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Rivera v. Guevara

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

June 21, 2018

JACQUES RIVERA, Plaintiff,
v.
REYNALDO GUEVARA, et al. Defendants.

          Eileen E. Rosen One of its attorneys

          Mary M. Rowland Mag. Judge

          DEFENDANT CITY OF CHICAGO'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

          Joan B. Gottschall Judge

         JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

         Defendant City of Chicago (the “City”), by and through its undersigned attorneys, moves this Court to enter judgment in its favor as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In support of their motion, Defendant City states:

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 50 authorizes the entry of judgment as a matter of law if “a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). “In other words, the question is simply whether the evidence as a whole, when combined with all reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence, is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find in favor of the plaintiff.” Hall v. Forest River, Inc., 536 F.3d 615, 619 (7th Cir. 2008). It is proper to enter judgment as a matter of law so long as it has become apparent that Plaintiff cannot prove his case with the evidence already submitted or with that which he plans to submit. Green v. Potter, 557 F.3d 765, 768 (7th Cir. 2009). A mere scintilla of evidence will not suffice to overcome a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Terrell v. Vill. of Univ. Park, CIV. A. 92-C-3320, 1994 WL 30960, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 1994). The motion should be granted when no rational jury could find in favor of the Plaintiff. Venson v. Altamirano, 749 F.3d 641, 646 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Here, Plaintiff has alleged that the City had a practice of failing to document filler identifications for lineups and photo arrays and the City had a practice of systematically withholding investigative files from prosecutors and criminal defendants. Plaintiff also alleges the City's training regarding production of investigative material, writing reports, and conducting and documenting lineups was deficient. Finally, he alleges that the City had a pattern and practice of fabricating evidence. The evidence presented by Plaintiff at trial is insufficient to establish any of Plaintiff's Monell claims. Even accepting Plaintiff's version of the facts, no reasonable jury could find for Plaintiff on any of his claims against the City.

         ARGUMENT

         Liability cannot be imposed against a municipality under Section 1983 pursuant to principles of respondeat superior; rather, Plaintiff must establish that an official “policy” of the City caused him to suffer a violation of his constitutional rights. Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). A municipal policy may be established in three ways: “(1) an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) a widespread practice that, although not authorized by written law or express policy, is so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law; or (3) the act of a person with final policy making authority.” McTigue v. City of Chicago, 60 F.3d 381, 382 (7th Cir. 1995).

         Under any theory, Plaintiff must demonstrate that the City of Chicago was “deliberately indifferent” to the “known or obvious consequences” of the alleged policy. See, e.g., Board of County Commissioners of Bryan County, Oklahoma v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 407 (1997); Montano v. City of Chicago, 535 F.3d 558, 570 (7th Cir. 2008). Even more, Plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of a direct causal link between the municipal policy and the constitutional injury. City of Canton, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989); Bryan County, 520 U.S. at 400.

         For the most part, Plaintiff attempted to prove each of his Monell claims under a “widespread practice” theory. A widespread practice is one in which, “although not authorized by written law or express municipal policy, [was] so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law. McTigue, 60 F.3d at 382. A custom “implies a habitual practice of a course of action that characteristically is repeated under the circumstances.” Sims v. Mulcahy, 902 F.2d 524, 542 (7th Cir. 1990). It is not enough to demonstrate that policymakers could, or even should, have been aware of the unlawful activity because it occurred more than once. Id. Plaintiff must introduce evidence demonstrating that the unlawful practice was so pervasive that acquiescence on the part of the policymakers was apparent and amounted to a policy decision.” Id.; see also Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 774 (7th Cir. 2008) (“what is needed is evidence that there is a true policy at issue, not a random event”).

         I. Plaintiff Failed to Present Sufficient Evidence of a Due Process Violation.

         As an initial matter, to prove any Monell claim against the City, Plaintiff must first prove that he suffered a violation of his constitutional rights. See Sallenger v. City of Springfield, Ill., 630 F.3d 499, 504 (7th Cir.2010) (jury's conclusive verdict on the underlying constitutional claim means no Monell liability). In this case, Plaintiff alleged his right to due process was violated because Defendant Officers fabricated evidence and withheld material exculpatory evidence. As explained in Defendant Officers' Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law, which Defendant City adopts and incorporate here, Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that his rights to due process were violated. Plaintiff also alleged the City failed to produce the investigative file in his case, which, he alleges, resulted in the suppression of exculpatory evidence. Yet, Plaintiff failed to prove that any evidence in the file was exculpatory or that it was material to his case. Indeed, the only evidence Plaintiff identified in the file was the General Progress Report (GPR) that he argued indicated Lopez stated he was “by the store” when he saw the shooter and the criminal history report with ...


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