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Julian v. Paz

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

March 3, 2017



          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Stephan Julian brings this § 1983 false arrest action against Defendants Sergeant Franklin D. Paz, Maurice Anderson, and the City of Chicago alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment [48]. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment [48]. This case is set for further status hearing on March 21, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.

         I. Background

         The following facts are drawn primarily from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements, [50], [58], [59], and [64]. On October 25, 2013, Defendants Paz and Anderson, police officers employed by the City of Chicago, were assisting the City of Chicago Department of Buildings with a “blitz” operation. [50, at ¶ 18.] The operation consisted of inspecting targeted properties on or near the 7300 block of South Dorchester Avenue and serving emergency vacate orders on certain houses deemed uninhabitable or unsafe, including the house at 7329 South Dorchester Avenue (“the 7329 House”). [Id. at ¶ 19.] Defendants contend that the operation took place in an extremely dangerous area of Chicago, on a block that is known for public violence and shootings, including shootings of police officers. [59, at ¶ 1.] Defendants further contend that the 7329 House was a known gang and drug house where Defendants Paz and Anderson had previously executed a search warrant for illegal guns and that one resident of the house was a documented gang member who had previously been arrested on gun charges. [59, at ¶¶ 2-3.] Defendant Paz's duties included assisting and supervising the activities of the Chicago Police Department's Auto Theft Unit and Animal Control. [See 50, at ¶¶ 40-41; 58, at ¶¶ 40-41.] Defendant Paz's was also in charge of informing other police officers what work needed to be done. Defendant Anderson testified that Defendant Paz was the team leader that day and thus it was his responsibility to see to the preservation of the scene and the safety of his team. [59, at ¶ 23.]

         On the date of the incident, Plaintiff's friend/ex-girlfriend, Carolyn Bridget, resided at 7329 South Dorchester Avenue. [50, at ¶ 22.] Plaintiff received a call from Bridget, who told him that the police were forcing her to gather her possession and leave her house so that they could board it up. [Id. at ¶ 23.] Plaintiff contends that when he arrived at the scene and attempted to enter the gate leading to the front yard of the 7329 House, an unidentified police officer told him that he could not enter. [Id. at ¶ 25.]

         According to Defendants, Plaintiff approached Defendant Paz at the 7329 House, identified himself as an attorney, and said he represented Bridget. [59, at ¶ 9.] Defendant Paz testified that Plaintiff refused to provide identification, stood in Defendant Paz's way, and kept asking questions and demanding information. [Id. at ¶¶ 10-12.] Defendant Paz alleges that Plaintiff was preventing him from doing his job and conducting the investigation, so he asked Plaintiff to leave. [Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.] According to Defendant Paz, he told Plaintiff to “step away and allow us to continue the investigation” somewhere between four and ten times, but Plaintiff continued moving toward Defendant Paz and the investigation, getting within one or two feet of Defendant Paz, pointing at his face, and yelling. [See 58, at ¶¶ 60-61.] Finally, Defendant Paz warned Plaintiff that if he did not move away, he would be arrested. [Id. at ¶ 20.] Plaintiff still refused to leave, so Defendant Paz ordered Defendant Anderson to arrest him for obstructing his investigation, and Defendant Anderson did so.

         Plaintiff “denies that he engaged in any ‘obstructive activities.'” [64, at ¶13.] The parties disagree about how long the incident between Plaintiff and Defendant Paz lasted, but it was somewhere between five and fifteen minutes. [50, at ¶ 53.] The entire blitz operation went on from about 8:30 a.m. until after 2:00 p.m. [50, at ¶ 53.] Plaintiff asserts that he remained on the public sideway during the incident, [50, at ¶ 26], but a neighbor of Bridget testified in his deposition that he saw Plaintiff coming out of the 7329 House. [59 Exhibit D, at 19:6-7].

         The arrest report from the incident states that Plaintiff was observed loitering in an area where the police were conducting an investigation involving multiple gang houses. [50, at ¶ 57.] The report indicates that Plaintiff was asked to leave the area of the investigation but refused, causing the investigation to be interrupted. [Id.] The charges were terminated in Plaintiff's favor on November 21, 2013. On September 15, 2014, Plaintiff brought this § 1983 action against Defendants, alleging false arrest and violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Defendants raised the affirmative defense of qualified immunity, along with other affirmative defenses. [26.] On April 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment, which is currently before the Court. [48.]

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper where there is “no 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 issue of 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). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court will construe all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Bell v. Taylor, 827 F.3d 699, 704 (7th Cir. 2016). However, “[c]onclusory allegations alone cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Thomas v. Christ Hosp. & Med. Ctr., 328 F.3d 890, 892 (7th Cir. 2003).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because even accepting Defendant's version of the facts and assuming that he did ask Defendant Paz questions, yell, demand information, and refuse to leave the scene when ordered to do so, Defendants Paz and Anderson did not have probable cause to arrest him for obstructing a police officer. Defendants argue that a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendants Paz and Anderson had probable cause justifying the arrest.

         The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires an arrest to be supported by probable cause. Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 100 (1959). “Probable cause exists if the facts and circumstances known to the officer warrant a prudent man in believing that an offense has been committed.” Id. at 102; Qian v. Kautz, 168 F.3d 949, 953 (7th Cir. 1999). The existence of probable cause is a mixed question of law and fact. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 696 (1996). As long as the officer's belief is reasonable, it need not be correct. Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 742 (1983).

         The offense at issue in this case is obstructing a peace officer. Under Illinois law, “[a] person who knowingly resists or obstructs the performance by one known to the person to be a peace officer * * * of any authorized act within his or her official capacity commits a Class A misdemeanor.” 720 ILCS 5/31-1(a). Illinois courts used to treat this statute as not applying to mere arguments with an officer, but rather only proscribing “some physical act which imposes an obstacle which may impeded, hinder, interrupt, prevent or delay the performance of the officer's duties, such as going limp, forcefully resisting arrest or physically aiding a third party to avoid arrest.” People v. Raby, 240 N.E.2d 595, 599 (Ill. 1968). However, in People v. Baskerville, the Illinois Supreme Court clarified the meaning of “obstruct” in the context of this statute. 963 N.E.2d 898, 902-906 (Ill. 2012). The Court acknowledged that most cases specifically addressing obstructing a peace officer involved a physical act. However, the ...

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