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Gurley v. Johnson

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

July 8, 2015

JOHNNY GURLEY (#B-01828), Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RONALD A. GUZMN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Johnny Gurley, an Illinois state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Gurley claims that Defendants, three Village of Matteson police officers, illegally searched and impounded his car when they arrested him for passing bad checks. Gurley also alleges a state law defamation claim. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). For the following reasons, the motion [51] is granted. Civil case terminated.

BACKGROUND

I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

Because Gurley is a pro se litigant, Defendants served him with a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment, " as required by Local Rule 56.2 (N.D. Ill.). (Dkt. # 54.) The notice explained in detail the consequences of failing to properly respond to a motion for summary judgment and statement of material facts under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1.

Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires a party moving for summary judgment to submit "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to judgment as a matter of law." Cracco v. Vitran Express, Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing L.R. 56.1(a)(3)). Under Local Rule 56.1(b)(3), the nonmoving party then must submit a "concise response" to each statement of fact, "including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). The nonmoving party may also present a separate statement of additional facts that requires the denial of summary judgment. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C); see also Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008).

"When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by [Local Rule 56.1], those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the [summary judgment] motion." Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632. Thus, district courts disregard Local Rule 56.1 responses that do not cite specific portions of the record or that contain irrelevant information, legal arguments, conjecture, or evasive denials. See id.; see also Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006); Bordelon v. Chi. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2000).

A plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with federal and local procedural rules. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993). Gurley is no stranger to pro se litigation, having now filed at least four other civil rights actions in this district alone. See Gurley v. Sheahan, No. 06 C 3454; Gurley v. City of Chicago., No. 07 C 3987; Gurley v. Chicago. Police Department, No. 07 C 4774; and Gurley v. Illinois Department of Corrections, No. 14 C 1372. Despite the Local Rule 56.2 Notice, Gurley's response to Defendants' statement of facts clarifies or disputes certain points without any citations to the record and/or makes legal arguments. But it is well established that statements in a motion or a brief are not evidence and carry no weight. See, e.g., INS v. Phinpathya, 464 U.S. 183, 188 n.6 (1984); Gross v. Knight, 560 F.3d 668, 672 (7th Cir. 2009).

Nevertheless, given Gurley's pro se status, the Court will construe his filings liberally. See Ambrose v. Roeckeman, 749 F.3d 615, 618 (7th Cir. 2014). However, the Court will consider the factual assertions Gurley makes in his opposing brief only to the extent that he could properly testify about the matters asserted at trial. Affidavits must concern facts about which the affiant is competent to testify, must be based on personal knowledge, and must set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Fed.R.Evid. 602.

With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the facts.

II. Relevant Facts

Johnny Gurley is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He is currently serving sentences for forgery arising from convictions in DuPage and Cook Counties. Defendants Thomas Johnson, Antonio Vazquez, and Blair Brnicky are Matteson police officers. (Am. Compl., Dkt. # 22, at 2.)

On July 15, 2013, Gurley drove his GMC Envoy to a Sports Authority store located in a strip mall in the Village of Matteson. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B, Gurley Dep., Dkt. # 53-2, ("Gurley Dep."), at 32-33, 35, 57, 65.) Gurley parked his truck in the parking lot in front of the Sports Authority, entered the store, purchased $229.95 worth of men's clothing with a fraudulent check signed with his name, exited the store with the items, and left the scene in his truck. (Id. at 35, 65-66, 76, 100-01; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. E, Vazquez Aff., Dkt. # 53-12 ("Vazquez Aff."), ¶¶ 10-12.)

Five days later, on July 20, 2013, Gurley drove his GMC Envoy to drop his brother off at work near the Matteson Sports Authority. (Gurley Dep. at 25, 40.) After dropping his brother off at work, Gurley drove his Envoy to the Matteson Sports Authority and parked the truck in the parking lot in front of the store. (Id. at 25, 63-64, 70-71.) Gurley once again purchased merchandise from Sports Authority with a fraudulent check. (Id. at 71, 76, 100-01.) This time, two Sports Authority employees stopped Gurley as he was getting ready to leave the store. (Id. at 71.)

One of the men who stopped Gurley was Randall Tischmann, a District Asset Protection Manager for Sports Authority. (Id. at 71-74; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D, Johnson Aff., Dkt. # 53-4 ("Johnson Aff."), ¶ 8). Tischmann had been investigating a series of fraudulent check purchases by Gurley at various Sports Authority stores in the region. (Johnson Aff., ¶ 8.) The Sports Authority employees led Gurley to a back office and questioned him about his purchases. (Gurley Dep. at 73-74; Johnson Aff., ¶ 13.) Gurley admitted that he knew the checks he had tendered to Sports Authority cashiers on July 15th and 20th were fraudulent. (Gurley Dep. at 76.)

In the meantime, a Sports Authority employee called the Matteson Police Department to report that they had a subject in custody for deceptive practices. (Gurley Dep. at 74; Johnson Aff., ¶¶ 3-5; Vazquez Aff., ¶¶ 3-5; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. F, Brnicky Aff., Dkt. # 53-20, ("Brnicky Aff."), ¶¶ 3-5.) Within an hour or so of Gurley's detention, Defendants arrived on the ...


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