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Koch v. Village of Schiller Park

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

June 17, 2014

DANIEL KOCH, Plaintiff,
VILLAGE OF SCHILLER PARK, an Illinois Corporation; DANIEL SCHULZE, in his capacity as Chief of Police of the Village of Schiller Park, Defendants.


ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment [31], filed by Defendants Village of Schiller Park and Daniel Schulze. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Defendants' motion. This case is set for status hearing on 7/10/2014 at 9:00 a.m.

I. Background

A. Statement of Facts

The Court has taken the relevant facts from the parties' Local Rule ("L.R.") 56.1 statements. Local Rule 56.1 sets out the procedures by which parties are to put facts before the Court for consideration at summary judgment. The Rule requires a party moving for summary judgment to submit a statement of material facts as to which the movant contends there is no genuine issue and entitles the movant to judgment as a matter of law. The rule permits a movant to file up to 80 separately-numbered statements of undisputed facts. L.R. 56.1(a)(3). The Rule also requires the non-movant to file a concise response to a movant's statement of facts containing "any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials, " (L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(A)), and to file up to 40 additional separately-numbered facts (L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C)). The Rule then permits the movant to submit a concise reply to the opposing party's additional material facts in the same form as prescribed by L.R. 5.1(b)(3)(A).

Consistent with these directives, Defendants filed 27 statements of fact along with their summary judgment motion, to which Plaintiff responded pursuant to Section (b)(3)(A) of the Rule. Plaintiff also filed 35 additional facts, as prescribed by Section (b)(3)(C) of the Rule, and Defendants replied in kind. Regrettably, however, Defendants did not adhere to the Rule in the body of their motion itself, citing numerous facts not contained in the 56.1 statements. As Plaintiff argues, this is an impermissible method by which to set out facts at summary judgment and is insufficient to put issues before the Court. Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1313 (7th Cir. 1995); Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 594 (N.D. Ill. 2000). For that reason, and because of Defendant's disregard of the Court's prior Order on this precise issue, the Court will not excuse Defendants' neglect of the Rule.

Defendants first filed a motion for summary judgment in this case on April 19, 2012. See [7]. The Court, however, struck Defendants' motion without prejudice for failure to conform to Local Rule 56.1 and provide a separate statement of facts along with their motion. See [18]. The Court took the time in its Order to describe the import of L.R. 56.1, made explicitly clear that strict adherence is required, and cited numerous cases (many of the same ones that the Court cites below) explaining the consequences of non-compliance. Id. Even more remarkable than Defendants' failure to comply with the Rule this time around is the final section of their reply brief, which argues that Plaintiff misinterprets the Rule and insists that L.R. 56.1 does not require a movant to include all material facts in a separate statement of facts. See [35] at 10. At this point, the Court has been more than charitable with Defendants, striking their initial motion without prejudice to refiling and providing ample forewarning as to the result of noncompliance with the Rule. Defendants must now live with the consequences of their own shortcomings.

Here, Plaintiff had no duty (or opportunity, in light of the Rule) to respond to Defendants' extraneous fact statements. And the Seventh Circuit has stressed that it is not the role of the Court to parse the parties' exhibits to construct the facts to determine whether or not there is a genuine factual dispute. Judges are not "like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs." United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991). "Nor are they archaeologists searching for treasure." Jeralds ex rel. Jeralds v. Astrue, 2010 WL 4942161, at *7 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 8, 2010) (citing DiLeonardi, 181 F.3d 865, 867 (7th Cir. 1999)). It simply is not the court's job to sift through the record to find evidence to support or oppose a party's claim. Davis v. Carter, 452 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2006). Rather, it is "[a]n advocate's job... to make it easy for the court to rule in his client's favor...." Dal Pozzo v. Basic Machinery Co., Inc., 463 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2006). The Seventh Circuit has "consistently and repeatedly upheld a district court's discretion to require strict compliance with its local rules governing summary judgment." Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1169 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004) (noting that the Seventh Circuit has "repeatedly held that a district court is entitled to expect strict compliance with Rule 56.1."). Therefore, the Court will only consider the statements contained in the parties Rule 56.1 statements. Material facts cited for the first time in Defendants' motion for summary judgment - namely, all citations to Exhibit J (Schulze's deposition transcript) and Exhibit K (Schulze's affidavit), with the sole exception of ¶ 14 in Exhibit K, which Defendants cite in their statement of facts[1] - will be disregarded.[2]

B. Facts

Plaintiff Daniel Koch joined the Village of Schiller Park Police Department in 1986. Pl. Resp. to Def. SOF ¶ 7. At the conclusion of the two-year probationary period that followed Koch's hiring, he was certified as a member of the Department "with the permanent rank of Patrolman." Id. at ¶ 9. Schiller Park's Police Department is divided into two divisions: a patrol division and a detective division. Id. at ¶ 14. No matter his division, though, a member of the police department is formally classified as a "patrolman." Id. at ¶ 15. The Police Chief, responsible for the direction and performance of all department functions, assigns the department's patrolmen at his discretion to either the patrol or detective division. Id. at ¶ 16-17. But promotions within the police department are governed by the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. Id. at ¶ 13.

On May 4, 1998, Koch was assigned by former-Police Chief Peter Puleo as a Community Policing Officer. Id. at ¶ 10. In December 2001, Koch was moved into the Detective Division by then-Police Chief Robert Radak. Id. at ¶ 19. The parties disagree over the characterization of this move; Koch describes the switch to detective as a "promotion, " while Defendants insist that Koch was merely "reassigned" to his new role. Id. Regardless of the appropriate term, the parties agree that Koch's switch to detective was not governed by the department's Rules and Regulations concerning promotions - Rules 4-21 through 4-35. Id. at ¶ 20. And regardless of how the job change is characterized, Koch's rank (Patrolman) remained the same. Id. at ¶ 21, 30. Koch asserts that along with his new title came a salary increase, additional pension contributions, an end to weekend work, increased schedule flexibility, and the ability to wear "plain clothes" on the job and drive an unmarked car. Def. Reply to Pl. SOF ¶ 2. Defendants dispute that Koch received increased pension benefits and contend that detectives receive a $200 stipend each month that non-detectives do not receive (a fact which may or may not be intended to refute Koch's claim of a salary increase). Id.

In January 2006, Koch had a heart attack. Pl. Resp. to Def. SOF ¶ 22. After a brief absence from work, Koch returned to "light duty" until his doctor cleared him to return to full duty as a detective without restriction, which he did on March 20, 2006. Id. at ¶ 23-25; Def. Reply to Pl. SOF ¶ 4. Koch remained a detective with the Schiller Park Police Department for almost five more years until January 2011, when he was reassigned (as Defendants characterize it) to the patrol division by Police Chief Daniel Schulze. Pl. Resp. to Def. SOF ¶ 28. Again, though, Koch's rank remained - as it had always been - that of "patrolman." Id. at ¶ 29-30.

Koch contends that Chief Schulze demoted (Koch's verb) him from the detective division to the patrol division because of his heart condition. Id. at ¶ 17. Koch maintains that, upon his return to work in March 2006, he informed his superiors that he had coronary artery disease, and that he spoke with Schulze about his heart attack four or five times prior to his January 2011 transfer from detective to patrol division. Def. Reply to Pl. SOF ¶ 4-5. Moreover, Defendants concede that Schulze was aware of two subsequent heart-related incidents that Koch experienced. Id. at ¶ 6. During the first, Schulze walked Koch to an ambulance after Koch complained of chest pains. Id. And Schulze was informed of Koch's second episode, which occurred during the Spring of 2009, after Koch was again taken by ambulance to the hospital, where Koch was informed that his blood pressure was "extremely high." Id.

On April 7, 2010, Koch testified at a worker's compensation arbitration hearing about his 2006 heart attack. Id. at ¶ 8. During the arbitration, Koch testified (a) that his duties as a detective are very stressful and (b) that the duties of detectives are more stressful than those of patrolmen. Id. Schulze was appointed Police Chief around December 15, 2010. Id. at ¶ 15. In January 2011, about a month later, Schulze called Koch into his office, where - in the presence of their colleague Detective Henn - Schulze told Koch that he had been provided a copy of the transcript from Koch's arbitration hearing. Id. at ¶ 8, 16. According to Koch, Schulze informed him that his testimony about the stressfulness of his job "put [Schulze] in a damning position, " and, consequently, Schulze said: "I'm taking you out of detectives and putting you in patrol so your job is less stressful." Id. at ¶ 17, 35. Koch understood Schulze to be saying that, based on Koch's testimony, Schulze believed that Koch's weak heart could not handle the stress of being in the detective unit. Id. at ¶ 17. For that reason, Koch contends, Schulze - without referring to Koch's medical records or doctor notes - moved Koch from the detective unit to the patrol division. Id. at ¶ 28-29. According to Schiller Park Police Sergeant William Strieby, just minutes before the January 2011 meeting, Schulze asked Strieby ...

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