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Chachere v. City of Chicago

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

January 26, 2017



          Gary Feinerman, Judge

         Michael Chachere brought this suit against the City of Chicago and two of its police officers, Danielle Deering and Cory Junious, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois law, alleging that his home was unlawfully searched, that he was unlawfully detained on groundless charges, and that the personal property taken upon his arrest was unlawfully destroyed. Doc. 1. Defendants answered many of the claims, Doc. 13, but the City moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the property destruction claims, Doc. 14. The motion is granted.


         On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes the truth of the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, though not its legal conclusions. See Zahn v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th Cir. 2016). 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 Chachere's 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). The facts are set forth as favorably to Chachere as those materials allow. See Pierce v. Zoetis, Inc., 818 F.3d 274, 277 (7th Cir. 2016). In setting forth those facts, the court does not vouch for their accuracy. See Jay E. Hayden Found. v. First Neighbor Bank, N.A., 610 F.3d 382, 384 (7th Cir. 2010).

         On October 14, 2014, Deering and Junious conducted a warrantless search of Chachere's home. Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 5-7. Asserting that the search turned up guns and that Chachere confessed to owning them, the officers arrested him for unlawful possession of firearms. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9, 11. In fact, the officers had no reason to think any guns found were Chachere's, and they falsified the confession. Id. at ¶¶ 10, 11. As a result, Chachere spent over four months detained at the Cook County Jail on unfounded gun charges, which were ultimately dismissed. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.

         When Deering and Junious arrested and booked Chachere, they took and placed into storage his wallet, cell phone, and necklace. Id. at ¶ 21. The officers did so pursuant to Chicago Police Department Special Order S07-01-01, which sets forth procedures for inventorying, storing, and returning personal property taken from arrestees. Doc. 18 at 16-19. Adhering to that policy, the City did not send the wallet, cell phone, and necklace along with Chachere to the jail, but instead inventoried and stored them in the police department's “Evidence and Recovered Property Section.” Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 17, 21; Doc. 18 at 3-4, 16.

         To retrieve inventoried property, an arrestee has two options: (1) go to the police department in person; or (2) designate someone else to do so. Doc. 1 at ¶ 23; Doc. 18 at 4, 16. An arrestee detained at the jail of course cannot go to the department in person, and the City knew from experience that many detainees struggled to secure assistance from others to retrieve their property. Doc. 1 at ¶ 20. Nevertheless, the special order imposes a thirty-day limit on the retention of seized property, after which it may be destroyed. Id. at ¶ 19; Doc. 18 at 21.

         Chachere was detained for more than four months after his arrest and was unable to find another person to claim his property. Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 12, 23; Doc. 18 at 4. As a result, his wallet, phone, and necklace were destroyed. Doc. 1 at ¶ 24. Although Chicago Municipal Code § 2-84-160(b) obligates the City to make reasonable efforts to give notice of the procedure for retrieving seized property, the City failed do so here. Doc. 18 at 5, 21.


         Chachere's property destruction claim invokes the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Doc. 18 at 8-13.

         I. Fourth Amendment

         Chachere alleges that the City's destruction of his personal property violated the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment prohibits “unreasonable … seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. A seizure of personal property occurs when there is “some meaningful interference with an individual's possessory interests in [his] property.” Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 460 (7th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original). The initial seizure of Chachere's property upon his arrest was lawful. See Illinois v. Lafayette, 462 U.S. 640, 646 (1983) (“At the stationhouse, it is entirely proper for police to remove and list or inventory property found on the person or in the possession of an arrested person who is to be jailed.”). The question here is whether the City's subsequent destruction of his property violated the Fourth Amendment.

         Lee answers this question, holding that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to the government's retention or treatment of property following its initial seizure: “Once an individual has been meaningfully dispossessed, the seizure of the property is complete, and once justified by probable cause, that seizure is reasonable. The amendment then cannot be invoked by the dispossessed owner to regain his property.” 330 F.3d at 466. Chachere attempts to distinguish Lee on the ground that it involved property seized as evidence, Doc. 18 at 11, but nothing in Lee suggests that its holding is limited to seizures that have a law enforcement purpose. To the contrary, the Seventh Circuit has made clear that Lee applies no matter the justification (or lack thereof) for the initial seizure. See Gonzalez v. Vill. of W. Milwaukee, 671 F.3d 649, 660 (7th Cir. 2012) (“Lee's holding that a seizure occurs upon the initial act of dispossession does not depend on the legality of the seizure. Stated differently, continued retention of unlawfully seized property is not a separate Fourth Amendment wrong.”).

         As Lee explained, limiting the Fourth Amendment's scope to the initial property seizure is consistent with the Seventh Circuit's consistent rejection of the concept of a “continuing seizure.” 330 F.3d at 463-65. The Seventh Circuit recently reaffirmed its position in Bell v. City of Chicago, 835 F.3d 736 (7th Cir. 2016), holding that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to the City's failure to return a seized vehicle because “the seizure … is complete when the officer or agent seizes and impounds the vehicle.” Id. at 741. Chachere correctly observes that the Seventh Circuit's rejection of the “continuing seizure” theory is before the Supreme Court in Manuel v. City of Joliet, 136 S.Ct. 890 (2016). But unless and until the Supreme Court says otherwise, this court remains bound by circuit precedent. See Jansen v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 123 F.3d 490, 495 (7th Cir. 1997) (en banc). Thus, at this juncture, the City's failure to return seized property must be evaluated under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Bell, 835 F.3d at 741 (“[T]he Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment can be used to challenge post-seizure procedures and the City's continued retention of [the plaintiffs'] vehicle.”); L ...

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