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Johnsonn v. Pirtle

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 19, 2018

KALE PIRTLE, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (Doc. 37) of Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson with regard to the cross motions for summary judgment in this case (Docs. 33, 35). The plaintiff has objected to the Report (Doc. 38). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 33) and DENIES the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 35).

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case is about whether a police officer had the requisite reasonable suspicion and probable cause to effectuate a legal traffic stop and arrest. In 2013, Officer Kale Pirtle stopped Harold Johnson because one of the registration lights on Johnson's car was not “clearly legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear”, in violation of 625 ILCS 5/12-201(c). (Doc. 33-8, p. 21.) After Pirtle arrested Johnson, the state later charged Johnson with counts of impersonating a police officer and driving under the influence of alcohol. (Doc. 35, pp. 8-9.) Johnson's attorney filed a motion to quash the arrest and suppress evidence on the grounds that Pirtle stopped Johnson in violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, but after an evidentiary hearing, the state court entered an order denying the motion and finding that the stop was legal. (Doc. 33-8, pp. 7-30; Doc. 33-11, p. 1.) Ultimately, a jury found Johnson guilty of the DUI charge.

         Now, Johnson has filed suit against Pirtle in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The suit initially alleged a number of claims, but following threshold review, the Court allowed Pirtle to proceed on only one: whether “Defendant Pirtle deliberately stopped and arrested Plaintiff without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments . . . .” (Doc. 11, pp. 3, 8.) Since then, both Johnson and Pirtle have filed motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 33, 35.) Pirtle argues that Johnson's claim is barred under the doctrine of collateral estoppel because the underlying state court has already adjudicated the Fourth Amendment issue. (Doc. 33.) In opposition, Johnson continues to assert that the traffic stop and arrest violated his Fourth Amendment rights because the stop was pretextual, among other things. (Doc. 35.) In Magistrate Judge Wilkerson's Report, he recommends that this Court grant Pirtle's motion for summary judgment because the doctrine of collateral estoppel clearly applies to this case. (Doc. 37.)


         A. Standard of Review

         The Court may accept, reject, or modify-in whole or in part-the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge in a report and recommendation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The Court must review de novo the portions of the report to which objections are made. Id. “If no objection or only partial objection is made, the district court judge reviews those unobjected portions for clear error.” Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment must be granted “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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir. 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

         The initial summary judgment burden of production is on the moving party to show the Court that there is no reason to have a trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 2013). If the moving party bears the burden of persuasion on an issue at trial, it must “lay out the elements of the claim, cite the facts which it believes satisfies these elements, and demonstrate why the record is so one-sided as to rule out the prospect of a finding in favor of the non-movant on the claim.” Hotel 71 Mezz Lender LLC v. National Ret. Fund, 778 F.3d 593, 601 (7th Cir. 2015); accord Felix v. Wisconsin Dep't of Transp., 828 F.3d 560, 570 (7th Cir. 2016). Where the moving party fails to meet that strict burden, the Court cannot enter summary judgment for that party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

         In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings, but rather must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57; Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1168. A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of “some alleged factual dispute between the parties, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact only exists if “a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Here, the Court has received and reviewed Johnson's 55 numbered objections to the Report. None of these objections, however, strike the heart of Magistrate Judge Wilkerson's examination. In the Report, Magistrate Judge Wilkerson analyzed the elements of collateral estoppel under Illinois law: “(1) the issue decided in the prior adjudication is identical with the one presented in the suit in question, (2) there was a final judgment on the merits in the prior adjudication, and (3) the party against whom estoppel is asserted was a party or in privity with a party to the prior adjudication.” Talarico v. Dunlap, 226 Ill.Dec. 222, 685 N.E.2d 325, 328 (Ill. 1997) (citing Illinois State Chamber of Commerce v. Pollution Control Bd., 34 Ill.Dec. 334, 398 N.E.2d 9, 11-12 (1979)). Illinois law is the proper vehicle here: when determining the collateral effect that a state ...

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