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Robinson v. Cook County Sheriff's Department

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

May 14, 2015

KENDRICK ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COOK COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge.

On November 7, 2014, Plaintiff Kendrick Robinson filed this action against the Cook County Sheriff's Department ("CCSD") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, alleging violations of his Constitutional rights as well as violations of state law. CCSD then filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. (MTD (Dkt. No. 16) at 1, 3.) In response, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint, (Mot. to Am. (Dkt. No. 19), adding two particular officers and including some additional detail about his damages, (Am. Compl. (Dkt. No. 21) ¶¶ 4, 9). CCSD then objected, asking that we deny the amendment as futile and dismiss the action. (Resp. (Dkt. No. 25) at 2-3, 5-6.) As set forth below, CCSD's motion, (Dkt. No. 16), is granted and Plaintiff's motion to amend, (Dkt. No. 19), is granted.

In addition, we also briefly address Plaintiff's discovery motion, (Dkt. No. 23), requesting production of certain recordings. We deny that motion as premature, without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

In the original complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was unlawfully arrested at the Markham state courthouse on October 9, 2014. (Compl. ¶¶ 5.) Plaintiff charged that CCSD used excessive force and denied him access to medical care when injured in CCSD's custody. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 7.) Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that CCSD officers handcuffed him, with his hands behind his back, for more than two hours in lock-up, resulting in injuries to his hands and wrists. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 7, 9.) Plaintiff also alleged that CCSD officers harassed him that day at the courthouse, prior to his arrest, as well as on other unspecified occasions. (Id. ¶ 7.)

The proposed amended complaint includes identical factual allegations. In the amendment, Plaintiff also names two officers as defendants, Officer Bradley Rucks and Sheriff Supervisor Desmond Parker ("Defendant-Officers"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff includes a few more details about his injuries, medical treatment, and damages, and attaches exhibits in support of his allegations. (Id. ¶ 9 & Exs.) As in the original complaint, Plaintiff also alleges false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, assault, battery, and conspiracy under Illinois law. (Id. ¶ 11.) He seeks $100, 000 in damages, as well as injunctive relief.

In its motion, CCSD argues that Plaintiff's claims against it must be dismissed because it is not a suable entity. (MTD at 3.) In its response to Plaintiff's amendment, CCSD contends that the amendment is futile because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Resp. at 5-6.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is meant to "test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case." Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, we must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). A court may grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) only if a complaint lacks enough facts "to state a claim [for] relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)); Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618-19 (7th Cir. 2007).

"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Although a facially plausible complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations, " it must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65. These requirements ensure that the defendant receives "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964. In addition, because of Plaintiff's pro se status, we are under a special obligation to construe his pleadings liberally. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007); Donald v. Cook County Sheriff's Dep't, 95 F.3d 548, 555 (7th Cir. 1996).

ANALYSIS

We begin our analysis with the dispositive questions before us. As discussed below, we conclude Plaintiff may proceed with his amended complaint against Defendant-Officers. We then consider Plaintiff's discovery motion, which was filed prematurely but appears to be a valid discovery request.

I. MOTION TO DISMISS

In its February 4, 2015 motion to dismiss, CCSD contends that it is not a legal entity capable of being sued. (MTD at 3.) Under Rule 17(b), a defendant in a lawsuit must possess the legal capacity to be sued, and, in this instance, that capacity is analyzed under the law of the state where the court is located. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b). Illinois law is thus applicable and provides that "[a] party to litigation must have a legal existence, either natural or artificial, to sue or be sued." Hall v. Will. of Flossmoor Police Dep't, No. 11 C 5283, 2012 WL 379902, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 2012) (quoting Jackson v. Village of Rosemont, 180 Ill.App.3d 932, 937, 536 N.E.2d 720, 732 (1st Dist. 1988)). It is well-settled that the Cook County Sheriff's Department is not a separate legal entity under Illinois law and cannot be sued directly. See Castillo v. Cook County Mail Room Dep't, 990 F.2d 304, 307 (7th Cir. 1993); Whitted v. Eve Cook County Sheriff's Office, 12 C 2461, 2013 WL 4840488, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 10, 2013); Halsey v. Cook County Dep't of Corr., 13 C 5975, 2013 WL 4674876, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, ...


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