Argued January 7, 2015.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 11 C 1418--Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.
For Dzevad Hurem, Plaintiff - Appellant: Robert A. Habib, Attorney, Law Office of Robert Habib, Chicago, IL.
For Nickolas Tavares, #19722, John Dineen, #7768, Lillion Bedia, Carol Fontanetta, Hector Davila, Defendants - Appellees: Stephen G. Collins, Attorney, City of Chicago Law Department, Appeals Division, Chicago, IL.
Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and POSNER and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges.
Wood, Chief Judge.
In October 2010 Nasreen Quadri bought an apartment in the West Ridge area of Chicago. At some point thereafter, she learned that the police had investigated a disturbance there, and so in January 2011 she visited the apartment with her real estate agent and a locksmith. Quadri's agent called 911 after the group found Dzevad Hurem in the unit. Hurem told an arriving police officer he had paid rent to Quadri's husband Moshim and obtained keys from him, but he failed to obtain a receipt, lease, or any other paperwork about his residence there. He refused to leave. Two days later, Quadri again found Hurem in the apartment, and her agent again called 911. Hurem still could not produce anything proving he had a right to be there, save for the keys and a piece of paper with Moshim's phone number written on it. Hurem again refused to leave. This time the officers arrested him, but ultimately he was not charged with any crime. Hurem sued the Quadris, the arresting officers, and the City of Chicago in state court for wrongful eviction and various civil rights violations. After removal, and after the Quadris and the City were dismissed as defendants, the district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of all but one remaining officer defendant and Hurem dropped his case against the last one. Hurem appeals, and we affirm.
Nasreen Quadri purchased apartment 3F at 6126 North Damen Avenue in Chicago in a foreclosure sale held in October 2010. As we have noted, the events underlying this case began on January 5, 2011, when Quadri and her property agent, Daniel Ju, visited the apartment along with a lock-smith to investigate a report of a disturbance. They found Hurem inside; the police came in response to a 911 call; and Hurem told them that he was there legitimately. He said that the previous tenant had given him the keys before the foreclosure, and that he had paid rent to Moshim. The parties dispute the reason Hurem was not arrested at that time.
Two days later, Moshim and Nasreen Quadri returned to the Damen Avenue apartment, again with the real estate agent and locksmith in tow. Hurem was still there, and so Quadri's agent called 911. Chicago police officers responded to the call. Nasreen showed them paperwork confirming that she owned the apartment and told them that she and Moshim did not know Hurem. The officers asked Hurem for documentation of his right to be in the apartment, and he handed them a piece of paper with Moshim's phone number on it. He also told the new officers that he had paid rent to Moshim, but Moshim denied this. Beyond that, Hurem did not produce any proof that he had paid Moshim anything. Before the officers arrested Hurem, they gave him the option of leaving the apartment on his own. He refused to do so, and so they arrested him on the spot, without a warrant. Hurem later experienced chest pain at the police station and was taken to a nearby hospital. In the end, Hurem never faced charges in connection with the Quadris' apartment.
Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Hurem sued the Quadris along with the city and the five Chicago police officers who responded to the 911 call on January 7. His operative complaint at the time of summary judgment asserted claims of deprivation of property, deprivation of liberty (that is, the alleged false arrest), and excessive force. Before the summary judgment motion was filed, Hurem amended his complaint to omit the city as a defendant and settled with the Quadris. This left the five officers as defendants. The district court granted partial summary judgment to four of the officer defendants on most of Hurem's claims, leaving only the excessive force claim against Bedia for disposition. That part of the case was transferred to a magistrate judge after the parties consented to his jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). About seven months later, Hurem voluntarily dismissed his remaining claim against defendant Bedia and the court terminated the case. Hurem has appealed from that final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 1291.
We begin, as Hurem does, with his claim of false arrest. He contends that the officers who arrested him lacked probable cause to do so. See Gibbs v. Lomas, 755 F.3d 529, 537 (7th Cir. 2014). He must prevail on that point in order to move forward, because " the presence of probable cause makes a warrantless arrest reasonable under the Fourth Amendment." Id. The existence of probable cause is therefore an absolute defense to a § 1983 claim for false arrest. As we often have observed, " [p]robable cause to make an arrest exists when a reasonable person confronted with the sum total of the facts known to the officer at the time of the arrest would conclude that the person arrested has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime." Venson v. Altamirano, 749 F.3d 641, 649 (7th Cir. 2014). The defendants contend they had probable cause to arrest Hurem for criminal trespass to real property. See 720 ILCS 5/21-3(a)(1) ( crime occurs when a person " knowingly and without lawful authority enters or remains within or on a building" ).
Hurem offers two reasons to reject that conclusion. The first is based on his understanding of the facts relating to his January 7 arrest along with events before that day, including Nasreen's first visit to the apartment on January 5. Hurem says, for example, that he had been living in the apartment for at least a month pursuant to a verbal agreement with the Quadris, and that on January 5 Moshim admitted that Hurem had paid him rent. (The defendants dispute both of these assertions.) The difficulty with Hurem's reliance on these earlier events, assuming they occurred, is that there is no indication in the record that the arresting officers knew about them. Our evaluation of probable cause requires us to consider the arresting officers' knowledge at the time of the arrest. We cannot impute Hurem's own knowledge of past events to the officers who arrested him. Hurem refers to the presence of a Sergeant Willoughby at the January 5 incident, implying that Willoughby knew of Hurem's verbal rent agreement with Moshim, but there is no indication that Willoughby spoke to any of the officers who are defendants in this case before they responded to the 911 call on January 7. In fact, the January 7 team heard Moshim deny that such an arrangement ...