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Martinez v. Hain

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

December 13, 2016

AMERICA MARTINEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
SGT. HAIN, et al., Defendants.


          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Kane County's motion to dismiss [22], Defendant Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer's motion to dismiss [25], and Defendants Kane County and Sheriff Kramer's motion to bifurcate Plaintiffs' claims under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) [41]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Kane County's motion to dismiss [22] is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant Sheriff Kramer's motion to dismiss [25] is granted. Plaintiffs are given until January 13, 2017 to file a second amended complaint consistent with this opinion. The Court denies Defendants' motion to bifurcate as premature [41], but continues to stay all Monell discovery.

         I. Background

         According to the operative complaint, the allegations of which must be assumed true at this stage of the case, on April 15, 2015, Plaintiffs America Martinez, Rodolfo Tapia, and Ismael Jaimes-Meza were driving through Kane County, Illinois when they were stopped by Defendant Sergeant Ronald Hain, an employee of the Kane County Sheriff's Office. Sgt. Hain called for backup and then conducted a search of all three Plaintiffs. In one of Meza's pockets, Sgt. Hain found $5, 118 in cash and a debit card with a $566.62 balance, both of which were seized. Nothing else of note was found on Meza's person. Sgt. Hain handcuffed Meza and questioned Tapia and Martinez. Sgt. Hain also conducted a search of Tapia's car, but did not find any contraband in the vehicle. All three Plaintiffs were transported to the Kane County Sheriff's Office. Tapia's car was also towed to the office, where it was searched again and ultimately seized by Sgt. Hain.

         At the Sheriff's Office, Tapia and Martinez were handcuffed and all three Plaintiffs were strip-searched. Martinez and Tapia were then photographed, fingerprinted, dressed in orange jumpsuits, placed in holding cells, and held overnight. Martinez was denied the opportunity to make a phone call and neither Martinez nor Tapia were read their Miranda rights. The next day, Martinez and Tapia were released from the Sheriff's Office without being charged with a crime. The amended complaint is silent as to whether Meza was charged with any crime.

         On May 15, 2015, Sgt. Hain encountered Tapia and Martinez again, this time driving Martinez's car. Sgt. Hain stopped them and searched the car, but did not find any contraband.

         Based on this series of events, Plaintiffs filed a fifteen-count complaint against Sgt. Hain, various named and unnamed Kane County sheriff's officers, the Kane County Sheriff's Office, Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer, and Kane County. Plaintiffs assert state law claims for false imprisonment and battery and claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable searches, unreasonable seizures, false arrests, and failures to intervene. Against Sheriff Kramer, Plaintiffs assert violations of Section 1983 for failure to train, supervise, or discipline officers of the Kane County Sheriff's Office under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (Count XI). Plaintiffs assert the same Monell claim against Kane County (Count XIII), as well as a state law claim that Kane County must indemnify any Defendant Officers who are found liable for any federal claims (Count XIV). Sheriff Kramer moved to dismiss Count XI [25] and Kane County moved to dismiss Counts XIII and XIV [22]. While those motions were pending, Sheriff Kramer and Kane County moved to bifurcate and stay all discovery related to Plaintiffs' Monell claims.

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given “fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)) (alteration in original). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the “speculative level.” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558. In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all of Plaintiffs' well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007).

         III. Analysis

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a person may sue anyone who, while acting under color of law, causes him to be deprived of any of his constitutional rights. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60-62 (2011). A municipality can be held liable under Section 1983 only “when execution of [its] policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may be fairly said to represent official policy, ” causes the constitutional deprivation. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 536 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). A municipality cannot be held liable solely on a respondeat superior basis. Id. at 691. The Seventh Circuit recognizes three paths to municipal liability: “(1) through an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) through a ‘wide-spread practice' that although not authorized by written law and express policy, is so permanent and well-settled as to constitute a ‘custom or usage' with the force of law; or (3) through an allegation that the constitutional injury was caused by a person with ‘final decision policymaking authority.'” Calhoun v. Ramsey, 408 F.3d 375, 380 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting McTigue v. City of Chicago, 60 F.3d 381, 382 (7th Cir. 1995)). Plaintiffs rely on the second prong for their two Monell claims. To state a Monell claim, a plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference” that the municipality maintained a policy or custom that caused the alleged constitutional deprivation. McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “The required level of factual specificity rises with the complexity of the claim.” Id. at 616-17; Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 405 (7th Cir. 2010) (“A more complex case * * * will require more detail, both to give the opposing party notice of what the case is all about and to show how, in the plaintiff's mind at least, the dots should be connected.”). Mere “legal conclusions or elements of the cause of action” must be disregarded. McCauley, 671 F.3d at 617. Thus, “boilerplate” allegations that repeat the elements of a Monell claim without any further factual content are dismissed for failure to state a claim. See, e.g., Falk v. Perez, 973 F.Supp.2d 850, 864 (N.D. Ill. 2013) (“[B]y alleging ‘widespread practices, ' ‘customs, ' and ‘unofficial policies, ' Plaintiff merely states boilerplate legal conclusions that are the elements of her Monell claim.”); Annan v. Vill. of Romeoville, 2013 WL 673484, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 25, 2013) (holding that an allegation that defendant “maintains a policy by which officers use excessive force to arrest individuals with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion warranting such” was insufficient to state a Monell claim); Sheppard v. Vill. of Glendale Heights, 2011 WL 6102012, at *4 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 5, 2011) (holding that an allegation that plaintiff was discriminated against on the basis of her sex and race “pursuant to wide-spread practice” of the defendant village was insufficient to state a Monell claim).

         In order to prevail on a Monell claim, a plaintiff also must be able to show that the municipality's policy was the “moving force” behind the alleged injury; that is, a plaintiff “must demonstrate a direct causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of federal rights.” Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997); see also City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989); Teesdale v. City of Chicago, 690 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2012). The Court reviews both Monell claims under this standard.

         Plaintiffs' Monell claims against Kane County and Sheriff Kramer are largely identical. Both involve an alleged failure to train, supervise, or discipline officers of the Sheriffs Office. As the Supreme Court has cautioned, a “municipality's culpability for a deprivation of rights is at its most tenuous where a claim turns on a failure to train.” Connick, 563 U.S. at 61. Plaintiffs allege that these Defendants “directly encourage[d]” and were “the moving force” behind the following alleged constitutional violations:

. “[p]rolong[ing] citizens' detentions pursuant to traffic stops without a legally sufficient basis;”
. “[s]earch[ing] vehicles without legal justification during those stops;”
. “[s]eiz[ing] citizens' property without legal justification as a result of those ...

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