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Campbell v. City of Chicago

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

March 6, 2017

The CITY OF CHICAGO, Illinois, a municipal corporation, and former Independent Police Review Authority IPRA Chief Administrator SCOTT ANDO, Defendants.


          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         This case involves a dispute between Plaintiff Martrice Campbell (“Plaintiff”) and Defendants Scott Ando (“Defendant Ando”) and the City of Chicago (“the City”). Plaintiff brings two causes of action: (1) First Amendment retaliation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); and (2) retaliatory discharge under Illinois common law (Count II). Compl. [1]. On October 19th, 2016, Defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) 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

         Plaintiff's Complaint [1] sets forth the following relevant facts, which the Court accepts as true for the purposes of Defendants' motion. Plaintiff is a former investigator at the City of Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority (“IPRA”), an agency created to investigate allegations of misconduct by Chicago police officers. Compl. [1] ¶¶ 4-9. At all times relevant to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant Ando served as either First Deputy Chief Administrator or Acting Chief Administrator of IPRA. Id. ¶ 5.

         On January 10, 2013, Plaintiff observed her coworker, Brian Lockhart (“Lockhart”), display certain behavior near Plaintiff's workstation. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Specifically, Lockhart appeared visibly upset and spoke of killing his supervisors and himself. Id. ¶ 15. In response, Plaintiff escorted Lockhart into an interview room, searched him for weapons, and questioned him regarding his threatening statements. Id. ¶ 16. During this discussion, Lockhart disavowed any intent to harm anyone at IPRA. Id. ¶ 19. By the end of the conversation, Plaintiff was convinced that the only danger Lockhart posed was to himself. Id. As a result, Plaintiff contacted the City of Chicago's Employee Assistance Program, and, at their suggestion, drove Lockhart to the hospital for further treatment. Id. ¶ 20.

         Plaintiff alleges that when Defendant Ando learned of Lockhart's behavior, however, Defendant Ando contacted the Chicago Police Department and requested that Lockhart be arrested and prosecuted. Id. ¶ 22. Lockhart was later charged with threatening public officials and went to trial in state court. Id. ¶¶ 23-24.

         Plaintiff was subpoenaed by the government as a witness in Lockhart's trial. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff testified on October 16, 2014. Id. ¶ 26. Lockhart was acquitted on October 31, 2014. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff claims that although she testified truthfully, Defendant Ando sought to have Plaintiff charged with perjury because he was angry over Lockhart's acquittal. Id. ¶¶ 27, 29-30.[1] Plaintiff further alleges that, as a result of her truthful testimony, Defendant Ando fired Plaintiff on June 8, 2015. Id. ¶ 32.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint, not the merits of a case. Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must first provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given “fair notice” of what the claim is “and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

         Second, the complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter” to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). That is, the allegations must raise the possibility of relief above the “speculative level.” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs. Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). A claim has facial plausibility “when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013). The “amount of factual allegations required to state a plausible claim for relief depends on the complexity of the legal theory alleged, ” but “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Vill. Of Lemont, 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008). In evaluating the complaint, the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff brings two causes of action in response to her termination: (1) First Amendment retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Ando (Count I); and (2) retaliatory discharge under Illinois common law against both Defendant Ando and the City (Count II). The Court discusses each claim in turn.

         A. First Amendment Retaliation (Count I)

         To adequately plead a First Amendment retaliation claim, Plaintiff must allege that: (1) her speech was constitutionally protected; (2) she suffered a deprivation likely to deter free speech; and (3) her speech was at least a motivating factor in Defendants' actions. Spalding v. City of Chicago, 24 F.Supp.3d 765, 775 (N.D. Ill. 2014).

         Under the first element, while public employees “do not surrender all of their First Amendment rights by reason of their employment, ” Morales v. Jones, 494 F.3d 590, 595 (7th Cir. 2007), such rights “are not without limit.” Mescall v. Rochford, No. 75-cv-3913, 1976 WL 1672, at *3 (N.D. Ill. May 3, 1976); Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 417 (2006) (holding that the First Amendment protects a public employee's right to speak only “in certain circumstances”). To “ensure that public employee speech is afforded the proper constitutional protections, ” Sigsworth v. City of Aurora, Ill., 487 F.3d 506, 509 (7th Cir. 2007), the Seventh Circuit applies the balancing test first announced by the Supreme Court in Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968), and clarified in Connick v. Myers,461 U.S. 138, 147-48 (1983). Under the Connick-Pickering test, a public employee's speech is constitutionally protected if: (1) she made the speech as a private citizen; (2) the speech addressed a matter of public concern; and (3) her interest in expressing that speech was not outweighed by ...

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