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Battle v. Alderden

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

September 19, 2017

RUBEN BATTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
JACOB ALDERDEN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Ruben Battle (“Battle”), formerly a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy, has sued Chicago Police Officer Jacob Alderden (“Alderden”) and the City of Chicago (collectively, “Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Battle's claims arise from an incident in which he refused to identify a suspect in a crime that Alderden was investigating, following which Alderden purportedly threatened him and then reported him to the Sheriff's department for disciplinary action. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion [112] is granted.

         Factual Background

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.[1] Battle was employed as a security guard at a Walgreens store in Chicago on March 16, 2012. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 1, ECF No. 113. He was concurrently employed as a sheriff's deputy by the Cook County Sheriff's Office (“Sheriff's Office”), but he was not on duty in that capacity on March 16. Id. ¶ 2. He was, however, wearing a vest emblazoned with the sheriff's star that identified him as a sheriff's deputy on that day. Id. ¶ 50.

         While working at Walgreens on March 16, Battle was standing outside the store with Jerry McGhee, [2] a store clerk, when he saw a man attempting to fire a gun at a moving vehicle. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 9, 11-14. He then saw the man hand the gun to someone else. Id. ¶ 16. Battle went inside the Walgreens store to report what he had seen to Jamal Wright, the store manager. Id. ¶ 18. Alderden, a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department, was notified of the issue and called to the scene. Id. ¶¶ 6, 19, 21.

         Battle told Alderden that the recipient of the gun had taken it into a nearby park. See Id. ¶ 23. He also described the clothing the individuals had been wearing. Id. Specifically, Battle observed that the individual carrying the gun into the park wore a jacket with “some lettering in the back” that “was like a square type of a[n] area.” Id., Ex. A, Battle Dep., at 51:23-52:1. Alderden proceeded to the park, recovered a gun, detained certain individuals he found there, and conducted a “show-up identification” with witnesses who were still at the Walgreens store. Id. ¶¶ 25-27. During the show-up, Battle told Alderden that he could only identify the individuals by their clothing but suggested that McGhee might be able to provide a better identification. See Id. ¶¶ 29, 30.

         Despite being concerned for his safety, McGhee participated in the identification process. Id. ¶¶ 35-36. McGhee identified two individuals as having been involved in the attempted shooting. Id., Ex. C, Alderden Dep., at 37:11-15. After McGhee participated in the identification process, another officer asked Battle whether he could identify a specific individual as one of the suspects. Id. ¶¶ 36, 38. Battle recognized the back of the individual's jacket as bearing the same design as the jacket the suspects had worn. Id. ¶¶ 39, 41. He could not, however, identify the suspect by his face. Id. ¶ 42.

         Alderden then told Battle he would need to come to court and identify the suspect. Id. ¶ 44. According to Battle, he presumed that he would be asked to identify the individual by face, rather than identifying the person by his jacket. Id., Ex. A, Battle Dep., at 92:5-93:3. And so Battle refused, explaining again that he had not seen the suspect's face. Id. ¶ 45. In response, Alderden asked Battle, “Have you ever testified in court before? I'll tell you what to say. If you don't know what to say, I'll tell you what to say.” Id. at 93:12-18; id. ¶¶ 46, 47. At that point, again assuming that Alderden did not want him to simply identify the person by the clothes that he wore, but also by face, Battle became “suspicious” that Alderden was attempting to “set [him] up to identify who that guy was.” Id., Ex. A., Battle Dep., at 92:5-93:3, 94:9-14. Despite this suspicion, however, Battle did not ask Alderden what he meant by his statement or what Alderden wanted him to say in court, and refused to provide any testimony at all. Id. ¶ 48.

         Soon thereafter, Alderden asked Battle what he wanted Alderden to put in his police report, and Battle said he could not tell him what to say. Id. ¶¶ 54, 55. Alderden told Battle that he knew people in “high places” at Walgreens and that he would never work at Walgreens again if he did not cooperate with the investigation. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 3, 4, ECF No. 126; Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 3, 4, ECF No. 140. Battle further claims that Alderden was “loud and belligerent in tone and manner” toward him, which Alderden denies. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 5; Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 5.

         Later, Alderden made an official complaint to the Sheriff's Office stating that Battle had failed to cooperate and had recanted a prior identification. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 58.[3] Alderden believed that because Battle was a law enforcement officer, he had a duty to cooperate with other law enforcement officers. Id. ¶ 64.[4] The Sheriff's Office then opened an investigation into Battle based on two separate allegations: (1) whether he had failed to cooperate with Alderden, and (2) whether he had filed the proper secondary employment paperwork with the Sheriff's Office with respect to his employment at Walgreens. Id. ¶ 67. In his complaint, Battle alleges that he was ultimately de-deputized because of his lack of proper secondary employment paperwork. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 20, ECF No. 48. As a result of the de-deputization, he lost his secondary employment with Walgreens. Id. ¶ 18.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court gives “the non-moving party the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that could be drawn from it.” Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rose & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th Cir. 2013). In order to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmovant “must establish some genuine issue for trial such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in [his] favor.” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Analysis

         Battle claims that Alderden's actions denied him equal protection of the laws as a class of one under the Fourteenth Amendment.[5] In addition to prohibiting the government from discriminating on the basis of certain “immutable characteristics, ” the Equal Protection Clause also protects against government actors irrationally “singling out a person for arbitrary abuse.” Brunson v. Murray, 843 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2016).[6] Such a “class-of-one” claim requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that he has suffered “intentional, irrational, and arbitrary discrimination.” Bell v. Duperrault, 367 F.3d 703, 707 (7th Cir. 2004). The plaintiff's burden of proof is “very significant.” Id. at 708.

         A class-of-one plaintiff must show that (1) he has been intentionally treated differently from someone who is similarly situated and (2) there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment. Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000) (per curiam). It is the plaintiff's burden to prove the lack of a rational basis by excluding all possible rational explanations for the government action. Fares Pawn, LLC v. Ind. Dep't of Fin. Insts., 755 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 2014); Smith v. City of Chi., 457 F.3d 643, 652 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Identifying similarly situated comparators who were treated differently can be used to demonstrate the absence of a rational basis. Fares Pawn, 755 F.3d at 845. Where the lack of a rational basis can be proven through a pattern of discriminatory harassment alone, however, the plaintiff need not identify a similarly situated comparator. B ...


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