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Thomas v. Splittorff

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 19, 2017

FRANK THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH SPLITTORFF, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         A Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Joseph Splittorff is pending before this Court. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Frank Thomas filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging multiple violations of his constitutional rights. Thomas originally filed his complaint on September 4, 2015. (Doc. 1). The Court dismissed that complaint on October 5, 2015, for failure to state a claim and directed Thomas to file an amended complaint no later than November 2, 2015. (Doc. 6). Thomas filed his Amended Complaint on October 21, 2015. (Doc. 10). The Court subsequently reviewed the Amended Complaint and severed the claims into separate actions. (Doc. 14, p. 8). Remaining here are Thomas's claims that Joseph Splittorff, a police officer employed by the City of Alton, Illinois: (1) arrested Thomas without a warrant or probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) improperly interrogated Thomas in violation of the Fifth Amendment; and (3) searched and confiscated Thomas's property without a warrant or probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 14, pp. 1, 8).

         Thomas was housed at the Madison County Jail when he filed his original Complaint on September 4, 2015. (Doc. 2, ¶1). Multiple filings sent by Thomas from the Madison County Jail were received by this Court through December 23, 2015. (Docs. 8-13). In its August 9, 2016 Order severing three of Thomas's claims, however, the Court noted that records from the Illinois Department of Corrections showed Thomas had been transferred to Robinson Correctional Center. (Doc. 14, p. 3). Thomas had not filed a notice of change of address as required by Local Rule 3.1(b) and the Court's earlier Order (Doc. 6, p. 7).

         Subsequently, Splittorff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 26). A notice regarding the filing of the motion was sent to Thomas at Robinson Correctional Center. (Doc. 29, p. 4). On October 3, 2016, Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson issued an Order directing Thomas to show cause in writing why this matter should not be dismissed for failure to follow the Local Rules regarding notice of change of address, and informing Thomas that he must respond to the pending Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] (Doc. 30, pp. 1-2). The Order to Show Cause (Doc. 30), along with the Scheduling Order (Doc. 24), were sent to Thomas at both his address of record (the Madison County Jail) and his more recent address at the Robinson Correctional Center (Doc. 30, p. 1).[2]

         Thomas filed a notice of change of address on October 31, 2016, stating that he was housed at the Robinson Correctional Center. (Doc. 34). As of the date of this order, however, Thomas has not responded to the Motion for Summary Judgment.[3]

         Analysis

         I. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper only where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). Courts review the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, to determine whether there are genuine issues of fact or the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 931-32 (7th Cir. 2001). The court must view the record, and any inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts, in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962); Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 931-32 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). If material issues of fact exist that would allow a reasonable jury to find in favor of the non-moving party, summary judgment is inappropriate. Spurling, 739 F.3d at 1060.

         The Court notes that Thomas did not file a response to the Motion for Summary Judgment. This does not, however, absolve the Court of its obligation to determine whether material issues of fact exist and Splittorff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 161 (1970). Because the movant bears the initial burden, if the evidence produced in support of summary judgment is insufficient, “summary judgment must be denied even if no opposing evidentiary matter is presented.Id. at 160 (emphasis added).

         Further, the Court has discretion to consider the affidavits filed by Thomas with his Amended Complaint for purposes of determining whether to grant the Motion for Summary Judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). Given the pro se nature of the action and the fact that Thomas's request for appointment of counsel was denied (Doc. 18, p. 1), the Court chooses to exercise its discretion. The Court cautions Mr. Thomas, however, that further failure to respond to motions, discovery requests, or orders of this Court will likely result in his claims being dismissed for failure to prosecute.

         II. Analysis of Summary Judgment

         When assessing summary judgment on a § 1983 claim, a Court must determine: (1) whether the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) whether this conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Armato v. ...


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