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Sommerfield v. City of Chicago

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

July 1, 2014

DETLEF SOMMERFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO and SERGEANT KNASIAK #1841, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Detlef Sommerfield, a patrol officer in the Chicago Police Department, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 against the City of Chicago and Sergeant Lawrence Knasiak. Sommerfield alleges that Knasiak repeatedly harassed and otherwise discriminated against him on the basis of his race, religion, and national origin, and that Knasiak retaliated against him after he complained about the harassment. Sommerfield brings this suit alleging (1) a claim under § 1983 claim for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and (2) a claim under § 1981 claim for racial discrimination. Now before the court are (1) Sommerfield's motion [299] to strike portions of Knasiak's statement of facts and corresponding portions of his memorandum of law and (2) Knasiak's motion [268] for partial summary judgment on Sommerfield's First Amendment claim.

For the reasons discussed below, the court denies Sommerfield's motion to strike and grants Knasiak's motion for partial summary judgment on Sommerfield's First Amendment claim.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed for purposes of Knasiak's motion for summary judgment.

Sommerfield has been a patrol officer with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) since July 5, 1994. He was assigned to the 008th District of the CPD from December 10, 1998, until approximately August 13, 2007, when he was transferred to the 001st District. Sommerfield's national origin is German, and his religion is Jewish. Sergeant Knasiak was one of Sommerfield's senior officers, along with Lieutenant Carson Earnest (who served as watch commander about 50% of the time), Sergeant John Maciejewski, Sergeant Christine Pickering Deierl, and Sergeant Betty Woods. Knasiak was a sergeant in the 008th District from August 1997 until he retired on June 15, 2007.

Sommerfield contends that Knasiak repeatedly attacked him verbally for being German and Jewish and used racial slurs against others. In March 2014, Sommerfield initiated a complaint against Knasiak through the CPD's Internal Affairs Division (IAD). CPD Officer Christopher Taliaferro of the IAD found that Knasiak violated CPD's rules and regulations. After filing the complaint with IAD, Sommerfield filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The claims now remaining in this case are a § 1983 claim for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments (Count VI) and a § 1981 claim of racial discrimination (Count VII). In Count VI, Sommerfield claims that Knasiak violated the Equal Protection Clause by treating Sommerfield unequally because he was Jewish and/or German, and retaliated against Sommerfield for filing a complaint and charges of discrimination and harassment against Knasiak. In Count VII, Sommerfield claims that Knasiak violated his right to freedom from racial discrimination.

On March 18, 2014 this court denied without prejudice Knasiak's Motion in limine seeking to exclude reference to the First Amendment claims. Perceiving a real question as to whether the First Amendment claim was viable, the court granted Knasiak leave to file a motion for partial summary judgment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Strike

Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the court to strike from a pleading "any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter, " either on motion of a party "before responding to the pleading, " or on the courts own motion. Courts generally disfavor motions to strike, but they may serve to remove unessential clutter, clarify the issues in dispute, and streamline the litigation. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989). Rule 7(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure defines pleadings as complaints, answers, replies to counterclaims, answers to cross-claims, third-party complaints, and third-party answers. Motions for summary judgment are not pleadings subject to Rule 12(f). See EEOC v. Admiral Maint. Serv., L.P., 174 F.R.D. 643, 646-47 (N.D. Ill. 1993) (holding that a motion for summary judgment and accompanying statement of facts are not pleadings for Rule 12(f) purposes).

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows 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; Smith v. Hope Sch., 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). The court ruling on the motion construes all facts and makes all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate for when the nonmoving party cannot establish an ...


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