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Portis v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 16, 2013


Matthew C. Singer, June K. Ghezzi, Bar No. 6185506 Brian J. Murray, Bar No. 6272767 Morgan R. Hirst, Bar No. 6275128 Mark W. DeMonte, Bar No. 6282734 Matthew C. Singer, Bar No. 6297632 JONES DAY, Chicago, Illinois, Attorneys for the Defendant.


THOMAS M. DURKIN, District Judge.

The City of Chicago respectfully moves this Court for judgment as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a) because: (1) plaintiffs have failed to put forth evidence sufficient to show that the length of their detentions from arrest to release were unreasonable in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and (2) plaintiffs have not established that a City official policy or custom caused any deprivation of plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights through its deliberate indifference to the known and obvious consequences of its official policy. For these reasons, set forth below, plaintiffs' claims fail as a matter of law, and judgment should be entered in favor of the City.


Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 allows a district court to enter judgment against a party who has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial if "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue." Winters v. Fru-Con Inc., 498 F.3d 734, 745-46 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)). The standard for granting judgment as a matter of law "mirrors" the standard for granting summary judgment. See Murray v. Chi. Transit Auth., 252 F.3d 880, 886 (7th Cir. 2001). In deciding a Rule 50 motion, the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. See Waite v. Bd. of Trustees of Ill. Comm. College Dist. No. 508, 408 F.3d 339, 343 (7th Cir. 2005). But when no reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-movant based on the evidence presented at trial, judgment as a matter of law should be granted. See Waters v. City of Chicago, 580 F.3d 575 (7th Cir. 2009) (reversing and remanding with instructions to enter judgment as a matter of law in favor of the City where the plaintiff "presented no evidence that a final policymaker caused his alleged constitutional deprivation" under the Monell standard); Timas v. Klaser, 23 Fed.App'x 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2001) (affirming grant of Rule 50(a) judgment as a matter of law because the evidence at trial could not have supported a jury finding that an officer used excessive force in arresting the plaintiff).


In order to prove that the City of Chicago violated each plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right, each must separately prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that: (1) their detentions were not reasonable because they respectively were held too long from arrest to release; and (2) some official policy of the City was the "moving force" behind the constitutional violation through the City's deliberate indifference to the known and obvious consequences of its policy. Plaintiffs have proven neither required element, and consequently, the City is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

A. Plaintiffs' Detentions Were Constitutionally Reasonable; No Evidence Has Been Offered From Which A Reasonable Juror Could Conclude Otherwise.

Plaintiffs have not offered sufficient evidence for the jury to find that the length of any plaintiff's detention was constitutionally unreasonable. A police officer has probable cause to arrest an individual if the officer believes the person has committed even a very minor offense. Portis v. City of Chicago, 613 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir. 2010). Individuals arrested for such minor offenses may be taken to the stationhouse for booking and detained while officers carry out "the administrative steps incident to arrest." Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 663 (7th Cir. 2011). Once arrested, individuals "need not be released as quickly as possible, " or even "at the earliest moment that each [processing] step can be accomplished. What the Constitution requires is that the entire process remain reasonable. " United States v. Childs, 277 F.3d 947, 953-54 (7th Cir. 2002) (en banc) (emphasis added). "What is reasonable, or not, is how much time passes between arrest and release, in relation to the reasons for detention." Portis, 613 F.3d at 705. Both "needless delay" and "delay deliberately created so that the process becomes the punishment" violate the Fourth Amendment. Id. But no evidence has been presented by plaintiffs establishing that either were present in these cases.

1. Plaintiffs' Detention Times, From Arrest to Release, Were Reasonable.

In determining what is reasonable, the Seventh Circuit has found that, at the very least, "times ranging from three to fourteen and one-half hours [are] not constitutionally unreasonable absent any evidence that the delay in releasing the arrested individuals was motivated by an improper purpose." Ray, 629 F.3d at 663-64 (dismissing unlawful detention claim because plaintiff detained for "several hours" failed to show release was delayed for an improper purpose); Doyle v. Vill. of Wilmette, 2013 WL 5304101, at *6-7 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 19, 2013) (granting summary judgment because, absent evidence of an improper purpose for the length of detention, a reasonable jury could not find that detention was unreasonable); Bass v. Hansen, 2010 WL 5069690, at *16-17 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 7, 2010) ("For Fourth Amendment purposes, it is clear that Defendants were free to hold Plaintiff [for nine hours and forty minutes] while they completed administrative tasks incident to arrest, regardless of whether Illinois law gave them the discretion to release Plaintiff.") (citing Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 114 (1975)); Chortek v. City of Milwaukee, 356 F.3d 740, 747-48 (7th Cir. 2004) (finding detention of ordinance violators lasting "substantially longer than four hours" reasonable as a matter of law "given the natural backlog at processing").

Here, the evidence shows that, following their lawful arrests, Portis was detained for 10 hours and 35 minutes, and Lance was held for 16 hours and 15 minutes. Plaintiffs offered no evidence that an officer needlessly or purposefully delayed a plaintiff's release, or that any delay in processing was motivated by ill will or improper purpose. Portis's detention falls well within the time prescribed by the Seventh Circuit in Ray. And while Lance's detention was one hour and forty-five minutes outside the period referenced in Ray, the Ray court did not limit its holding to this range, and Lance has offered nothing to show this extra time made his detention unreasonable. Therefore, plaintiffs' detention times, from arrest to release, must be found to be reasonable as a matter of law. Portis, 613 F.3d at 705 (holding that "reasonableness" is based on the time "between arrest and release, " not "for a particular part of the process").

2. The City's Processing Procedures Did Not "Needlessly Delay" Plaintiffs' Release.

Unable to show their detention times were unreasonable, plaintiffs carve out a portion of their detention in an attempt to show that the City's processing procedures created needless delay after the time plaintiffs were transferred to a lockup cell-8.5 hours for Portis, and 15 hours for Lance-because, they claim, all administrative steps incident to arrest had been completed at that time. To support this theory, plaintiffs offered evidence that each plaintiff had a name check run, and initial probable cause was approved prior to plaintiffs' placement ...

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