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Martin v. City of Chicago

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

January 5, 2017



          AMY J. ST. EVE, United States District Judge.

         Defendants City of Chicago and Officers Davis Marinez, Sofia Gonzalez (Arellano), Armando Chagoya, and Elvis Turcinovic (collectively, “Defendants”) have moved the Court for partial summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (R.36). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants' motion.


         Plaintiff Sherard Martin (“Martin”) commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 to redress alleged constitutional violations committed by Defendants. In particular, Martin alleges that Defendants illegally stopped him, falsely arrested him, and unlawfully searched his person and his vehicle. (R.1, Compl. ¶¶ 7-24). He brings claims for false arrest (Count I), unlawful search (Count II), and for respondeat superior liability against the City of Chicago (Count III), requesting a damage award “sufficient to compensate him for the injuries he suffered, ” in addition to punitive damages and fees and costs. (Id.). Acknowledging the existence of disputed factual issues related to Martin's initial stop and search claims, Defendants now seek partial summary judgment on Martin's claims “related to their conduct after the Defendant Officers discovered narcotics and an illegal firearm in [Martin's] possession, which provided probable cause to arrest or to continue detaining [Martin] from that point forward.” (R.37, Opening Br. at 2) (emphasis added). Martin opposes the motion but does not dispute any fact as set forth in Defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement. See Petty v. City of Chicago, 754 F.3d 416, 420 (7th Cir. 2014) (“A party filing a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure must file a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law”) (citing L.R. 56.1(a)(3)). The relevant facts are as follows.

         Around 7:00PM on May 24, 2013, Martin was driving near the intersection of E. 90th Street and S. Burley Avenue in Chicago, when Officers Marinez and Gonzalez pulled him over. (R.38, Rule 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. Facts ¶ 6). According to Martin, he had not committed any traffic violations prior to being pulled over. (Id.).[1] Office Gonzalez then approached Martin's car, requesting his driver's license and insurance. Martin could not produce his license, however, stating that he “had his license taken for a ticket.” (Id. ¶ 7). Officers Gonzalez and Marinez then asked Martin to step out of his car, at which point Officers Turcinovic and Chagoya arrived. (Id. ¶ 8). According to Martin, the police officers forced him out of the car, handcuffed him, conducted a pat-down search of his person, and placed him inside a police vehicle. The officers then searched his car. (Id. ¶ 9).[2] During the search of Martin's car, the officers recovered a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun and a plastic baggie containing crack cocaine. (Id. ¶ 10). On scene, Officer Marinez noticed that the serial number on the handgun had been defaced. (Id.).

         After searching Martin's car, the police officers transported him to the station for processing. At the police station, Officer Marinez printed Martin's rap sheet and discovered that he had previous convictions on felony charges for first-degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon by a convicted felon. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12). Martin was later transferred to the Cook County Jail, and charged with four felonies: (i) being an armed habitual criminal in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.7(a); (ii) being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a); (iii) being in possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-5(b); and (iv) being in possession of cocaine in violation of 720 ILCS 570/402. Martin also received traffic citations pursuant to Chicago Municipal Code Section 9-76-050 (relating to the operation of taillights) and 625 ILCS 5/6-112 (relating to the requirement to carry a driver's license). (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13).

         Martin was incarcerated from May 24, 2013 through July 29, 2013 in connection with his May 24, 2013 arrest. (Id. ¶ 14).[3] During the course of criminal proceedings, Martin filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the trial court granted on November 7, 2014. (Id.). As a result, the State dismissed the charges through a nolle prosequi motion. (Id.). Martin now seeks $65, 000 in civil damages for his incarceration, calculated at a rate of $1, 000 per day for 65 days (May 24, 2013 - July 29, 2013). He also seeks to recover lost business income of $700 per day for 65 days-a total of $45, 500-in relation to his automobile dealership. (Id. ¶ 15). Defendants argue that such damages are not recoverable in this Section 1983 action.


         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining summary judgment motions, courts “must view the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and give the benefit of reasonable inferences to the non-moving party.” Chaib v. Geo Grp., Inc., 819 F.3d 337, 341 (7th Cir. 2016). After “a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (quotation omitted); Life Plans, Inc. v. Sec. Life of Denver Ins. Co., 800 F.3d 343, 349 (7th Cir. 2015).


         In his false arrest claim, Martin alleges that he “was stopped and seized without a warrant, without probable cause, and without reasonable suspicion” in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (R.1, Compl. ¶ 16). He further alleges that he was “unlawfully and maliciously arrested . . . and wrongfully detained[.]” (Id. ¶ 17). His unlawful search claim, meanwhile, asserts that “Defendant Officers searched [his] person and his car without a search warrant and without probable cause to believe [he] was committing or had committed a crime” in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Id. ¶ 20).

         In seeking partial summary judgment, Defendants argue that Martin “can only proceed on his claim related to his brief detention on scene before the handgun and drugs were found, the search of his person, and the search of his vehicle.” (R.37, Opening Br. at 9).[4] According to Defendants, once the police officers discovered the handgun and cocaine in Martin's car, probable cause existed to arrest Martin, precluding him from recovering damages related to his 65-day incarceration on felony charges. After reviewing the summary judgment record and applicable precedent, the Court agrees.

         I. The Existence of Probable Cause for Weapons and Drug-Related Offenses

         “Probable cause to arrest is an absolute defense to any claim under Section 1983 against police officers for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution.” Mustafa v. City of Chicago, 442 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir. 2006). Where the underlying facts are undisputed in a false arrest case, the court can determine whether probable cause supported the arrest at the summary judgment stage. See Abbott v. Sangamon Cty., Ill., 705 F.3d 706, 714 (7th Cir. 2013).

         Here, it is undisputed that, on May 24, 2013, Martin was in possession of an illegal handgun and cocaine in violation of various penal statutes, including 720 ILCS 5/24-1.7(a), 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a), 720 ILCS 5/24-5(b), and 720 ILCS 570/402. (R.38, Rule 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 9-10, 12-13). By failing to refute these facts (and Defendants' related arguments) in response to the present motion, Martin has effectively conceded that-once the Defendant Officers recovered contraband in his car-probable cause existed for his May 24, 2013 arrest. See Holmes v. Vill. of Hoffman Estate, 511 F.3d 673, 679 (7th Cir. 2007) (“A police officer has probable cause to arrest an individual when the facts and circumstances that are known to him reasonably support a belief that the individual has committed, is committing, or is about to [ ] commit a crime”).[5] The fact that Defendants only later learned about Martin's criminal history (as relevant to two of the felony charges) does not vitiate the probable cause determination, where the officers recovered on scene a handgun with a defaced serial number and a plastic baggie containing crack cocaine. See Id. at 682 (“probable cause to believe that a person has committed any crime will preclude a false arrest claim, even if the person was arrested on additional or different charges for which there was no probable cause”); Abbott, 705 F.3d at 715 (“an arrest can be supported by probable cause that the arrestee committed any crime, regardless of the officer's belief as to which crime was at issue”).

         Similarly, in this Section 1983 action, the fact that Martin prevailed on a suppression motion related to the initial traffic stop does not vitiate the probable cause determination with respect to the discovered contraband. The Seventh Circuit's recent opinion in Vaughn v. Chapman is instructive on this issue. In Vaughn, an Illinois state trooper stopped the plaintiff-a felon then living in Arizona-for purported traffic infractions while he was driving through Illinois. See No. 16-1065, 2016 WL 5944726, at *1 (7th Cir. Oct. 13, 2016). After learning that Vaugh “was driving on a suspended license and was wanted on a warrant from Wisconsin[, ]” the trooper called for a drug-sniffing dog. Another Illinois state trooper then arrived, who- according to Vaughn-“‘signaled' the dog to give a false alert so that the troopers would have an excuse to search the car.” The troopers found a pistol in the trunk of the car. Id. They then took Vaugh to county jail and contacted Arizona authorities, learning that “Vaughn was suspected of committing an armed robbery and aggravated assault a few days earlier.” Id. The state prosecutor later charged Vaught with possession of a firearm as a felon in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a). Id. Vaughn remained in custody from August 2013 through December 2014, when the prosecutor dismissed his case to allow the Arizona prosecution to proceed. Id. Vaughn then brought suit against “everyone involved in the criminal case, ” including a claim against the individual troopers for malicious prosecution. Id. at *1-2.

         In relevant part, the Seventh Circuit noted that, “[u]nder both federal and state law, the existence of probable cause is a complete defense to malicious prosecution[.]” Id. at *2 (citing Johnson v. Saville, 575 ...

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