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Bell v. City of Chicago

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

July 30, 2015

DAWAIN BELL and ALICE SPINKS, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,

For Dawain Bell, Alice Spinks, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Donald K. Birner, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Pekin, IL; John S. Bishof , Jr., Law Office of John S. Bishof, P.C., Chicago, IL.

For City Of Chicago, Defendant: Rebecca Alfert Hirsch, LEAD ATTORNEY, City of chicago, Chicago, IL; Grant Erwin Ullrich, City Of Chicago Department Of Law, Chicago, IL.

Page 1017


Feinerman, United States District Judge.

Dawain Bell and Alice Spinks brought this putative class action in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, against the City of Chicago, alleging that its impoundment ordinance is facially invalid under the Fourth Amendment and Illinois law. Docs. 1-1, 43. After removing the suit from state court, Doc. 1, Defendants moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint, Doc. 17. During briefing, Plaintiffs filed an amended Fourth Amendment claim, Doc. 43, and the motion to dismiss was deemed to be directed at the complaint as amended, Doc. 42. For the following reasons, the Fourth Amendment claim is dismissed with prejudice and the state law claims are remanded to state court.

Page 1018


On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, with all reasonable inferences drawn in Plaintiffs' favor, but not its legal conclusions. See Smoke Shop, LLC v. United States, 761 F.3d 779, 785 (7th Cir. 2014). The court must also consider " documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice," along with additional facts set forth in Plaintiffs' brief opposing dismissal, so long as those additional facts are " consistent with the pleadings." Phillips v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1020 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). The facts are set forth as favorably to Plaintiffs as those materials allow. See Meade v. Moraine Valley Cmty. Coll., 770 F.3d 680, 682 (7th Cir. 2014).

On September 4, 2012, Bell was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. At the time of his arrest, Bell was driving Spinks's car, which was impounded pursuant to Chicago Municipal Code (" MCC" ) § 2-14-132. Doc. 1-1 at pp. 19-20, 57-61. Spinks challenged the impoundment. At a hearing on September 6, 2012, an administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) found probable cause that Spinks's vehicle contained unlawful drugs in violation of MCC § 7-24-225--one of the impoundment ordinance's predicate offenses--and assessed a $2,000 penalty and $180 in fees. Doc. 1-1 at p. 60. The ALJ's order stated that Spinks had 35 days to appeal the order to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Ibid. At a full contested hearing on October 2, 2012, an ALJ entered an order finding a violation of § 7-24-225 and assessed the same penalty and fees. Doc. 18-1. That order again noted Spinks's right to appeal to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Ibid. Nothing in the record indicates that Spinks availed herself of that right.

In the meantime, Bell was charged in state court under 720 ILCS 570/402(c) with cocaine possession. Doc. 18-2 at 1-3. He was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months' probation. Id. at 4-5.


Plaintiffs' sole federal claim alleges that the impoundment ordinance facially violates the Fourth Amendment. Docs. 1-1, 43 (where the only federal claim in the complaint, as amended, arises under the Fourth Amendment); Doc. 42 (noting that at the February 17, 2015 hearing, " Plaintiffs confirmed that their only federal claim lies under the Fourth Amendment." ). Although " facial challenges under the Fourth Amendment are not categorically barred or especially disfavored," such challenges are " the most difficult ... to mount successfully." City of Los Angeles v. Patel, 135 S.Ct. 2443, 2449, 192 L.Ed.2d 435 (2015) (ellipses in original, internal quotation marks omitted). A facial challenge can succeed only if the plaintiff shows that " a law is unconstitutional in all of its applications," with " the proper focus of the constitutional inquiry [being] searches [and seizures] that the law actually authorizes, not those for which it is irrelevant." Id. at 2451 (internal quotation marks omitted). Put another way, the pertinent inquiry does not consider circumstances where the search or seizure is independently authorized by a component of or exception to the Fourth Amendment--such as a warrant, an exigency, or a person's consent--but instead considers only those circumstances where the challenged law itself provides the sole authorization. Ibid.

Plaintiffs allege that the ordinance violates the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement by permitting " warrantless arrests, searches and ...

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