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Blocker v. The City of Chicago

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

August 2, 2017

Aaron Blocker, Plaintiff,
The City of Chicago, et al., Defendants.


          Manish S. Shah United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Aaron Blocker, proceeding pro se, asserts several civil rights claims against the City of Chicago, city officials, and police officers. The defendants move to dismiss all claims against them. Blocker responded with a motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted and Blocker's motion for summary judgment is denied.

         I. Legal Standards

         Courts must construe pro se complaints liberally and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011). The essence of liberal construction is to give a pro se plaintiff a break when, although he stumbles on a technicality, his pleading is otherwise understandable. Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 1998). But to survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain factual allegations that plausibly suggest a right to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). The court must accept all factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, but the court need not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations. Id. at 678-79. Blocker's affidavit (and exhibits) submitted with his complaint are considered part of his complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Aaron Blocker alleges that shortly after he arrived at his mother's home on the evening of August 8, 2014, Chicago police officers Scott Digrazia, Thomas Fennell, and others entered (without knocking) to execute a search warrant. When the officers entered the residence, Blocker was coming out of the bathroom. An officer detained Blocker, slammed him to the ground, put handcuffs on him, and then dragged Blocker from the hallway to the living room to search him. A few minutes later, Officers Digrazia and Fennell escorted Blocker to a rear room of the residence. Once there, Officer Fennell asked Blocker if there was anything illegal in the house, and Blocker responded “No, not to my knowledge.” Officer Digrazia then threatened that if Blocker did not cooperate, they would “tear his mothers' residence apart from top to bottom” and whatever they found would be charged to Blocker. Officer Fennell then escorted Blocker to the backyard while Officer Digrazia and others searched the home, recovering several “illegal items” throughout the residence and causing destruction to the structure of the residence and personal property located within it. Officer Fennell told Blocker that he would be charged for these illegal items and attempted to coerce Blocker into providing information about any known illegal activity that would lead to an arrest, in exchange for Blocker's freedom.

         Blocker was then transported to District 005 and placed in a cold holding cell for several hours without heat, a blanket, or proper clothing. Before being fingerprinted, Blocker demanded to be informed of the charges against him, to place a call to his attorney or family, and to be taken to the nearest judge before being fingerprinted, but Officer Digrazia became frustrated with Blocker and placed him in a colder holding cell for twelve additional hours for “refusal to be processed.” Blocker finally agreed to be fingerprinted and processed in exchange for two phone calls, adequate clothing, and a warmer cell. Blocker was fingerprinted and transported to Cook County Jail, where he remained until his release on December 1, 2015, after a Cook County Judge ruled that there was no probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant and that the good faith exception did not apply. Blocker's motion for a Certificate of Innocence under 735 ILCS 5/2-702 was denied in March 2016.

         In September 2014, Blocker sent a complaint to the Independent Police Review Authority about Officers Digrazia and Fennell. Two months later, Blocker filed a complaint with the Chicago Police Department Internal Affairs Division, alleging that Officers Digrazia and Fennell engaged in misconduct.[1] Sergeant Mark Lamberg was responsible for investigating Blocker's complaint. Over the next two years, Blocker and his family repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to contact Sergeant Lamberg about the status of the investigation, with Blocker making a final attempt in December 2015.

         In May 2016, Blocker sent Anna Valencia, the Chicago City Clerk, a claim seeking $600, 000 in compensation due for the police officers' alleged acts in August 2014. A few days later, Blocker received a letter from Patrick Harmon, a City claims adjuster, stating that his claim could not be processed. Blocker alleges that Harmon said his claim could not be processed because the statute of limitations had passed. [30] ¶ 42. However, the letter (attached to Blocker's complaint) stated that the Claims Unit received Blocker's claim but that it did not fall within the three types of claims accepted by the Claims Unit, which were: (1) motor vehicle accidents involving personal injury or property damage; (2) general liability claims involving property damage, such as vehicle damage from a road condition; and (3) general liability claims involving personal injury, such as a fall on public property. [31] at 73. On Blocker's summary of events submitted with his claim, a post-it note stated “1 year statue [sic] of limitation.” [31] at 77; [36] at 24.

         Blocker brought suit in January 2017, [1], and later amended his complaint, [30], bringing claims against Officers Digrazia and Fennell for his treatment during the search, his arrest, and detention (Counts I and II); a Monell claim against the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson (Count III); a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Sergeant Lamberg, Anna Valencia, and Patrick Harmon (Count IV); and a tort claim under Illinois law consisting of multiple causes of action against all defendants (Count V). Blocker also submitted an affidavit in support of his amended complaint. [31]. Defendants move to dismiss all claims against them. [34].

         III. Motion to Strike

         Blocker responded to the defendants' motion by moving for summary judgment and submitting several exhibits, [36], as well as a statement of undisputed facts. [35]. Because discovery has not yet commenced, summary judgment is premature, and I deny Blocker's motion for summary judgment. Instead, his motion for summary judgment and supporting materials are construed as his opposition brief to the defendants' motion to dismiss. Although the defendants seek to strike Blocker's submission as unresponsive to their motion, I decline to strike it because Blocker addresses several of the defendants' arguments for dismissal.

         IV. Analysis

         A. Claims Against Officers ...

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