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Mikolon v. City of Chicago

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

December 11, 2014

CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.


MANISH S. SHAH, District Judge.

While at the apartment of his girlfriend (Donielle Parquette), Stephen Mikolon was arrested by Chicago police officers. Parquette's apartment was also searched. Mikolon and Parquette filed suit in federal court, alleging, among other things, that the arresting officers had intentionally discriminated against Mikolon in violation of his right to equal protection, and that the City of Chicago had maintained a series of widespread policies and customs that ultimately caused the plaintiffs' constitutional injuries. The defendant officers now move to dismiss the equal-protection claim, and the City moves to dismiss the policy-or-custom claim ( i.e., the Monell claim). For the reasons discussed below, both motions are granted.

I. Legal Standard

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a claim for relief contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The complaint need not set forth detailed factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). But it must present enough "factual matter, accepted as true, [that the] claim to relief... is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, I accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 946 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010)).

II. Facts

On October 9, 2012, Stephen Mikolon went to the apartment of his girlfriend, Donielle Parquette. [1] ¶ 6.[1] While Mikolon was at the apartment, nine officers with the Chicago Police Department-including Jorge Martinez and Sergio Martinez- arrived. See id. ¶¶ 4, 7-8. The officers searched Parquette's apartment, and J. Martinez and S. Martinez arrested Mikolon. See id. ¶¶ 8-9.[2] According to Mikolon and Parquette, the officers had no legitimate reason to conduct their search or to arrest Mikolon. See id. Mikolon and Parquette allege that the officers instead "made an agreement to violate [their] rights, " and to that end filed false (or incomplete) police reports that caused false charges to be brought against Mikolon. See id. ¶¶ 10, 12. The charges were later dismissed. Id. ¶ 11.

Mikolon and Parquette sued the officers in federal court, asserting various claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as two state-law claims. The complaint included: Parquette's claim against all defendant officers for unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment (Count I); Mikolon's claims for unreasonable search and seizure (also against all defendants) and false arrest (against only J. Martinez and S. Martinez) (Counts II and III, respectively); Mikolon's claims against J. Martinez and S. Martinez for conspiracy to violate Mikolon's constitutional rights (Count IV), and violation of Mikolon's "class-of-one" equal-protection rights (Count V); both plaintiffs' Monell claim against the City of Chicago (Count VI); a claim for indemnification by Chicago pursuant to Illinois statute (Count VII); and a state-law claim by Mikolon (against J. Martinez and S. Martinez) for malicious prosecution (Count VIII[3]). See id. ¶¶ 14-49.

Before me are: (1) the officers' motion to dismiss Mikolon's class-of-one claim (Count V), [17]; and (2) the City's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' Monell claim (Count VI), [18].[4]

III. Analysis

A. The Class-of-One Equal Protection Claim (Count V)

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has generally been understood to protect individuals from government discrimination based on class-based distinctions such as race, national origin, or sex. See Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 747 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 8-12 (1967); United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 533-34 (1996)). However, the Equal Protection Clause has also been understood to protect individuals even when the "classification" employed by a local government actor is the "singling out [of] just one person for different treatment, " where such singling out is done for "arbitrary and irrational purposes." Id. These so-called "class-of-one" claims may be brought where the plaintiff alleges irrational or malicious application of law-enforcement powers. Id. (citing Hanes v. Zurick, 578 F.3d 491, 495 (7th Cir. 2009)).

In Del Marcelle v. Brown Cnty. Corp., the Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, split three ways without settling the standards for proving a class-of-one claim. See 680 F.3d 887, 889 (7th Cir. 2012); see also Charleston v. Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ill. at Chi., 741 F.3d 769, 775 (7th Cir. 2013). It is clear, however, that at a minimum a class-of-one plaintiff must show: (1) that he was intentionally treated differently "from others similarly situated"; and (2) that there was "no rational basis for the difference in treatment." Fares Pawn, LLC v. Ind. Dept. of Fin. Insts., 755 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000)); see also Charleston, 741 F.3d at 775 (discussing the "least demanding standard that could apply") (citing Del Marcelle, 680 F.3d at 913 (Wood, J., dissenting); Olech, 528 U.S. at 564). Mikolon's class-of-one claim does not meet even this less-exacting standard.[5]

Mikolon alleges that, in conspiring to cause his arrest and criminal prosecution, Officers J. Martinez and S. Martinez violated Mikolon's equal-protection rights by "singl[ing him] out for false arrest [and] unlawful searches." [1] ¶¶ 31, 33. The defendants "intentionally treated [him] differently" from others who were similarly situated, says Mikolon, because they harbored an "illegitimate animus" toward him. Id. ¶¶ 32, 34. But these allegations merely restate the legal elements that Mikolon must prove in order to prevail on his class-of-one claim. They do not-as they must in order to survive defendants' motion to dismiss-offer any factual support for Mikolon's contention that he was targeted by the officers for arbitrary and irrational treatment. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice [under Rule 8]." (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555)).

One way to adequately allege intentional discrimination is to "show that the state treated similarly situated individuals more favorably." Charleston, 741 F.3d at 775 (citing Park v. Ind. Univ. Sch. of Dentistry, 692 F.3d 828, 833 (7th Cir. 2012); Olech, 528 U.S. at 564). But Mikolon has made no such showing. Mikolon states only that he was "intentionally treated... differently" from those who were similarly situated, [1] ¶ 32. As the Seventh Circuit has made clear, "saying the magic words is not enough: [Mikolon] must ...

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