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Porter v. Caro

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

December 7, 2017

SADE PORTER, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER RICHARD C. CARO, OFFICER BENJAMIN GARCIA, and the CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Sade Porter has brought a five count amended complaint against Chicago Police Department Officers Richard Caro and Benjamin Garcia and the City of Chicago. Count I asserts a claim for illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and failure to intervene. Count II is a claim for excessive force, also in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and failure to intervene. Count III is a state law claim for false imprisonment and Count IV is a state law claim for battery. Count V is a claim for indemnification brought against the City. Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on her illegal seizure and false imprisonment claims, asking the court to find that defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity for individual liability. Defendants opposed that motion, which the court denied, but failed to file a cross-motion for summary judgment, apparently due to an oversight. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all counts. Because, as discussed below, practically all the material facts in this case are hotly disputed, the court denies defendants' motion, which borders on the frivolous.

         FACTS[1]

         This case is notable for the number of disputed material facts and the degree to which those facts vary. The following undisputed facts comprise a brief outline of the case. Additional disputed facts will be discussed, and noted, throughout this opinion. On July 17, 2015, Officer Caro and Officer Garcia (''defendants'') were patrolling a two-block area that encompassed the intersection of West Huron Street and North Homan Avenue. Defendants drove an umarked police car. While they were patrolling, defendants noticed plaintiff standing at or near the intersection of West Huron Street and North Homan Avenue. At some point after that, plaintiff walked in the opposite direction of defendants. When plaintiff started walking away from defendants they drove in her direction and attempted to get her attention, but plaintiff ignored them. Defendants eventually made contact with plaintiff, placed her in handcuffs, and detained her in the back of their vehicle while they took turns searching the immediate area for narcotics. None were found. Defendants asked plaintiff for her name and identification, but she refused to comply. After some period of time, defendants informed plaintiff that she was free to go and she did just that.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving papers and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once a moving party has met its burden, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Assoc., Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 110 (7th Cir. 1990). The court considers the evidence as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Green v. Carlson, 826 F.2d 647, 651 (7th Cir. 1987).

         A genuine issue of material fact exists when ''the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'' Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The nonmoving party must, however, Ado more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt about the material facts.'' Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). ''The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position will be insufficient, there must be some evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmoving party].'' Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Disputed facts are material when they might affect the outcome of the suit. First Ind. Bank v. Baker, 957 F.2d 506, 507-08 (7th Cir. 1992).

         II. Analysis

         A. Seizure

         With respect to the seizure, there are two questions the court must answer. See Pike v. Foster, 2016 WL 537940, *3 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 11, 2016). The first is whether defendants had a reasonable suspicion to stop plaintiff. The second is whether the subsequent seizure, including handcuffing and detaining plaintiff, was reasonable. Id. According to defendants, the answer to both of these inquiries is yes.

         ''Police officers may conduct a brief investigatory stop of a person when they have reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.'' Id. at *4 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968)). Reasonable suspicion is less demanding than probable cause. Id. (citing United States. v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989)). There must be ''at least a minimum level of objective justification for making the stop.'' Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123 (2000). This standard requires more than an ''inarticulate hunch.'' Terry, 392 U.S. at 22. Courts Aexamine the totality of the circumstances known to the police at the time of the stop, including the experience of the officers and the behavior and characteristics of the suspect.'' Pike, 2016 WL 537940 at *4 (citing United States. v. Lenoir, 318 F.3d 725, 729 (7th Cir. 2003)). ''When determining whether an investigatory stop was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, courts examine (a) 'whether the police were aware of specific and articulable facts giving rise to a reasonable suspicion'; and (b) 'whether the degree of the intrusion was reasonably related to the known facts.''' Pike, 2016 WL 5347940 at *3 (quoting United States. v. Tilmon, 19 F.3d 1221, 1224 (7th Cir. 1994); United States. v. Bullock, 632 F.3d 1004, 1012 (7th Cir. 2011)).

         Defendants argue that, even viewing the facts in plaintiff's favor, they had a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding their interactions with plaintiff. The problem with defendants' argument is that it is based on the facts as they present them which, despite being described by defendants as undisputed, are in fact hotly contested.

         First, defendants contend that they saw plaintiff standing by herself on the corner by a bus stop for several minutes, including after the bus had passed, which defendants found suspicious. Plaintiff, however, does not concede these facts. According to plaintiff, she and her girlfriend briefly went to a friend's house (which was on the corner where defendants observed plaintiff) and left to walk to the ...


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