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Central Austin Neighborhood Ass'n v. The City of Chicago

Court of Appeal of Illinois, First District, Third Division

November 13, 2013

CENTRAL AUSTIN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION and American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
The CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant-Appellee.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 978

Sidley Austin LLP, of Chicago (Richard J. O'Brien, Eric S. Mattson, and Alexis Rollins Dunton, of counsel), for appellant Central Austin Neighborhood Association.

Roger Baldwin Foundation of ACLU, Inc., of Chicago (Harvey Grossman and Karen Sheley, of counsel), for appellant American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Stephen R. Patton, Corporation Counsel, of Chicago (Benna Ruth Solomon, Myriam Zreczny Kasper, and Andrew W. Worsek, Assistant Corporation Counsel, of counsel, for appellee.

OPINION

NEVILLE, Justice.

[377 Ill.Dec. 91] ¶ 1 Two organizations whose members include African-Americans and Hispanics sued the City of Chicago (City), alleging a violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act (Act) (740 ILCS 23/5 (West 2012)), and seeking a change in the way the City responds to emergency calls to 911. The organizations alleged that, on average, persons in neighborhoods populated mostly by African-Americans and Hispanics wait longer than persons in neighborhoods populated mostly by whites for police to arrive in response to a 911 call. The trial court granted the City's motion to dismiss the complaint, holding that regardless of the extent of the systematic disparity in response times, because the complaint raised only a nonjusticiable political question, the complaint did not state a claim for which the court could grant the complainants relief. On this appeal, we hold that the political question doctrine does not divest a court of jurisdiction to address plaintiffs' claim that the City's allocation of resources to respond to 911 calls results in a disparate impact on residents of police districts populated largely by African-Americans and Hispanics, and, therefore, the trial court should not have dismissed the complaint for failure to state a justiciable claim. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand for further proceedings on the complaint.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 The Central Austin Neighborhood Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois sued the City, alleging that the City's administration of responses to 911 calls violates the Act. The City filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2012)). The trial court granted the motion on grounds that the complaint raised only a nonjusticiable political question. The plaintiffs now appeal.

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[377 Ill.Dec. 92] ¶ 4 Due to the procedural posture of this case, we must accept as true all facts well-pleaded in the complaint. See Brogan v. Mitchell International, Inc., 181 Ill.2d 178, 183, 229 Ill.Dec. 503, 692 N.E.2d 276 (1998). According to the complaint, the office of emergency management and communications (OEMC) answers 911 calls and dispatches emergency personnel, including Chicago police officers, to respond to the calls. The City authorizes OEMC to dispatch beat officers only from the police district where the call originated. When a police district no longer has any beat officers available for dispatch in response to a call, the district has radio assignments pending, which the parties refer to as a " RAP" situation. During a RAP situation, OEMC still answers 911 calls, but no officer responds to those calls until an officer becomes available. Districts that have more frequent RAP situations have greater delays in responding to 911 calls. Districts populated mostly by white residents report fewer violent crimes and fewer 911 calls per beat officer, and correspondingly lower response times to 911 calls. Districts populated mostly by African-American and Hispanic residents reported more violent crimes and more 911 calls per beat officer, more RAP situations, and higher response times to 911 calls. Citing an article from the Chicago Sun Times, dated November 22, 2010, plaintiffs alleged that Town Hall, a majority white district, had 17 RAP situations between January 2009 and October 2010, while Chicago Lawn, a district mostly populated by African-Americans and Hispanics, had 885 RAP situations in the same time period. Chicago Lawn had 3.61 violent crimes per beat officer, while Town Hall had 1.63 violent crimes per beat officer.

¶ 5 The complaint included further allegations that the disparate response times for responses to 911 calls, depending on the predominant racial makeup of the police districts, had prevailed in Chicago for 20 years. The plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that the administration of the 911 system violated the Act and an order requiring the City to submit to the court a plan detailing how the City will " provide equal services in response to 911 calls to minority neighborhoods."

¶ 6 Plaintiffs served discovery requests on the City. The court granted the City's motion to stay discovery pending a decision on the City's motion to dismiss the complaint. In the motion to dismiss, the City argued that the plaintiffs failed to allege a violation of the Act, that they failed to allege that they suffered harm from the alleged practices, and that they raised only a nonjusticiable political question. The trial court held that (1) the Illinois Constitution delegates to the City, and not to the court, the power to organize, fund and control the police force; (2) no judicially discoverable and manageable standards could guide a judicial resolution of the alleged problem; and (3) any court order in favor of the plaintiffs would inextricably involve the court in a policy determination of a kind clearly meant for nonjudicial discretion. Applying the political question standards enunciated in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962), the trial court found that the complaint raised only a political question, so the court dismissed the complaint. The plaintiffs now appeal.

¶ 7 ANALYSIS

¶ 8 We review de novo the dismissal of a complaint under section 2-615 of the Code. Simpkins v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 2012 IL 110662, ¶ 13, 358 Ill.Dec. 613, 965 N.E.2d 1092. The trial court should not dismiss the complaint unless the complaint clearly shows that the plaintiffs ...


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