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Klein v. Curran

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

October 7, 2014



MANISH S. SHAH, District Judge.

Defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint [34] is granted. The caption of the case shall be corrected to reflect the proper spelling of defendant Mark C. Curran's name. Terminate civil case.


Plaintiff Matthew Klein's second amended complaint alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when Lake County Deputy Sheriffs arrested him for disorderly conduct. Count I is labeled "42 U.S.C. § 1983: Violation of Due Process, " and Count II is labeled "False Imprisonment." The events concern Klein's arrest and how he was treated during his detention. The rights at issue are fourth-amendment rights, not due-process rights, and I assess the complaint accordingly. See Alexander v. McKinney, 692 F.3d 553, 558 (7th Cir. 2012); Ortiz v. City of Chicago, 656 F.3d 523, 530 (7th Cir. 2011).[1]

Defendant Mark C. Curran is the Lake County Sheriff, sued in his official capacity. Defendants Thomas Sieber and John Benkovich are Deputy Sheriffs. The complaint does not distinguish their roles in any way, but in the briefs, the parties refer to them as the arresting officers. The complaint also refers to unknown officers, but they have not been identified or served in the case. The only relevant claims are those against Curran, Sieber, and Benkovich, and the second amended complaint [28-1] is the operative complaint.[2]

Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For purposes of this motion, I accept the well-pleaded facts as true, and I may consider a document attached to the motion to dismiss if the complaint refers to the document and it is central to plaintiff's claim. Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners, 682 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2012). I do not accept as true legal conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Facts

According to the second amended complaint, Klein approached Debra Vanderwall at the Lake County Courthouse law library. [28-1] ¶ 11. He asked Vanderwall for her business card and her name; she declined and walked away. Id. ¶ 12. Vanderwall complained to the Lake County Sheriff that Klein had asked for her business card and name. Id. ¶15. Klein alleges that he did not harass Vanderwall or engage in any unreasonable conduct. Id. ¶ 14. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Id. ¶ 17.

Defendants attach the written citation issued against Klein, signed by Vanderwall and Sieber, as an exhibit to their motion to dismiss. [34-1]. Plaintiff has not objected to the document, forfeiting any issue with it. The second amended complaint states that Vanderwall complained to the Sheriff, [28-1] ¶ 15, and that the Sheriff charged Klein, [28-1] ¶ 18; therefore, the complaint implicitly references the citation, and that document is central to plaintiff's claim (the information provided to the arresting officers is critical to assessing the constitutionality of Klein's detention). According to the citation, Vanderwall complained that Klein repeatedly insisted that she provide him with her contact information, followed her, and attempted to take a photograph of her. [34-1]. She complained that Klein caused her emotional distress. Id. The citation is consistent with, but more detailed than, Klein's second amended complaint, which does not limit Vanderwall's account to the simple grievance alleged at paragraph 15. For these reasons (it is referenced in and central to the complaint, plaintiff does not object, and it is consistent with the complaint), I will consider the document in deciding the Rule 12(b)(6) motion without converting the motion into one for summary judgment.

Klein told the arresting officers that he suffered from shoulder, elbow, and back pain, and that he required the use of a cane to walk. [28-1] ¶ 19. He asked to be handcuffed in front to avoid pain and to use his cane. Id. ¶ 20. The officers denied his request and handcuffed Klein behind his back. Id. ¶ 19, page 5.[3] Klein told the arresting officers that he required medication, id. ¶ 20, page 5, and unknown individuals refused Klein access to medication for his heart condition and diabetes while he was detained. Id. ¶ 21. Klein was feeling ill during his detention as a result of the failure to take his medication. Id. ¶ 22.

The Claims Against Sieber and Benkovich

Defendants move to dismiss the claims against Sieber and Benkovich on the grounds that they had probable cause to arrest Klein and that the complaint does not allege their personal involvement in his medical claim. The existence of probable cause is an absolute defense to a claim for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment. Mustafa v. City of Chicago, 442 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir. 2006). Ordinarily, such a defense would not be suitable for resolution under Rule 12(b)(6). But if an affirmative defense is apparent from the complaint and other documents properly considered at this stage, dismissal is appropriate. Gleash v. Yuswak, 308 F.3d 758, 760 (7th Cir. 2002).

If the officers had an eyewitness's statement that Klein did an act "in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace, " they had probable cause to arrest him. See 720 ILCS 5/26-1; see Askew v. City of Chicago, 440 F.3d 894, 895-96 (7th Cir. 2006); see also Woods v. City of Chicago, 234 F.3d 979, 996 (7th Cir. 2000) (report from a single, credible victim can provide the basis for probable cause). The unreasonable harassment of a single person, even in a nonpublic location, amounts to a breach of the peace. Maniscalco v. Simon, 712 F.3d 1139, 1144 (7th Cir. 2013).

Vanderwall's report to the officers was sufficient to provide probable cause to arrest Klein. Plaintiff does not dispute that Vanderwall said that Klein alarmed and disturbed her. Even though Klein denies that he was, in fact, harassing Vanderwall, the officers were entitled to initiate the criminal process on Vanderwall's word and let the courts sort out the truth. See Askew, 440 F.3d at 895. Klein does allege that Vanderwall had no cause to complain and that there was no reason to believe that she had been harassed, but the complaint provides no basis to infer that Vanderwall should have been ignored by the officers. In other words, disputing the truthfulness of Vanderwall's report does not defeat probable cause. There is no suggestion that Vanderwall was not credible, and the allegation that Vanderwall's complaint did not support a determination that she was harassed or that plaintiff breached the peace is a legal conclusion that I need not accept. Indeed, "[w]hether the known facts add up to probable cause is a legal question for the judge, not a subject on which jurors are entitled to form their own opinions." Bridewell v. Eberle, 730 ...

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