United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE EDMOND E. CHANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
early July 2015, Lorenzo Smith was driving with his
girlfriend, Jasmin McBride, when he was stopped by police. R.
121, Jt. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 15-16.What started as a
routine traffic stop turned into an alleged scheme to extort
guns from Smith and from McBride's mother, Patricia
Hicks, in exchange for McBride's freedom. See
Id. ¶ 14. Hicks filed a lawsuit, and then Smith and
McBride filed a separate one. The Court consolidated the two
separate cases, and the Plaintiffs have now filed a joint
complaint. See R. 112, 09/29/17 Opinion at 28-29; R.
130 (terminating Case No. 17 C 4951). The Plaintiffs bring a
variety of claims, but only two are pertinent for this
Opinion: (a) Smith's claim for illegal seizure under the
Fourth Amendment (Count 1); and (b) his claim that the
Defendants failed to prevent the Fourth Amendment violation
(Count 3). Now one of the police officers named in
the suit moves to dismiss those counts. R. 122, Def. Mot. to
Dismiss at 1-2. For the reasons discussed below, the motion
to dismiss is denied.
purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true the
allegations in the Joint Amended Complaint. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The Plaintiffs allege
that, sometime before July 2015, a group of Defendant
Officers- among them Lynwood police officer Michael
Mears-agreed to obtain firearms from civilians by using
threats of prosecution and by force. Jt. Am. Compl. ¶
14. The ensuing encounters were not to be officially
reported. Id. According to the Plaintiffs, the Cook
County Sheriff's Office condones these shakedowns by
their officers, sometimes even in coordination with other
police departments. Id. ¶ 10.
noted earlier, in July 2015, Lorenzo Smith was stopped by
officers while driving; his girlfriend Jasmine McBride was a
passenger in the car. Jt. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 15-16.
According to the Plaintiffs, the traffic stop was part of
joint activity between the Village of Lynwood Police and Cook
County Sheriff's deputies. See Id. ¶¶
6, 15. Although it is unclear why the officers pulled Smith
over in the first place, Smith admitted to the officers that
he did not have a valid driver's license. Id.
¶ 17. During the stop, the officers discovered (through
their databases) that McBride was on probation. Id.
¶ 19. (It is unclear what led the officers to look up
McBride's records, as she was the passenger, not the
to Smith and McBride, Officers Mousel and Murphy began to
threaten them, demanding that they obtain and turn over
firearms to the officers. Jt. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. But
neither of them even owned a gun. Id. ¶ 29. The
officers threatened that if Smith and McBride refused or
failed to get the guns, the officers would falsely charge
McBride with a crime. Id. Because she was on
probation, the threat of an arrest put McBride at significant
risk of going to prison, because a revocation of probation
could lead to prison. Id. ¶ 20.
demanding the guns and threatening McBride with false
charges, the officers asked Smith, “how much do you
love her, ” to put more pressure on him. Jt. Am. Compl.
¶ 22. The officers eventually released Smith without
charges, despite the fact that he had admitted to driving
without a license. Id. ¶ 21. But they took
McBride into custody, putting her into the backseat of a
police car and taking her away from Smith. Id.
¶¶ 22, 26. The officers did not write an official
report describing the events of the stop or explaining why
Smith was released without charges. Id. ¶ 24.
there, the Joint Amended Complaint is silent on details of
Smith's involvement in the resulting exchange of
gun-for-dismissal; that exchange primarily involved
McBride's mother, Patricia Hicks. More generally, Smith does
allege that he submitted to the officers' show of
authority and was “conscripted into the illegal scheme
to purchase unlawful firearms.” Jt. Am. Compl. ¶
23. And Smith asserts that he “took acts in furtherance
of the efforts of the individual defendants to obtain
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint
generally need only include “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain
statement must “give the defendant fair notice of what
the … claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (cleaned up). The Seventh Circuit has explained
that this rule “reflects a liberal notice pleading
regime, which is intended to ‘focus litigation on the
merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that
might keep plaintiffs out of court.” Brooks v.
Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514
motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of
Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).
“[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth
are those that are factual, rather than mere legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
Fourth Amendment Seizure (Count 1)
1983 is the cause of action by which someone may vindicate
constitutional rights. West v. Atkins,487 U.S. 42,
49-50 (1988); Kernats v. O'Sullivan, 35 F.3d
1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1994). The section is not the source of
substantive rights, so the first step in pursuing a §
1983 claim is to “identify the specific constitutional
right allegedly infringed.” Albright v.
Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). ...