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Zinn v. Village of Sauk Village

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

March 1, 2017

THE VILLAGE OF SAUK VILLAGE and Sauk Village Police Officer RICHARD AGUAYO, Defendants.


          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         This case involves a dispute between Plaintiffs Sheila Zinn (“Zinn”) and Bianca Gilmore (“Gilmore”) and Defendants the Village of Sauk Village (“Sauk Village”) and one of its police officers, Richard Aguayo (“Aguayo”), regarding the impoundment of Zinn's automobile on March 24, 2014. Plaintiffs bring five causes of action in their Amended Complaint [19]. Plaintiffs allege that Aguayo illegally seized Gilmore (Count I); illegally searched and seized Zinn's automobile (Count II); and unlawfully retaliated against Plaintiffs' exercise of their First Amendment rights (Count III) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs further assert a § 1983 Monell claim against Sauk Village for its alleged widespread practice of unconstitutionally seizing private property in order to raise revenue (Count IV). Finally, Plaintiffs bring a state law indemnification claim against Sauk Village under 745 ILCS 10/9-102 for Aguayo's misconduct (Count V). On November 17, 2016, Defendants jointly moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss [23]. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [19] sets forth the following relevant facts, which the Court accepts as true for the purposes of Defendants' motion. On the morning of March 24, 2014, Plaintiff Bianca Gilmore was involved in a traffic accident while driving a vehicle owned by her mother, Plaintiff Sheila Zinn. Am. Compl. [19] ¶ 7. Shortly thereafter, Defendant Richard Aguayo, a Village of Sauk Village Police Officer, arrived on the scene and issued accident reports to Gilmore and the other driver. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs allege that Aguayo then ordered Gilmore, without probable cause, to follow him to the Sauk Village police station. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10. After requiring Gilmore to wait at the police station for an hour and a half, Aguayo advised her to contact someone who could come to the station and pay a $350 bond. Id. Gilmore contends that, at this point, she had not been issued a ticket nor informed that charges were being brought against her. Id. ¶ 13.

         Gilmore contacted her mother via telephone. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiffs allege that, during the call, Aguayo notified Zinn that Gilmore had been arrested, but refused to provide further information. Id. ¶ 15. Instead, Aguayo told Zinn that her daughter would be “going into a cage” if Zinn did not pay the $350 bond, and hung up on her. Id.

         After Aguayo hung up the phone, Zinn called the Sauk Village Police Department to obtain more information. Id. ¶ 16. A different Sauk Village police officer assured her that, contrary to Aguayo's claims, Gilmore had not been taken into custody. Id. ¶ 18. Nevertheless, Gilmore remained at the Sauk Village Police Station.

         Later that day, Aguayo once again told Gilmore to contact her mother, this time to determine why Zinn “was taking so long” to pay Gilmore's bond. Id. Aguayo again threatened to put Gilmore “in a cell” if Zinn did not show up with $350 in cash. Id. ¶ 19. After Gilmore made contact with her mother, Zinn questioned the legality of Aguayo's actions. Id. ¶ 21. In response, Aguayo “got angry” and stated that Zinn's questioning had “made things bad for her.” Id. According to Plaintiffs, Aguayo then “caused false charges to be made” against Gilmore, processed her, and placed her in a cell.[1] Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiffs also allege that at this point, Aguayo reached into Gilmore's pocket and seized the car keys to Zinn's automobile. Id. ¶ 23.

         Eventually, Zinn travelled to the Sauk Village Police Station in person. Upon arrival, she asked to speak with the Chief of Police in order to file a complaint. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. In response, Aguayo falsely told Zinn that he was the Chief of Police and that Zinn should speak with him in his office about paying Gilmore's bond. Id. ¶ 25.

         Aguayo finally released Gilmore later that day, [2] but retained possession of Zinn's automobile. Id. ¶¶ 23-26. Upon her release, Aguayo provided Gilmore with a “Notification of Vehicle Impoundment” that identified “aiding and abetting the commission of a crime” as justification for the vehicle's seizure. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiffs allege, however, that the notice did not specify the crime Gilmore had allegedly aided and abetted, a date for an administrative hearing, or Gilmore's right to such a hearing. Id. ¶¶ 28-29.

         Plaintiffs also allege that, while Zinn's vehicle was impounded, the Sauk Village Police Department rejected or obstructed multiple attempts to file official complaints regarding Aguayo's conduct. Id. ¶ 48. Specifically, Zinn tried to file a notarized complaint against Aguayo three times on March 31, 2014, but was told that no one was present to accept her grievance. Id. ¶ 49. Plaintiffs maintain that when a complaint was finally submitted, it was never investigated by Sauk Village and Aguayo was never punished for his actions. Id. ¶ 53.

         On April 1, 2014, Plaintiffs requested a preliminary hearing regarding the impoundment of Zinn's vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Plaintiffs allege that, under the Sauk Village Municipal Code, the owner of an impounded vehicle may request a preliminary hearing within fifteen days of impoundment, and, once such a request is made, a preliminary hearing must be held within forty-eight hours. Id. ¶ 31. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs were not given a timely preliminary hearing. Id. ¶ 32. Instead, a final administrative hearing was held without notice on April 17, 2014, at which time default judgment was entered against Plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

         Despite the default judgment, Plaintiffs were granted a preliminary hearing in August 2014. Id. ¶ 58. Plaintiffs allege that when Gilmore appeared at the hearing, however, a neutral arbiter was not present. Id. Instead, an attorney for Sauk Village informed Gilmore that Zinn's car would be released to her custody if she signed a settlement agreement and a release of all potential claims against the Village. Id. ¶ 59. Gilmore refused. Id. ¶ 60.

         On October 1, 2015, Sauk Village's Public Safety Administrator reviewed the evidence that Plaintiffs initially provided in their April 1, 2014 request for a preliminary hearing. Id. After reviewing the evidence, the Public Safety Administrator waived all fines and ordered that Zinn's vehicle be released. Id. In the end, Zinn's vehicle was impounded for nineteen months, during which time Plaintiffs incurred various expenses for rental cars, taxi services, and public transportation. Id. ¶¶ 55, 57.

         Plaintiffs claim that Zinn's vehicle was initially seized pursuant to Sauk Village's Vehicle Impoundment Ordinance (“the Ordinance”). Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Plaintiffs allege that, since 2011, Sauk Village police officers have routinely seized and impounded vehicles under the auspice of the Ordinance “without a warrant and when no valid exception to the warrant requirement applies” in order to raise revenue for the Village. Id. ΒΆΒΆ 35-37, 41, 46. Plaintiffs assert that, as a ...

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