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Sheikh v. Lichtman

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

June 26, 2013

ZAFAR SHEIKH, Plaintiff,
v.
MARC LICHTMAN, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendant Marc Lichtman (Lichtman), Defendant Glen Bernfield (Bernfield), Defendant Bennett Klasky (Klasky), Defendant John Peterson (Peterson), Defendant David Waxman (Waxman), Defendant David Hoffman (Hoffman), Defendant Nancy Rotering (Rotering), and Defendant City of Highland Park's (City) (collectively referred to as "City Defendants") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court grants the City Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Zafar Sheikh (Sheikh) alleges in his pro se amended complaint that in early 2006, he purchased four adjoining lots (Property) located in the City with the intention of building a home there. Before purchasing the Property, Sheikh was allegedly told that the Property was an interior lot under the City's zoning code (Zoning Code) and that after he obtained certain minimal zoning variances, he would be able to build his proposed home (Proposed Home) on the Property. After Sheikh purchased the Property, Sheikh allegedly submitted an application to the City requesting consolidation of the lots (Consolidation Application). Sheikh was allegedly informed that the Consolidation Application would only be approved if Sheikh purchased an additional lot located adjacent to the Property (Adjacent Lot). Sheikh allegedly undertook efforts to purchase the Adjacent Lot, but was allegedly unsuccessful. Thereafter, the City allegedly indicated to Sheikh that his Consolidation Application would be approved without the purchase of the Adjacent Lot. Sheikh alleges that he subsequently received notice that his Consolidation Application would be decided by the City Council after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) made a recommendation with respect to the Consolidation Application.

Around that same time, Sheikh was allegedly informed that the proper classification of the Property under the Zoning Code was a corner lot. Sheikh's attorney allegedly requested to have an informal hearing before the ZBA (Informal Hearing) to discuss the zoning variances that would be required to build the Proposed Home. Lichtman, Bernfield, Klasky, Peterson, Waxman, and Hoffman are allegedly members of the ZBA. At the Informal Hearing, the members of the ZBA allegedly indicated that Sheikh was likely to receive relief from the Zoning Code after Sheikh made a formal presentation to the ZBA. Formal hearings were held on May 5, 2010 (May 2010 Hearing), November 18, 2010 (November 2010 Hearing), January 6, 2011 (January 2011 Hearing), and February 17, 2011 (February 2011 Hearing) (collectively referred to as "Formal Hearings"). Sheikh alleges that at each of the Formal Hearings, Sheikh presented his plans for the Proposed Home and was advised by the ZBA what changes needed to be made to the plans in order to obtain zoning relief. After each of the Formal Hearings, Sheikh allegedly revised the plans according to the ZBA's specifications.

Sheikh alleges that the ZBA ultimately voted to deny Sheikh's requested zoning variances. In addition, Sheikh alleges that on approximately March 23, 2011, the ZBA unanimously recommended approval of the Consolidation Application, but that final approval of the Consolidation Application was delayed by the City indefinitely. According to Sheikh, the denial of the requested zoning variances and the delay in approving the Consolidation Application were based on Sheikh's race, national origin, or religion. In his pro se amended complaint, Sheikh included a claim against the County of Lake (County) alleging a violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. Sheikh also included claims against City Defendants and certain other City employees or officials (Additional City Defendants) alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Section 1981), violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1982 (Section 1982), violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., and violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983). In addition, Sheikh included claims brought against the City for the violation of a consent decree and for defamation.

The County, City Defendants, and Additional City Defendants moved to dismiss all claims. The court granted the County's motion to dismiss the RICO claim, the City's motion to dismiss the claim relating to the consent decree and the defamation claim, and the motions to dismiss with respect to all claims brought against Additional City Defendants. With respect to City Defendants, the court granted the motions to dismiss as they related to the Section 1983 First Amendment retaliation claims, the Section 1983 First Amendment right to petition claims, the Section 1983 Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claims, and the Section 1983 Fifth Amendment taking claims. However, the court denied the motions to dismiss as they related to the Section 1981 claims, the Section 1982 claims, the FHA claims, the Section 1983 Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claims, and the Section 1983 Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claims. City Defendants now move for summary judgment on the remaining claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). A "genuine issue" of material fact in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the record as a whole, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

City Defendants contend that summary judgment should be granted in their favor, arguing that Shiekh cannot show intentional discrimination. To survive summary judgment on each of his remaining claims, Sheikh must offer proof of intentional discrimination. See Smith v. Bray 681 F.3d 888, 896 (7th Cir. 2012)(stating that "[t]he substantive standards and methods of proof that apply to claims of racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII also apply to claims under § 1981")(citations omitted); Rodgers v. White, 657 F.3d 511, 517 (7th Cir. 2011)(indicating that the methods for proving intentional discrimination "appl[y] equally to discrimination claims under Title VII, § 1981, and § 1983"); East-Miller v. Lake County Highway Dept., 421 F.3d 558, 562-63 (7th Cir. 2005)(holding "that a showing of intentional discrimination is an essential element of a [FHA] claim" and that a FHA claim could be proven under the direct or indirect method of proof); Morris v. Office Max, Inc., 89 F.3d 411, 413-14 (7th Cir. 1996)(laying out the elements required to prove a Section 1981 claim, and indicating that "[b]ecause of their common origin and purpose, § 1981 and § 1982 are generally construed in tandem"). To prove intentional discrimination, a plaintiff may proceed under either the direct method or the indirect method of proof. East-Miller, 421 F.3d at 563. Sheikh argues that he can defeat City Defendants' motion for summary judgment under either method of proof.

I. Direct Method

Under the direct method of proof, a plaintiff can point to direct evidence or to circumstantial evidence to show that intentional discrimination by the decisionmaker can be inferred from a "convincing mosaic of circumstantial evidence...." Petts v. Rockledge Furniture LLC, 534 F.3d 715, 720 (7th Cir. 2008)(citations omitted)(internal quotations omitted); Parvati Corp. v. City of Oak Forest, 2012 WL 957479, at *8 (N.D. Ill. 2012)(stating that for the "Section 1981 and 1982 claims under the direct method of proof, [the plaintiff needed to] present either direct or circumstantial evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to infer intentional discrimination"). A convincing mosaic can be shown by: (1) "suspicious timing, ambiguous statements oral or written, behavior toward or comments directed at [others] in the protected group, and other bits and pieces from which an inference of discriminatory intent might be drawn"; (2) "evidence that similarly situated [persons] outside the protected class received systematically better treatment"; and (3) evidence that the defendant's "stated reason" for the action that was adverse to the plaintiff "is a pretext for discrimination." Petts, 534 F.3d at 721 (citation omitted)(internal quotation omitted). Sheikh concedes that there is no direct evidence of discriminatory intent, but argues that there is circumstantial evidence showing discriminatory intent. However, Shiekh has not sufficiently pointed to such evidence. Shiekh contends that the City has "a very significant white majority population." (Resp. 5). Sheikh also provides the court with a large volume of emails between neighbors who opposed the development of the Property (Neighbors) and various City officials relating to the development of the Property. However, the communications do not demonstrate any discriminatory motive on the part of the Neighbors or City Defendants. Sheikh cannot defeat City Defendants' motion for summary judgment by stating in a conclusory manner that the "record abounds with suspicious timing and ambiguous statements." (Resp. 7). He must provide detail regarding such timing and statements, and he has failed to do so. Further, as discussed more fully below, Sheikh has failed to point to evidence showing that similarly-situated persons outside the protected class received more favorable treatment.

Sheikh complains that City Defendants have not attached complete deposition transcripts to their statement of undisputed facts. However, complete transcripts are not required under Local Rule 56.1 or any other rule. If Sheikh believes that certain portions of the transcripts support his position, it is incumbent upon Sheikh to provide such portions of the transcripts to the court. Sheikh's objections to City Defendants' statement of material facts are unsupported by any citation to the record whatsoever, or alternatively supported with a citation to the record that is inaccurate or inadequate. Also, often Sheikh's own statements of additional material facts are not sufficiently supported by the record and include irrelevant information, legal arguments, and conjecture in violation of Local Rule 56.1. See Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006). Sheikh's pro se status does not relieve him of an obligation to comply with Local Rules such as Local Rule 56.1. See RBS Citizens, N.A. v. Compuray Staffing, Inc., 2012 WL 502653, at *2 (N.D. Ill. 2012)(stating that "Local Rule 56.1's requirements apply even when the non-moving ...


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