United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. LEINENWEBER, JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant City of Chicago's Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Monell claim [ECF No. 16].
For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is denied.
Charles Stokes (“Stokes”) filed this lawsuit
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 to address alleged
constitutional violations visited upon him by Chicago Police
Officers Ewing and Ortiz (the “Defendant
Officers”). The following facts are drawn from
Stokes' Complaint and are, for purposes of this Motion,
accepted as true, with all inferences drawn in his favor.
See, e.g., Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d
720, 728 (7th Cir. 2015).
September 2, 2015, Stokes was leaving the home of his
mother-in-law when Defendant Officers searched his car
without cause and falsely arrested him for possessing a
firearm. (ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶¶
5-10.) Stokes claims that they and Defendant City of Chicago
(the “City”) proceeded with baseless charges,
which were ultimately resolved in his favor. (Id.
¶¶ 14-17.) On November 21, 2015, Stokes was again
leaving his mother-in-law's home when Defendant Officers
stopped him without cause. (Id., Count III,
¶¶ 5-7.) They searched his person, took his car
keys, and then searched his car. (Id., Count III,
¶¶ 9-10.) Despite finding nothing in his car,
Defendant Officers claimed they had discovered “some
weed/marijuana somewhere near the house, ” and
subsequently arrested Stokes. (Id., Count III,
arresting Stokes, Defendant Officers informed him and a
co-arrestee that they were going to jail for narcotics
possession “unless they came up with a gun.”
(Compl., Count VI, ¶ 13.) Both Stokes and his
companion-in-misfortune told Defendant Officers that they did
not have or own a gun. (Id., Count VI, ¶ 14.)
At that point, “[o]ne or both” of Defendant
Officers told them that they could only avoid jail by
furnishing the police with a gun. (Id., Count VI,
¶ 15.) Because neither of them had a gun, Stokes'
co-arrestee “arranged to obtain a gun.”
(Id., Count VI, ¶¶ 16-17.) Once “a
gun was tendered” to Defendant Officers, Stokes was
released and requested that the other individual be released
as well. (Id., Count VI, ¶¶ 18-19.)
Defendant Officers replied that Stokes' co-arrestee would
be released only if Stokes found them another gun.
(Id.) Because he did not have a gun, “Stokes
was ordered to hit the streets and obtain or buy an illegal
gun and turn it over.” (Id., Count VI,
¶¶ 20-22.) Both were released once this second gun
was found and presented to Defendant Officers. (Id.,
Count VI, ¶ 27.)
respect to the City, Stokes alleges that both Defendant
Officers were acting within the scope of their employment and
pursuant to “a custom practice and policy to arrest
people on false charges and then in turn, have them conduct
illegal felonious acts for the Chicago Police.”
(Compl., Count VI, ¶¶ 22-23.) This “unwritten
practice, customs [sic] and policy was done to keep
a point/score for police officers in certain districts and
reward officers accordingly for bringing in illegal guns off
the street(s).” (Id., Count VI, ¶ 24.)
Ultimately, Stokes attributes his false arrest to this
“custom, practice and policy, ” which
“promoted illegal arrests of innocent
individuals.” (Id., Count VI, ¶¶
City now seeks to dismiss Stokes' Monell claim
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on
which relief can be granted.
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint
“must state a claim that is plausible on its
face.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, , 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim enjoys “facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads sufficient factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the alleged misconduct.” Adams, 742
F.3d at 728 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009)). A plaintiff must allege that all elements
of his claim are satisfied, but cannot survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss by alleging only legal
conclusions. Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623
F.3d 1143, 1147 (7th Cir. 2010). “Threadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678.
to Monell claims for municipal liability, the
plaintiff must allege “that an official policy or
custom not only caused the constitutional violation, but was
the moving force behind it.” Estate of Sims ex rel.
Sims v. Cnty. of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 514 (7th Cir.
2008) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord,
Teesdale v. City of Chicago, 690 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir.
2012). To state such a claim, the plaintiff must allege that:
(1) he suffered a deprivation of a federal right (2) as a
result of either an express municipal policy, widespread
custom, or deliberate act of a decision-maker with final
policy-making authority for the city, which (3) was the
proximate cause of his injury. See, Monell v. New York
City Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91
(1978); accord, Gonzalez v. Vill. of West Milwaukee,
671 F.3d 649, 664 (7th Cir. 2012). The plaintiff must also
plausibly point to the existence of an underlying
constitutional violation. Houskins v. Sheahan, 549
F.3d 480, 493-94 (7th Cir. 2008).
essence, Stokes is suing the City for instituting an implicit
policy, custom, or practice that rewards officers in
proportion to the number of guns confiscated and licenses the
arrest of individuals on false charges unless they can obtain
and turn over a gun. (ECF No. 23 (“Pl.'s Br.) at
3-4.) This policy, as applied to him, allegedly violated his
rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Compl.
City contends that Stokes' Complaint fatally lacks the
requisite specificity to allege a plausible Monell
claim. Conclusory and boilerplate allegations, the City
points out, leave a complaint stranded. Further, the City
argues that Stokes has not provided facts permitting an
inference that the alleged policy was the driving force
behind his injury - “that a widespread reward system
directed or even influenced the Defendant Officers'
actions” - or that the City was deliberately
indifferent to the effects of its policy. (ECF No. 24
(“Reply”) at 5-6.) In addition, the City
maintains that the Complaint fails to elevate what happened
to Stokes and his co-arrestee above a “random event,
” because it does not identify other instances of the
conduct claimed to be “widespread.” (Id.
at 3-4.) (The City does not claim that Stokes fails to allege