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Giles v. Ludwig

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 6, 2013

SCIROCCO GILES, Plaintiff,
v.
NICHOLAS LUDWIG and the CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Scirocco Giles ("Giles") filed an Amended Complaint on February 14, 2013, alleging a violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through the use of excessive force by defendant Chicago Police Officer Nicholas Ludwig as well as various state law claims. Additionally, Giles asserts a Monell claim against the defendant, City of Chicago ("the City"), alleging the constitutional injury was caused by deficiencies in how the City trains, supervises, controls, disciplines, and investigates its police officers. On October 26, 2013, the City filed a Motion to Bifurcate [44] the excessive force and state law claims from the Monell claims and to stay discovery and trial on the Monell claims. For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the City's motion to bifurcate and to stay the proceedings without prejudice.

Background

Giles alleges that on September 20, 2011, he was talking with a friend and two women near 58th Street and Elizabeth Street in Chicago, Illinois at approximately 12:15 a.m. when a marked Chicago Police car pulled up and two officers got out and approached them. (Dkt. 13, Am. Compl. at ¶¶8-9). Giles and his friend were in a parked car when the officers directed Giles to get out of the car. Giles admits that he had a loaded handgun tucked into his waistband, which he claims to carry for personal protection due to the dangers of the neighborhood in which he lives. ( Id. at ¶11). Giles alleges that neither he, nor his companions, had done anything wrong, but he was afraid that if the officers searched him they would find the gun and jeopardize his newly obtained employment. ( Id. at ¶¶ 12-14). Giles took off running. One of the officers gave chase on foot, the other in the squad car. During the foot chase, the handgun began to fall out of his waistband and he grabbed it with his hand. ( Id. at ¶ 17).

Defendant Chicago Police Officer Ludwig and another Chicago Police Officer were in the vicinity when they heard the radio call of a foot chase. As Giles ran from an alley past Officer Ludwig's squad car, Officer Ludwig saw the gun in Giles hand and shouted "Gun." ( Id. at ¶¶ 20-21). Ludwig fired two shots through the open window of the squad car at Giles as he ran away. ( Id. at ¶22). Giles alleges that Ludwig did not announce he was a police officer or order him to drop the gun. One of the bullets hit Giles in his lower back injuring his spinal cord and paralyzing Giles from the waist down. ( Id. at ¶¶23-24, 28). Giles claims that his injuries are a result of excessive force in violation of his civil rights.

Legal Standard

"Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) permits the separate trial of any issue when separation would be in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition and economy." Treece v. Hochstetler, 213 F.3d 360, 365 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted); Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). Only one of the above criteria needs be satisfied for a court to order a separate trial. Krocka v. City of Chi., 203 F.3d 507, 516 (7th Cir. 2000). The district court has considerable discretion to order the bifurcation of a trial. Krocka v. City of Chi., 203 F.3d 507, 516 (7th Cir. 2000). There is a growing body of precedent in this district for both granting and denying bifurcation in §1983 cases.

Discussion

The City moves for bifurcation arguing that the remaining discovery on the Monell claim is overwhelming and burdensome; that bifurcation will help prevent undue prejudice to Ludwig and the City; bifurcation will not affect Giles' recovery of compensatory damages to which he may be entitled if he prevails against Ludwig; and the City has submitted a proposed "Consent to Entry of Judgment Against Defendant City of Chicago." Giles opposes bifurcation.

1. Efficiency and Economy

The City argues that bifurcation will allow it to avoid burdensome and potentially unnecessary discovery and litigation costs. Relying on City of Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986), the City asserts that if Giles fails to establish a constitutional violation, he will as a matter of law be unable to prove any Monell violation. Therefore, according to the City, bifurcation and staying discovery on this issue will result in a substantial savings in time and expense. Giles argues that the City's argument is somewhat disingenuous in that the City is largely responsible for the delay in Monell discovery, that very little remains of discovery, and that the City waited until after significant discovery had been exchanged to claim that bifurcation would be more efficient. The City counters that Giles did not comply with his Rule 26 ongoing duty to supplement discovery disclosures. While both parties lay blame for drawn out discovery on the Monell issue, it is clear that at this juncture the bulk of written discovery and a portion of oral has been completed. The deposition of the 30(b)(6) witness was slated to be completed by November 4, 2013. (Dkt. 42). Giles asserts that the Monell portion of the trial will likely constitute only three witness, including the 30(b)(6) witness to explain the purpose and role of the Independent Police Review Authority ("IPRA"), plaintiff's expert who will focus on IPRA reports of closed investigations of police related shootings from October 1, 2006, through the date of the shooting at issue, September 20, 2011, and defendant's rebuttal expert. If, indeed, the Monell portion of the trial is limited to three witnesses, it is likely to be substantially shorter than the substantive claim. Moreover, if Giles is unable to show a constitutional violation, the City may make the appropriate motion to eliminate the Monell claim. Therefore bifurcation would not result in a substantial savings of time and effort.

2. Prejudice

The City also argues that bifurcation will prevent severe prejudice to both defendants. The City contends that both defendants might be prejudiced by the introduction at trial of "extensive evidence in support of municipal policies and practices extraneous to the underlying incident." (Dkt. 44 at 8). Specifically, the City's concern is that the introduction of misconduct by non-party police officers poses a substantial risk that a jury will conclude that Chicago police officers, including Ludwig, routinely engage in similar misconduct in conformity with municipal policy and practice. As several courts in this district have noted, any potential prejudice that might arise from a unitary trial can be mitigated through the use of limiting instructions, motions in limine, and the Rules of Evidence. See, e.g., Elrod v. City of Chicago, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80941, at *24 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 1, ...


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