 586.) The Court also held two lengthy final pre-trial conferences because the parties hotly contested the vast majority of the forty-five jury instructions.

During and after the pre-trial motions and hearings, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her Monell claim based on equal protection and access to the courts, her conspiracy claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2), and her 42 U.S.C. § 1983 conspiracy claims based on the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. At the close of evidence, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to voluntarily dismiss her claim that Defendant Abbate entered into a conspiracy with others to violate her Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity, her Monell claim that the City had an official policy that was the moving force behind the conspiracy to violate her Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity, and her claim for indemnification. The following constitutional claims went to the jury: (1) that Defendant City of Chicago had an official policy, also known as a widespread custom or practice, that was the moving force behind Defendant Abbate's conduct in the bar when he physically beat Obrycka in violation of her Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to bodily integrity; and (2) that after the physical assault in the bar, Defendant Abbate and others entered into a conspiracy to violate Obrycka's constitutional right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment. After an approximately two and a half week jury trial, on November 13, 2012, the jury returned

Page 601

a verdict in favor of Plaintiff Karolina Obrycka on both of her claims and awarded her $850,000 in compensatory damages.


" Vacatur is a remedy rooted in equity." Ameritech Corp. v. International Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local 21, 543 F.3d 414, 419 (7th Cir.2008). Pursuant to Rule 60(b), " the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding" if " the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; [ ] applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or [ ] any other reason that justifies relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5), (b)(6). " Relief from a final judgment may be granted pursuant to Rule 60(b) under exceptional circumstances, and we have characterized the district court's considerable latitude in making its decision as ‘ discretion piled on discretion.’ " Wehrs v. Wells, 688 F.3d 886, 890 (7th Cir.2012) (quoting Swaim v. Moltan Co., 73 F.3d 711, 722 (7th Cir.1996)).[3]

When determining whether to vacate a judgment, the Court must exercise its equitable discretion balancing the interests of both the parties and the public. See U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall P'ship, 513 U.S. 18, 26-27, 115 S.Ct. 386, 130 L.Ed.2d 233 (1994); Matter of Memorial Hosp. of Iowa County, Inc., 862 F.2d 1299, 1302 (7th Cir.1988); Mayes v. City of Hammond, Ind., 631 F.Supp.2d 1082, 1085 (N.D.Ind.2008). Private interests of the parties include the plaintiff's economic situation while awaiting resolution of the matter and the municipality's legal, political, and financial restraints. See Mayes, 631 F.Supp.2d at 1088. Public interests include the effect that vacatur will have on the judgment's precedential value and issue preclusion (collateral estoppel), as well as issues related to judicial economy and integrity. See Bonner Mall, 513 U.S. at 26-27, 115 S.Ct. 386 (" Judicial precedents are presumptively correct and valuable to the legal community as a whole. They are not merely the property of private litigants and should stand unless a court concludes that the public interest would be served by a vacatur." ) (citation omitted); Memorial Hosp., 862 F.2d at 1302 (" Judges must have at heart the interests of other litigants in future cases, and hold them equal in weight with the interests of today's." ); Pivot Point Int'l, Inc. v. Charlene Prods., Inc., 90 C 6933, 2002 WL 1484488, at *1 (N.D.Ill. July 10, 2002) (Easterbrook, J.) (" the district court's judgment is the product of a substantial investment of public resources and may have value to third parties." ).


Although the parties' original motion asked the Court to vacate the judgment as a condition precedent to a post-judgment settlement, at the motion hearing on December 7, 2012, the City explained that it is no longer seeking vacatur as a condition precedent to paying Obrycka compensatory damages in the amount of $850,000, plus costs and reasonable attorney's fees. The City also maintains ...

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