UCHE P. MORDI, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Todd Zeigler, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
April 20, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Illinois. No. 11-CV-193-MJR - Michael J. Reagan,
Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.
January 2012, proceeding pro se, Uche P. Mordi, a
Nigerian national, filed a civil rights action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against local and state officials for
alleged violations associated with his 2009 arrest in
southern Illinois. The district court screened Mordi's
civil rights complaint, as required by 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. It dismissed with prejudice all claims except for
those against three of the officers; the surviving claims
relied on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, art.
36.1(b), Apr. 24, 1963, 21 U.S.T. 77, 596 U.N.T.S.
261 ("the Vienna Convention"). After the district
court rejected the officers' assertion of qualified
immunity on the Vienna Convention claims, they took an
interlocutory appeal to this court. We ruled that all
three-Todd Zeigler, Greg Chance, and Gregg Healey-were
entitled to qualified immunity from Mordi's claim that
they violated his rights under the Vienna Convention, and we
remanded "with instructions to dismiss the action"
against these three. Mordi v. Zeigler, 770 F.3d
1161, 1167 (7th Cir. 2014).
November 21, 2014, the district court dismissed the Vienna
Convention claims against Zeigler, Chance, and Healey and
entered final judgment on November 24, thus disposing of all
claims against all parties brought by Mordi's January
2012 complaint. In an effort to revive his other theories for
recovery, Mordi filed a motion on December 18, 2014,
requesting that the district court revisit its section 1915A
threshold screening order. The district court denied
Mordi's motion, and Mordi has now brought a timely appeal
from that decision. With the Vienna Convention claims off the
table, Mordi now argues that Officers Zeigler and Nathan
Zerrusen violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they
stopped the car he was driving. They did so, Mordi asserts,
not because they had probable cause for the traffic stop, but
because they were engaged in impermissible racial profiling.
In addition, he argues, the officers unlawfully prolonged the
stop so that they could bring a drug-sniffing dog to the car.
We conclude that the district court acted prematurely, and
that Mordi's Fourth Amendment claim may move forward.
review of the underlying facts can be brief. At approximately
1:10 p.m. on March 12, 2009, Mordi and a passenger, Aderinola
Otesile, were traveling southbound on Interstate 57 in
southern Illinois. They passed two Illinois state police cars
parked in the median, one facing northbound, the other
southbound. About ten minutes later, the northbound-facing
car, driven by State Trooper Zeigler, pulled out into the
southbound lane, approached Mordi's car, and signaled for
him to pull over.
complied immediately. Zeigler approached the vehicle on the
passenger side and asked why the license plate was not on the
front bumper, but instead was inside on the windshield. Mordi
explained that the grille and bumper were cracked, and so he
was not able to attach the plate to the front bumper. Zeigler
also told him that the hood was not closed all the way; Mordi
countered that the space between the hood and the body of the
car was less than an inch.
that exchange, Zeigler asked Mordi for his license and
insurance, and Mordi furnished both. Zeigler also asked for
Otesile's identification. At that point Zeigler asked
Mordi to get into the squad car; Mordi did so. By now Zeigler
knew that Mordi was a student at Southern Illinois
University, and so he asked Mordi questions about the school,
his travel plans, and similar things, while he checked out
Mordi's identification. Based on the results, Zeigler
asked Mordi about an outstanding warrant for failure to
appear in a misdemeanor marijuana case from White County,
Illinois. Mordi said he knew nothing about any warrant, but
he admitted that he had paid fines and complied with an
unspecified disposition related to such an offense. He then
commented that he "could only imagine a DUI case
pending, if any."
point Officer Zerrusen had joined the group. Mordi remained
in the squad car for a few minutes while Zeigler and Zerrusen
questioned Otesile, who was still sitting in Mordi's car.
Zeigler returned to Mordi and told him that "everything
was good/' and that he would issue Mordi a warning
citation. He did so, gave it to Mordi to sign, and returned
Mordi's identification to him. But the encounter was not
yet over. Zeigler then asked Mordi if there were drugs in the
car, and Mordi responded (somewhat equivocally) "there
shouldn't be." Zeigler asked if he could search the
car, but Mordi said no, several times. Some 20 minutes or so
into the stop, at 1:34 p.m., Zeigler radioed for Rob Rich, of
the Effingham County Sheriff's Department, to come to the
car with his drug-sniffing dog. Rich arrived ten minutes
later; the dog sniffed the car; and it alerted. The officers
ordered Mordi and Otesile out of the car, searched it, and
found crack cocaine in Mordi's duffle bag in the back
and Otesile were taken separately to the state police station
in Effingham. Eventually, however, Mordi was charged with,
and pleaded guilty to, federal drug charges for possessing
with intent to distribute the cocaine. He is now serving a
120-month sentence for that conviction.
brought the present case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because
he believes that the officers involved in his stop and
detention violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The district
court received the complaint on March 14, 2011. It is not
late, however, because Mordi was incarcerated at the time,
and he mailed his complaint from the prison on March 11,
2011. That gives him the benefit of the prison mailbox rule,
see Taylor v. Brown,787 F.3d 851, 858-59 (7th Cir.
2015), under which his complaint is treated as filed within
the two-year limit. See 735 ILCS 5/13-202. The district court
dismissed with prejudice some, but not all, counts of
Mordi's complaint. Its decision to deny qualified
immunity to some of the defendants was immediately