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Pineda v. Village of Cherry Valley

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

August 5, 2019

Sandro Pineda, Plaintiff,
Village of Cherry Valley, et al., Defendants.



         Defendants' partial motion for judgment on the pleadings [76], is denied.


         Plaintiff Sandro Pineda has filed this action against several defendants regarding a traffic stop and subsequent arrest on January 19, 2015. According to plaintiff's complaint, defendant officers pulled him over, jammed a baton or other blunt object into his ribcage before he could exit the vehicle. Plaintiff was unarmed and not resisting when a defendant officer tasered him. Plaintiff was then tackled and handcuffed and tasered again. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital for his injuries. Plaintiff was charged with several misdemeanor and felony charges. Count I of plaintiff's complaint alleges the defendant officers did not have reasonable suspicion that plaintiff was engaged in criminal activity at the time of his arrest, and therefore he was seized in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count II alleges excessive force; Count III alleges failure to intervene; and Count IV alleges indemnification.

         According to Winnebago County Circuit Court public court records, on November 29, 2018, plaintiff pleaded guilty and was found guilty of felon in possession of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a)), and aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)).[1] See People of the State of Illinois v. Sandro Filderto Pineda, 2015 CF 000144 (17th Judicial Circuit Court, Winnebago County, Illinois).[2]

         Defendants have filed a partial motion for judgment on the pleadings as to Count I of plaintiff's complaint - unreasonable seizure and Count IV of plaintiff's complaint - indemnification (to the extent that Count IV contemplates indemnification for Count I). See [76]. Magistrate Judge Jensen entered a briefing schedule on April 24, 2019 [87], ordering plaintiff's response to be filed by May 22, 2019, and defendants' reply to plaintiff's response to be filed by June 5, 2019. Plaintiff failed to file a response to defendants' motion. Id. Defendants filed a “reply” on June 5, 2019, arguing defendants' motion is unrebutted and, therefore, should be granted [91]. Plaintiff's failure to make a legal argument in opposition to defendants' partial motion for judgment on the pleadings subjects the issue to waiver. Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 721 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Longstanding under our case law is the rule that a person waives an argument by failing to make it before the district court.”). Waiver aside, the court will address defendants' argument on its merits.

         A. Standard of Review

         Defendants bring this motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) which states: “[a]fter the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” The standard for analyzing a motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same as that for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6): “the complaint must state a claim that is plausible on its face.” Vinson v. Vermilion Cty., Ill., 776 F.3d 924, 928 (7th Cir. 2015); Gill v. City of Milwaukee, 850 F.3d 335 (7th Cir. 2017). The court must “accept[] all well-pleaded facts as true and draw[] all reasonable inferences in favor of the . . . non-moving part[y].” Bonnstetter v. City of Chicago, 811 F.3d 969, 973 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted).

         B. Analysis

         Defendants argue plaintiff's claim of unreasonable seizure overtly challenges his conviction and sentence in his underlying criminal proceeding and, therefore, should be barred pursuant to the authority of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Heck instructs that “when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated.” Id. at 487. If so, until the sentence has been invalidated, the cause of action for damages does not accrue. Id. at 490. The rule of Heck is intended to prevent a collateral attack on a criminal conviction through the vehicle of a civil suit. Id. at 484. On the other hand, if the civil action, even if successful, “will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed.” Id. at 487 (emphasis in original). When analyzing “whether Heck requires dismissal, we must consider the factual basis of the claim and determine whether it necessarily implies the invalidity of [the plaintiff's] conviction.” Helman v. Duhaime, 742 F.3d 760, 762 (7th Cir. 2014); Walace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 392 (2007) (a plaintiff may not raise a claim under Section 1983 “which, if true, would have established the invalidity of his outstanding conviction”).

         There is, however, an exception to the Heck bar. Considered a “general approach”, Seventh Circuit law holds that a plaintiff may be able to bring a Section 1983 action for unreasonable seizure without challenging the validity of his conviction. Rollins v. Willett, 770 F.3d 575, 576 (7th Cir. 2014); Norris v. Baikie, No. 14-CV-1652, 2017 WL 395699, at * 4 (N.D. Ill. January 30, 2017). In Rollins, plaintiff was exiting his car in a parking lot when defendant police officers ordered him to get back into his car. He refused to cooperate and was subsequently arrested. He later pleaded guilty to driving on a suspended or revoked license. Rollins, 770 F.3d at 576. He filed suit against the officers alleging unreasonable seizure. Id. The district court dismissed the action based on Heck. The Seventh Circuit reversed noting a distinction between plaintiff's case and an appropriate dismissal under Heck:

This case is different. Rollins pleaded guilty. There isn't any doubt that he was guilty - that he'd been driving on a suspended or revoked license. If he can prove that the action of the police in forcing him to get back in his car and show them his driving papers was unconstitutional, that cannot change the fact that he was driving without a valid license. Illegal searches and seizures frequently turn up irrefutable evidence of guilt. The evidence can be suppressed if the government attempts to present it at trial, but there was no trial. A finding that the defendant was illegally seized - the finding he seeks in this suit - would therefore have no relevance to the validity of his guilty plea and ensuing conviction.

Id. (emphasis in original).

         Also, in Mordi v. Zeigler, 870 F.3d 703 (7th Cir. 2017), plaintiff brought Section 1983 claims against defendant police officers based on his belief that the officers involved in his traffic stop violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff argued that if he prevailed on his claim that the officers racially profiled him and prolonged his detention (his civil suit claims), his conviction for drug possession would not be affected. Id. at 707. Agreeing with plaintiff, the court cited its precedent of Evans v. Poskon, 603 F.3d 362 (7th Cir. 2010): “'[m]any claims that concern how police conduct searches or arrests are compatible with a conviction. For example, an arrest without probable cause violates the fourth amendment but does not imply the invalidity of a conviction, because courts do not ‘suppress the body' of the accused.' Id. at 363-64.” Mordi, 870 F.3d at 707-08. The Seventh Circuit has also said: “Even if no conviction could have been obtained in the absence of the violation, the Supreme Court has held that, unlike fair trial claims, Fourth Amendment claims as a group do not ...

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