United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Gettleman United States District Judge
Margo Lewis has brought a five count complaint against
Chicago Police Officers Jeffrey Curia, Gabriel Barrera, Emil
Hagelin and the City of Chicago, alleging that Officers
Curia, Barrera, and Hagelin violated her rights under the
Fourth Amendment to be free from excessive use of force when
they arrested her after a routine traffic stop. Count I is
the excessive force claim against Curia and Barrera, and
Count II is a conspiracy claim against all three individual
officers. Count III is a “failure to prevent”
claim against the individual officers. Count IV is a state
law claim for assault and battery against the officers and
Count V is a respondeat superior claim against the City.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts.
Because the undisputed facts demonstrate that the officers
acted in a reasonable manner, the motion is granted.
approximately 3:00 p.m., on May 16, 2014, at 87th Street and
Stoney Island Avenue, Curia pulled plaintiff over because she
was driving without any license plates. Plaintiff pulled into
a nearby parking lot. At the time of the incident plaintiff
had a video camera mounted on her windshield pointed toward
the driver's side window. The video recorded (including
audio) the entire traffic stop. After plaintiff stopped,
Curia, who had been joined by Officers Barrera and Hageline,
approached the car, tapped on the driver's side window,
politely introduced himself and asked for plaintiff's
driver's license and proof of insurance. In response,
plaintiff stated that she was “not for hire, ”
and that her car was a “private conveyance” and
not a “motor vehicle.” Curia then politely
explained that plaintiff still needed to have a license plate
on her car. Plaintiff then began giving Curia a series of
reasons why she did not need a license plate or a
driver's license. Those reasons included that: she had
“absolute title, not qualified title” to her car;
she was not in the State of Illinois or the “Corporate
City of Chicago” but in the United States; she was
“not a driver, ” and only managing her private
conveyance”; she had the “right to travel”
and was exercising her right; and the Illinois Motor Vehicle
Code “does not pertain to her.” Curia continued
to ask for plaintiff's driver's license. She told him
that she had a license, but not with her. She gave Curia her
passport to identify herself, attempted to give him her
driver's license number, and asked him to follow her to
her home a few blocks away. As it turns out, plaintiff lived
in Hyde Park, which is quite a bit more than a few blocks
from the incident.
then asked plaintiff to step out of the car. She refused,
saying she was afraid. Curia very politely asked plaintiff
thirteen more times to please step out of the car. He told
plaintiff that because she could not produce a valid
driver's license she was under arrest. Plaintiff
continued to refuse to get out of her car, asking for a
female officer, claiming she was afraid of three big men with
guns. At this point, Curia told plaintiff that if she did not
exit the vehicle he would break the window. Curia continued
to ask plaintiff to exit her vehicle. Plaintiff continued to
remain in her car.
then reached into plaintiff's window which was partially
down, and unlocked and opened the driver's side door.
Curia then asked plaintiff to step out of the car three more
times. Plaintiff did not step out. Curia then placed a
handcuff on plaintiff's left wrist, and pulled on her
left wrist and elbow. Hageline then took hold of
plaintiff's left arm, as Curia gained control of
plaintiff's right arm. They pulled plaintiff from the car
and lowered her to the ground. At one point plaintiff yelled
“you're hurting me, ” and Barrera drew his
taser and said “relax - you will be tased.” After
lowering plaintiff to the ground, Curia finished handcuffing
her and then helped her to her feet and walked her to the
squad car. The entire event was filmed except for the brief
period when plaintiff was lowered to the ground.
Approximately twenty-one seconds elapsed between the time
Curia began to remove plaintiff from the car, and when
plaintiff was helped to her feet. The officers then waited
for a female officer for whom Curia had called earlier, to
arrive. When the female officer arrived she removed plaintiff
from the squad car and searched her.
have moved for summary judgment on all counts. A movant is
entitled to summary judgment when the moving papers and
affidavits show that “there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and a movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P 56(a); Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 4707 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving
party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond
the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing there is a
genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c);
Becker v. Tenebaum-Hill Assoc., Inc., 914 F.2d 107,
110 (7th Cir. 1990). The court considers the record as a
whole and generally draws all reasonable inferences in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Green v.
Carlson, 826 F.2d 647, 651 (7th Cir. 1987). When,
however, as in the instant case, the evidence includes a
video tape of the relevant events, the court should not adopt
the nonmoving party's version of the events when that
version is blatantly contradicted by the video tape.
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 379-80 (2007). In the
instant case, the parties have submitted the video taken from
plaintiff's camera which shows video of all but
approximately twenty seconds of the entire incident. There is
audio of the whole encounter. Thus, the court relies
primarily on the video to decide the instant motion.
Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 942 (7th Cir.
claims that the officers used excessive force in arresting
her. “An officer who has the right to arrest an
individual also has the right to use some degree of physical
force or threat of force to effectuate the arrest.”
Id. at 944. That right to use force is
“circumscribed by the Fourth Amendment's
reasonableness standard.” Id. This inquiry
requires an examination of the “totality of the
circumstances to determine whether the intrusion on a
citizen's Fourth Amendment interest was justified by the
countervailing governmental interest at stake.”
Jacobs v. City of Chicago, 215 F.3d 758, 773 (7th
Cir. 2000). In evaluating the reasonableness of the
officer's actions, the court considers “the
severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an
immediate threat to the safety of the officers and others,
and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to
evade arrest by flight.” Graham v. Connor, 490
U.S. 386, 396 (1989). Courts must “remain cognizant of
the fact that police officers are often forced to make
split-second judgments - in circumstances that are tense,
uncertain and rapidly evolving - about the amount of force
that is necessary in a particular situation.”
Williams, 809 F.3d at 944.
instant case, it is undisputed that Curia had the right to
arrest plaintiff for driving without a license plate and
failing to have a valid driver's license on her person.
Neither is a particularly significant violation. Failing to
comply with Curia's requests and commands to step out of
the vehicle, which amounts to resisting arrest, is a somewhat
more serious offense. Police officers have a right to order
drivers to exit their vehicles after initiating a traffic
stop. Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 110
(1977) (Ordering driver who was pulled over for driving
without a license plate to exit the vehicle was not a serious
intrusion upon the sanctity of the person.). When plaintiff
refused to produce a driver's license or exit the
vehicle, Curia was permitted to use reasonable force to
effect her arrest.
video of the incident shows that Curia acted in a perfectly
reasonable manner. Despite plaintiff's bizarre
assertions, Curia remained calm and polite. Indeed, he showed
remarkable restraint in the face of what appears to be an
effort by plaintiff into goading him to lose his temper.
Plaintiff appears to have been prepared to be pulled over,
because she had her responses taped to her dashboard. The
video plainly shows Curia and Hageline removing plaintiff
from the car, using minimal force. Plaintiff refused to
cooperate, leaving the officers no choice but to use
necessary force. It is true that the video does not show what
happened while plaintiff was on the ground, but in her
deposition plaintiff testified that the initial pull and
lowering was the only force used, and that the officers did
not use any further force while she was on the ground. Given
these undisputed facts, no reasonable jury could find that
defendants' use of force was unreasonable. Indeed, rather
than criticized, defendants, and Curia in particular, should
be commended for their patience and professionalism.
the court concludes that defendants' use of force was
reasonable, plaintiff cannot prevail on any of her claims.
Consequently, defendants' motion for summary judgment
(Doc. 52) is granted.
motion for summary ...