Thorncreek Apartments III, LLC, a foreign limited liability company d/b/a The Lofts at Thorncreek, Plaintiff-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant,
Tom Mick, Defendant-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee. and Thorncreek Management, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee, VILLAGE OF PARK FOREST, Plaintiff-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee, and TOM MICK, Third-Party Defendant-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee, and MAE BRANDON, et al., Third-Party Defendants/ Cross-Appellees,
THORNCREEK APARTMENTS II, LLC, Defendant-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant, and ATLANTIC MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee. THORNCREEK APARTMENTS I, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant, and THORNCREEK MANAGEMENT, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee, TOM MICK, individually and as Village Manager for the Village of Park Forest, Defendant-Appellant, and VILLAGE OF PARK FOREST, et al., Defendants/ Cross-Appellees.
May 18, 2017
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. Nos. 08 C
1225, 08 C 0869, 08 C 4303 - Gary Feinerman, Judge.
Bauer, Easterbrook, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
consolidated appeals challenge various aspects of a judgment
entered on a split jury verdict in a long-running dispute
between the Village of Park Forest, Illinois, and Thorncreek
Apartments, a large housing complex located in the Village.
Thorncreek accused village officials of engaging in a
campaign of regulatory harassment based on personal animus
against its owner and because many of its residents are
black. Thorncreek sued the Village and ten officials for
compensatory and punitive damages under several federal and
state civil-rights laws.
13-day trial, jurors returned a partial verdict for
Thorncreek. The Village and its manager were found liable
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a class-of-one
equal-protection violation, and the village manager and
director of community development were found liable for
conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). In all
other respects, the jury sided with the defendants.
on postverdict motions, the district court tossed out the
jury's liability finding against the
community-development director but otherwise approved the
verdict and entered judgment accordingly. The judge also
granted Thorncreek's motion for prejudgment interest and
atorney's fees, though the award of fees was
approximately one-third of what was requested.
sides appealed, raising assorted challenges to the
judge's postrial rulings on damages, prejudgment
interest, and atorney's fees. We find no error and
is a large townhouse complex nestled in the Village of Park
Forest, a suburb southeast of Chicago that straddles both
Cook County and Will County. In 1989 Thorncreek was sold to
Atlantic Limited Partnership XX, a Michigan partnership
largely owned by David Clapper, its general partner. Clapper
later reorganized the property into three separate limited
liability corporations: Thorncreek Apartments I, LLC;
Thorncreek Apartments II, LLC; and Thorncreek Apartments III,
LLC. Each corporation operated a different part of the
complex: Thorncreek I ("Area F"), Thorncreek II
("Area G"), and Thorncreek III ("Area
H"). We refer to the three corporations collectively as
"Thorncreek" unless the context requires otherwise.
Atlantic Limited sold Thorncreek I for roughly $16 million.
The leasing office for the entire complex was located in a
townhouse in Area F, so the sale caused a logistical problem.
Thorncreek's management company proposed to relocate the
leasing office to a vacant townhouse in Area G, which was
owned and operated by Thorncreek II. The move required a
conditional use permit, so in February 2007 Thorncreek II
applied to the Village for a permit to use the vacant
townhouse as a business office. In the meantime, however,
Thorncreek began to conduct its business operations from the
Area G townhouse without waiting for action on the permit
application. The Village responded by citing Thorncreek II
for zoning violations and operating without the required
December 2007 the Village filed suit in state court against
Thorncreek II and Atlantic Limited to halt the zoning and
operating violations arising from the unpermited leasing
office and also to redress certain building-code violations.
Thorncreek II removed the suit to federal court, but a
district judge quickly sent it back to state court for lack
of subject-mater jurisdiction. A later removal was
successful; Thorncreek II counterclaimed against the Village
and ten village officials raising a host of federal and state
civil-rights violations. In February 2008 Thorncreek III
filed its own federal lawsuit raising substantially similar
months later Fannie Mae filed foreclosure notices with the
Cook County Recorder of Deeds against Thorncreek II and III.
Thorncreek blamed its predicament on the Village's
regulatory overreach. In July 2008 Thorncreek I joined the
legal batle by filing its own federal suit alleging similar
essence, all three suits alleged that the Village violated
Thorncreek's constitutional rights by denying its
application for a business license, interfering with business
operations, refusing to grant the application for a
conditional use permit, failing to issue a certificate of
occupancy, and unequally enforcing a building-code provision
requiring electrical upgrades. A single district judge took
charge of all three suits, consolidating them for summary
judgment and, if necessary, a trial.
originally pleaded, the case was sprawling. Thorncreek
brought claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985,
and 1986 seeking compensatory and punitive damages for
alleged due-process, equal-protection, and Takings Clause
violations; conspiracy; and failure to prevent a civil-rights
conspiracy. Thorncreek also tacked on claims under the
Illinois Civil Rights Act, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 23/5.
judge trimmed the case a bit on summary judgment, but even as
narrowed the case remained unwieldy. Three groups of claims
were tried to a jury over 13 days: (1) § 1983 claims
against the Village and nine officials for class-of-one and
race-based equal-protection violations; (2) claims under
§§ 1985 and 1986 against the same nine officials
for conspiracy and failure to prevent a civil-rights
conspiracy; and (3) claims against the Village under the
Illinois Civil Rights Act. The basic theory of the case was
that the defendants caused Thorncreek's mortgage default
and foreclosure by singling it out for unfair regulatory
action (and inaction) based on irrational animus against
Clapper and racial bias against its black residents.
prevailed in part. The jury found the Village and Village
Manager Tom Mick liable for a class-of-one equal-protection
violation. The jury also found Mick and Larrie Kerestes, the
director of community development, liable for conspiracy in
violation of § 1985(3). The jury cleared the other
defendants on these two claims and exonerated all defendants
on the remaining claims. On the issue of damages, the jury
awarded $2, 014, 000 in compensatory damages to Thorncreek II
but only $1 in nominal damages to Thorncreek I and III.
Finally, the jury awarded punitive damages against Mick and
Kerestes in the amounts of $5, 000 and $1, 000, respectively.
moved for a new trial under Rule 59(a) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure but only on the issue of damages. The
motion raised several claims of error. The judge rejected
each one and denied relief. Thorncreek also asked for
prejudgment interest on the jury's award of compensatory
damages. The judge granted that request.
and Kerestes both moved for judgment as a mater of law under
Rule 50(b). The jury's verdict against Kerestes was
limited to the § 1985(3) conspiracy claim, but that
statute requires a predicate race-based or class-based
equal-protection violation. Because the jury cleared all of
the defendants on the race-based equal-protection claim, the
judge held that the verdict against Kerestes on the §
1985(3) claim could not stand.
situation was different. His Rule 50(b) motion challenged
only the jury's finding on the § 1985(3) conspiracy
claim; he did not atack the jury's liability finding
against him on the class-of-one equal-protection claim. So
the judge saw no reason to disturb the verdict as to him and
denied his motion. With these adjustments, the judge entered
judgment on the verdict.
later moved for an award of atorney's fees and nontaxable
costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The judge granted the
motion and awarded $430, 999.25 in fees and $44, 844.33 in
costs. The ...