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Brown v. Chicago Municipal Employees Credit Union

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

April 16, 2014

ANGELA BROWN Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES CREDIT UNION; CITY OF CHICAGO; MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE'S ANNUITY BENEFIT FUND OF CHICAGO Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN J. THARP, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Angela Brown, a former City of Chicago employee, alleges that (1) the City of Chicago and the Chicago Municipal Employees Credit Union ("the Credit Union") improperly deducted money from her paychecks to pay off certain loans, (2) the City of Chicago retaliated against her for reporting certain grievances to the United States Attorney's Office, and (3) the Municipal Employee's Annuity Benefit Fund of Chicago ("the Fund") and the Credit Union improperly deprived Brown of a portion of her pension. Brown makes these allegations as part of an amended complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants have each moved to dismiss Brown's amended complaint in its entirety. For the reasons stated below, the motions to dismiss brought by the Credit Union and the City of Chicago are granted. The motion to dismiss brought by the Fund is denied, and the Board of Trustees of the Fund is added by the Court as a defendant in lieu of the Fund.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Brown alleges that she began working under contract for the City of Chicago in 1999. Am. Compl. (Dkt. 25) at 7. After two years, Brown became formally employed by the city's Department of Transportation and began to make contributions toward her pension. Id. Brown continued to work for the city until 2009. Id. In 2003, she took out a signature loan of $2, 500 and, in 2004, an auto loan of $10, 273.35 from the Credit Union. Id. at 5, 9. To pay off the loans, deductions were made from Brown's paycheck. Id. Brown alleges that the City improperly continued to allow deductions from her paycheck (totaling $6, 000) long after the $2, 500 signature loan was paid off and secondarily, that the City refused to stop authorizing-and the Credit Union refused to stop accepting-the deductions after Brown complained about the problem. Id. at 5, 9. After the deductions "finally stopped" in October 2005, Brown made eighteen direct payments to the Credit Union toward paying off the auto loan. Id. at 6. In May 2007, she started payroll deductions once again to continue to pay off the auto loan. Id. at 9. In May 2008, Brown asked the City Finance Department and the Credit Union for a history of her payroll deductions and payments, respectively. Id. at 6-7.

In 2009, Brown was laid off from the city. Id. at 7. As a result, only one more half payment was made on the auto loan. Id. Brown believes that she was laid off because at some point she sent a report to the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois listing her grievances regarding the payroll deductions. Id. at 11. She also believes that she was the only employee laid off from her department and that she and other employees were told that there would be no layoffs from their department. Id. The same year, the Credit Union charged the auto loan as a bad debt to Brown's credit. Id. at 7.

In 2012, Brown formally resigned from city employment and sought to collect her pension from the Fund. Id. at 7. She alleges that she expected to receive a lump-sum payment of $20, 344.91, but instead she received $12, 986.85. Id. at 8.[2] She adds that the Fund improperly gave a portion of her pension to the Credit Union and (a) did not allow her to prove that she did not owe money to the Credit Union; (b) refused to tell her the amount of money in her pension fund; (c) did not inform her that she had a "lien" on her pension; and (d) did not "allow me to take this matter up with their Board of Trustee[]s." Id. at 8; Pl.'s Resp. (Dkt. 57) at 9.

In sum, Brown alleges that "[t]hese three departments [the City, the Credit Union, and the Fund] are still stealing from me... [they] are city related departments that seem to be acting together to steal money from me." Id. at 10. Brown brought her complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

II. DISCUSSION

Brown's claims against the City of Chicago and the Credit Union must be dismissed because they are time-barred.[3] Brown's claims against the Fund are not dismissed, but the Court substitutes the Board of Trustees of the Fund as the defendant in lieu of the Fund itself.

A. Brown's § 1983 Claims against the City of Chicago and the Credit Union are Time-Barred.

While a statute of limitations defense is not normally part of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, when the plaintiff's allegations reveal that her claim is barred by a relevant statute of limitations, the complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim. See Logan v. Wilkins, 644 F.3d 577, 582 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action, but courts look to the laws of the state in which an injury occurred to determine the length of the statute of limitations. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007); see also Kelly v. City of Chi., 4 F.3d 509, 511 (7th Cir. 1993). Illinois has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. 735 ILCS 5/13-202. Consequently, § 1983 claims arising in Illinois must be brought within two years of accrual. Kelly, 4 F.3d at 511. A § 1983 claim accrues "when the plaintiff knows or should know that his or her constitutional rights have been violated." Hileman v. Maze, 367 F.3d 694, 696 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Kelly, 4 F.3d at 511).

Brown alleges that payroll deductions began in 2003 and ended in 2009, with a break between 2005 and 2007. Am. Compl. at 5. She believes that the City of Chicago "deducted money from my payroll checks from 2003 to 2009 for a signature loan [] and [an] auto loan" and that the Credit Union wrongfully "[accepted] the overpayments [] from the City." Id. She began to complain about the payroll deductions before October 2005- she wrote in her complaint: "I had to call City Finance Department for more than a year about that loan... At the same time I was also calling the Credit Union, but they refuse[d] to stop [accepting] the overpayments [] from [t]he City. So I called the Inspector General Office... This occurred in October in 2005." Id. at 5.

Brown filed her first complaint on April 5, 2013. Substantially more than two years passed between the time Brown knew of a potential injury and when she filed her complaint. Hileman, 367 F.3d at 696. Even if she could argue that she didn't know of her potential injury until 2009, when the payroll deductions ended, more than two years have passed between that time and 2013, when she filed her first complaint. Brown's argument that her claim is timely because her injuries have continued is misplaced. The "date the consequences of [a] violation became painful... [is] not the date of accrual" of an alleged § 1983 claim. Kelly, 4 F.3d at 512 (citation omitted). The "date of the alleged constitutional violation... [is] the date of accrual." Id.

As to Brown's allegation that she was laid off from the City in retaliation for filing a report of her grievances with the United States Attorney's Office, Brown was laid off in 2009, again ...


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