United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. Lee United States District Judge.
Carl Chatman filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against the
City of Chicago and various individual defendants alleging
constitutional violations arising from his false conviction.
Defendants Millicent Willis, Tisa Morris, Lori Lightfoot, and
Karen Wojtczak, who worked for the Office of Professional
Standards (OPS Defendants), filed a motion to dismiss .
For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the motion
in part and dismisses Counts IV, V, VI, and VII against the
and Procedural Background
Carl Chatman was convicted of rape even though he was
innocent. Following his arrest, Chatman was interrogated by
Chicago Police Detective Kriston Kato who used force to
coerce Chatman into confessing. See 2d Am. Compl.
¶¶ 54-56, ECF No. 324. Two days later, a detective
submitted an anonymous memorandum describing Kato's
misconduct and the resulting false confession. See
Id. ¶¶ 120-21. The memo was sent through
inter-departmental mail to Millicent Willis, who at the time
was the acting Chief Administrator for the Office of
Professional Standards (OPS)-an agency in charge of
investigating police misconduct. See Id. ¶ 122.
the memo did not prompt any form of investigation from OPS.
See Id. ¶ 123. Based on the false confession,
Chatman was convicted of rape. While his case was on direct
appeal, the anonymous detective once again submitted the
memo. This time, OPS began an investigation into the alleged
misconduct. See Id. ¶¶ 128-33. The OPS
investigation, which included interviewing Chatman himself,
was closed a few months later when the anonymous memo was
determined to be unfounded. See Id. ¶ 133. The
memo was never turned over to the prosecutors or
Chatman's criminal attorney. See Id. ¶ 134.
spending eleven years in prison, Chatman was exonerated by
the State of Illinois. See Id. ¶¶ 1, 6. He
then filed this civil rights lawsuit against various
defendants asserting constitutional violations based on the
investigation and prosecution of his criminal case. In his
Second Amended Complaint, Chatman included claims against
Millicent Willis, Tisa Morris, Lori Lightfoot, and Karen
Wojtczak-who were all employees of OPS-based on the failure
to disclose the anonymous memo to the prosecution or
Chatman's defense counsel.
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a
complaint must “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The
Court must accept “all well-pleaded factual allegations
as true and view them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Lavalais v. Vill. of Melrose Park,
734 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Luevano v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir.
2013)). Mere legal conclusions, however, “are
insufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.”
McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 694
F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678).
core claim against the OPS Defendants stems from their
failure to turn over the anonymous memo to the prosecution or
Chatman's attorney during his criminal proceeding.
See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). The
OPS Defendants contend they do not have a duty to disclose
under Brady because they are not part of the
prosecution team. Alternatively, they argue that, even if
such a duty were to exist, they are entitled to qualified
immunity because, at the time, there was no clearly
established law creating such a duty.
qualified immunity defense requires us to consider only two
limited questions at this stage: first, whether plaintiff has
alleged a violation of his constitutional rights, and second,
whether the violation was clearly established in the law at
the time of the defendant's conduct.” Armstrong
v. Daily, 786 F.3d 529, 537 (7th Cir. 2015). The Court
has discretion to decide a case under the second step without
resolving whether the purported duty exists. See Dibble
v. Quinn, 793 F.3d 803, 807 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 227 (2009)). The
Court takes that approach here.
Defendants argue, that even if they had a duty to disclose
exculpatory material, such an extension of Brady was
not clearly established at the time of Chatman's criminal
proceedings. “To determine whether a right is clearly
established we look to controlling precedent from both the
Supreme Court and this circuit, and if there is no such
precedent we cast a wider net and examine all relevant case
law to determine whether there was such a clear trend in the
case law that we can say with fair assurance that the
recognition of the right by a controlling precedent was
merely a question of time.” Abbott v. Sangamon
Cty., Ill., 705 F.3d 706, 731 (7th Cir. 2013). Although
the right must be clearly established in a particularized
sense, there need not be a case directly on point. See
Id. “[O]fficials can still be on notice that their
conduct violates established law even in novel factual
circumstances.” Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730,
only the members of the prosecution bore the obligation to
disclose material, exculpatory evidence to defense counsel.
See Brady, 373 U.S. at 87. Subsequently,
Brady was extended so that the prosecutor's duty
to disclose reached evidence in the hands of police officers,
even if the information was not known to the prosecutor.
See Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 437 (1995).
Although the rule was articulated in terms of a duty by the
prosecutor to learn of information held by the police, it has
also been understood to establish an independent duty on the
part of police officers to disclose such information. See
Steidl v. Fermon, 494 F.3d 623, 630-33 (7th Cir. 2007)
(holding that the duty of police officers to disclose
exculpatory information-which is enforceable under §
1983-has been clearly established since Kyles).
said, neither the Seventh Circuit nor the Supreme Court has
addressed whether governmental agencies that are in charge of
investigating the police officers themselves-as opposed to
the criminal defendant-are also subject to the duty to
disclose under Brady. The closest the Seventh