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Ransberry v. Dart

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

March 19, 2014



JOHN F. GRADY, District Judge.

Before the court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, we grant the defendants' motion.


Plaintiff James Ransberry has sued Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, in his official capacity, for constitutional violations stemming from his prolonged detention pursuant to a warrant for another person.[1] The Chicago Police Department ("CPD") arrested Ransberry on January 24, 2009 for possession of a controlled substance. (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 6; see also Arrest Report, attached as Ex. H to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts, at 1.) The next day, Ransberry was taken to the Circuit Court of Cook County for a bond hearing before Judge Panarese. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 8.) Judge Panarese found probable cause to detain Ransberry and set his bond at $30, 000. (Id.) He also issued an order directing the Sheriff's Department to place Ransberry in its Electronic Monitoring ("EM") Program. (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 14.) Participants in the EM Program are released from jail to their homes, with a requirement of electronic monitoring. After the hearing, Ransberry was transferred to the Cook County Department of Corrections's ("CCDOC") Receiving Division along with his "mittimus" - a document showing the charges against him - and related documents (collectively, the "mittimus pack"). (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 11, 13.) The parties agree that the following documents were in Ransberry's mittimus pack: (1) his arrest report (see supra ); (2) a "Prisoner Transportation Transmittal" that included a recent photograph of Ransberry (see Prisoner Transp. Trans., attached as Ex. D to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts); (3) a "Pretrial Services Bond Assessment Form" (see Pretrial Serv. Bond Assess. Form, attached as Ex. I to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts); (4) the EM Program Order; and (5) a "LEADS" message printout (see LEADS Message, dated Jan. 25, 2009, attached as Ex. N to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts).[2] (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶¶ 17-21.) The LEADS message contained information about a Jefferson County warrant naming John Wuelling for "failure to appear" on a traffic citation. (See id. at ¶ 21; see also LEADS Message, dated Jan. 25, 2009.) The message included the following details about Wuelling: (1) race (white); (2) date of birth (04/18/62); (3) height (6'1"); (4) hair color (brown); (5) eye color (brown); and (6) skin tone ("medium"). (Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 22.) It also listed his FBI, state identification ("SID"), and Social Security numbers. (Id.) It did not include a photograph. It is unclear who generated the message in the first place and linked the warrant to Ransberry. The defendants deny that a Cook County employee created the message, (see Defs.' Am. Resp. to Pl.'s First Set of Interrogatories ¶ 2), and there is some speculation that it came from the CPD. (See Giunta Dep., attached as Ex. C to Defs.' Stmt., at 23.) On the other hand, Ransberry's arrest report stated, "no wants/warrants or investigative alerts on file." (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 8.) And Ransberry's bond recommendation form indicated that he had no "Previous Failures to Appear" and no "Pending Cases (excluding current case)." ( Id. at ¶ 12.) The most likely explanation for the message's presence in Ransberry's mittimus pack is that, according to the message, Ransberry and Wuelling have the same social security number and an almost-matching birth date.[3] (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 21.) But the similarities end there. Ransberry is taller (6'3" v. 6'1") and heavier (200 pounds v. 170 pounds), they were born in different states (Mississippi v. Missouri), and perhaps most significantly: Wuelling is listed as white, whereas Ransberry is African American. (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 30.)

Officer Peter Giunta "booked" Ransberry. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 10.) During the booking process a "body-to-name" check is performed to make sure that the detainee matches the individual described in the mittimus paperwork. ( Id. at ¶ 17.) As we understand Giunta's testimony, he first checks to see that the picture in the mittimus pack matches the person he is booking. (See Giunta Dep. at 92.) If necessary, he will go through the mittimus pack to find a "secondary identifier" - a SID number, an FBI number, a Social Security number, or a driver's license number. ( Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.) He then enters the detainee's information into the CCDOC's records system ("CMIS"). (See id.; Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶¶ 26-27.) The system includes an electronic "Personal History Information" form that the booking officer fills out. (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶¶ 26-27; see also CMIS Personal History Information Form, attached as Ex. O to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts.) Giunta inputs the inmate's internal record ("IR") number, [4] and if the person has been booked before - and Ransberry had been - then the system automatically populates the fields with the inmate's other information. (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶¶ 26-27; Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 18; Giunta Dep. at 31.) Giunta testified that if he had noticed a discrepancy in the warrant information - including the fact that Wuelling was described as white - then he would have notified his supervisor to resolve the issue. (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 12.)[5] But he could not recall whether he saw the Wuelling LEADS message. (See Giunta Dep. at 52.) Ransberry eventually made his way to the Sheriff's EM Unit, a division of the Sheriff's Department of Community Supervision and Intervention ("DCSI"). (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 22.) Although Judge Panarese ordered Ransberry to participate in the program, DCSI has authority to determine that an individual is ineligible. ( Id. at ¶ 34.) Ineligible detainees include individuals who are subject to an outstanding warrant. (Id.; see also id. at ¶ 36.) Staff at the "Technical Services Section" of the EM Unit interviewed Ransberry and determined that the Wuelling warrant made him ineligible for EM. (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 31; see also EM Interview, dated Jan. 25, 2009, attached as Ex. Q to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ("Reason for not out on E.M.: Hold Jefferson Co.").)[6] So, he was confined to lockup.

Ransberry spoke to two people about his EM status on the day that he was booked: a jail guard and a caseworker. (See Ransberry Dep. at 43-46, 50-51.) According to Ransberry, the guard told him that he was not eligible for EM because of a "seatbelt ticket." (See id. at 44.) Ransberry denied that he had ever received such a ticket. ( Id. ("I told him it couldn't be me because I never had a seatbelt ticket in my life. I've never been pulled over in my life.").) The record does not include the contents of Ransberry's conversation with the caseworker. (See id. at 50-51.) Ransberry next appeared in court on February 11, 2009. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 39.) Neither he nor his attorney - Assistant Public Defender Candace Alexander - raised the EM issue. (Id.) Between February 11, 2009 and February 26, 2009, Ransberry only spoke with his cellmate about his predicament. ( Id. at ¶ 40.) On February 26, 2009, Ransberry appeared before Judge Lawrence Flood, who reduced his bond from $30, 000 to $10, 000. ( Id. at ¶ 41.) During the hearing, the Assistant State's Attorney volunteered that Ransberry was "on EM at some point." (See Trans. of Hearing, dated Feb. 26, 2014, attached as Ex. I to Defs.' Stmt., at 6.) In response, Ransberry's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Stephanie Schlegel, addressed Ransberry: "You didn't get EM, did you? I think they screened for it. He's got a minor like warrant somewhere in some other county." (Id.) Later in the hearing, Schlegel stated that Ransberry could "post approximately two to three hundred dollars once he gets rid of this minor warrant." ( Id. at 9.) Schlegel believed that the warrant was for "drinking in the car or something like that. He wasn't the driver. He was a passenger in the car and was ticketed for it. So I am going to try to track that down for him." (Id.) Ransberry said nothing during this colloquy. On March 5, 2009, Miyoka Davenport, an employee in the Sheriff's Department's Records Division, requested and received a hard copy of the Wuelling warrant from Jefferson County. (See Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 33).) Davenport testified that she could not recall why she had requested the warrant at that time. (See Davenport Dep. at 48-49.) The officer in charge of the Records Division at that time, Desiree Zeno-Johnson, speculated that it might have been done in connection with a routine "system check." (See Zeno-Johnson Dep. at 84-86.) There is no evidence in the summary-judgment record that Schlegel, or anyone else working on Ransberry's behalf, contacted the Records Division at this time.

Between February 26, 2009 and April 1, 2009, Ransberry discussed his EM status with Schlegel and his cellmate, only. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 43.) When he appeared in court again on April 1, 2009, Schlegel told the court that her client was being incarcerated pursuant to a warrant for a different person. ( Id. at ¶ 45.) But the court denied her request for home monitoring because the warrant was still in place. (See Trans. of Hearing, dated April 1, 2009, attached as Ex. J to Defs.' Stmt., at 3-4.) Schlegel appeared to indicate that she would take steps to clarify the mistake. (See id. at 4 ("I would have to do that this week.").) Two weeks later, on April 15, 2009, she sent two faxes to the Records Division asking them to remove the hold on Ransberry. (See Fax #1, dated April 15, 2009, attached as part of group Ex. U to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts, at 1 ("Please remove the hold from Jefferson County, IL on case # 02 TR 3510. It is NOT Mr. Ransberry's case!"); see also Fax #2, attached as part of Group Ex. U to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts, at 1 (asking the recipient to disregard the prior fax, but repeating her request to lift the hold).) The lieutenant in charge of the Records Division on that date, Nancy Alvarez, testified that she could not recall receiving Schlegel's faxes. (See Alvarez Dep., attached as Ex. F to Pl.'s Stmt. of Add'l Facts, at 76-77.) If she had seen them, she would have notified her supervisor and "immediately conducted an investigation." (See id.) It is unclear whether Schlegel ever followed up, and Ransberry effectively dropped the issue. He testified that he did not speak to Schlegel about his EM status between the April 1, 2009 hearing and his bench trial on May 5, 2009. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 47.) Nor did anyone raise the issue during the trial, which resulted in Ransberry's acquittal. ( Id. at ¶ 50.)

Ransberry believed that he would be released after the trial, but a jail guard informed him that he "had a hold" and "wasn't going nowhere." ( Id. at ¶ 53.) In response, Ransberry "didn't say nothing. I just went back to my cell." (Id.; see also Ransberry Dep. at 58 ("After he told me I had that hold and I wasn't going nowhere, I went back to my cell and laid down and I just read some books and I cried a while, cried myself to sleep.").) CCDOC planned to transport Ransberry to Jefferson County on the next regularly scheduled trip. ( Id. at ¶ 64.) But he was released on May 11, 2009 before traveling to Jefferson County. ( Id. at ¶ 65.) Although neither side addresses the issue in their Rule 56.1 statements, it appears that someone in the Records Division noticed that Wuelling and Ransberry were not the same race and asked Jefferson County to confirm that they wanted to proceed with extradition. (See LEADS Message, dated May 11, 2009, attached as Ex. 9 to Davenport Dep. ("Our subject is male/black. The subject that is wanted by your [department] is a male/white. Can you please advise that your want is not for Ransberry, James....).) Jefferson County stated that it did not want to extradite him, (see LEADS Message, dated May 11, 2009, attached as Ex. 10 to Davenport Dep.), which presumably led to his release.


Ransberry has filed § 1983 claims for violations of the Fourth (Count IV), Eighth (Count VI), and Fourteenth (Counts II and III) Amendments. (See Fourth Am. Compl. ¶¶ 45-65.) Although he has pled a Monell claim as a separate count, (see id. at ¶¶ 38-44 (Count I)), he cannot prevail on any of his claims if he cannot satisfy Monell's requirements for municipal liability. Only Sheriff Tom Dart (sued in his official capacity), and Cook County (joined for indemnification, only), remain in the case. The defendants have moved for summary judgment on essentially three grounds: (1) Ransberry did not have a protected liberty interest in being placed in the EM program (accounting for 94 of the 100 days he spent in jail); (2) the defendants were simply carrying out Judge Panarese's detention order; and (3) Ransberry has not developed sufficient evidence to support liability under Monell. We will confine our discussion to the defendants' third argument, which we consider dispositive.

A. Legal Standard

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering such a motion, the court construes the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Pitasi v. Gartner Group, Inc. , 184 F.3d 709, 714 (7th Cir. 1999). "The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "Summary judgment should be denied if the dispute is genuine': if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Talanda v. KFC Nat'l Mgmt. Co. , 140 F.3d 1090, 1095 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The court will enter summary judgment against a party who does not "come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in [its] favor on a material question." McGrath v. Gillis , 44 F.3d 567, 569 (7th Cir. 1995).

B. Monell Liability

To survive summary judgment, Ransberry "must present evidence demonstrating the existence of an official policy, widespread custom, or deliberate act of a county decision-maker of the municipality or department." King v. Kramer , 680 F.3d 1013, 1020 (7th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). He must also show ...

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