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Martin v. Marinez

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 12, 2019

Sherard Martin, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Davis Marinez, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued November 2, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15-CV-04576 - Amy J. St. Eve, Judge.

          Before RIPPLE, KANNE, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

          Rovner, Circuit Judge.

         Sherard Martin appeals the district court's grant of partial summary judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, on his suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Chicago and several of its police officers for false arrest and unlawful search. Martin's suit proceeded to trial, where a jury awarded him $1.00 in damages after finding that two of the defendants lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain him. The jury found against Martin and in favor of the officers on the remainder of his claims. Martin appeals, challenging only the district court's pretrial grant of partial summary judgment to the defendants, which limited the damages Martin could seek at trial. We affirm.

         I.

         Martin's suit arises from a traffic stop in May 2013. We recount the facts surrounding the stop and subsequent events in the light most favorable to Martin, noting disputed facts where relevant and viewing the facts on which the jury reached a verdict in the light most favorable to the verdict. On the evening of May 24, 2013, Martin was driving in Chicago when Officers Davis Marinez and Sofia Gonzalez pulled him over. According to Martin, he had not committed any traffic violations when the officers stopped him, although the officers claim they initiated the stop because Martin's tail and brake lights were not working. When Officer Gonzalez approached the car and asked Martin for his license and insurance, Martin explained that he did not have his driver's license because it had been "taken for a ticket." At that point both officers asked Martin to step out of the car as the other defendants, Officers Armando Chagoya and Elvis Turcinovic, arrived on the scene.

         According to Martin, the officers forced him from the car, conducted a pat-down search, handcuffed him, and put him into a police car. At that point, they searched his car, where they recovered a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun with a defaced serial number, and a plastic baggie of crack cocaine.[1]

         Officers then took Martin into custody. At the police station, Officer Marinez learned that Martin had previously been convicted of first-degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon by a convicted felon. Ultimately Martin was transferred to Cook County Jail and charged with four Illinois felonies: (i) being an armed habitual criminal in violation of 720 ILCS § 5/24-1.7; (ii) being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 720 ILCS § 5/24-1.1; (iii) possessing a firearm with a defaced serial number in violation of 720 ILCS § 5/24-5(b); and possessing cocaine in violation of 720 ILCS § 570/402. He also received traffic citations under Chicago Municipal Code Section 9-76-050 (taillight operation) and 625 ILCS § 5/6-112 (outlining requirement to carry a driver's license). Id.

         Martin spent sixty-five days-from May 24 through July 29, 2013-incarcerated in connection with the charges resulting from the traffic stop. On July 29th, a different court revoked Martin's bond when he was convicted in an unrelated criminal case. During the course of the criminal proceedings for the felony charges arising from the traffic stop, Martin filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the trial court granted on November 7, 2013. The state then dismissed the charges against Martin through a nolle prosequi motion.

         Martin filed this suit in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all of the officers involved in the stop as well as the City of Chicago (on a respondeat superior theory of liability), seeking money damages for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. Martin sought civil damages totaling $110, 500: $1, 000 per day of his 65-day incarceration and $45, 500 in lost business income-calculated at $700 per day-from his automobile dealership.

         Before trial, the defendants moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that even if the stop was unlawful, once the officers saw the handgun and cocaine, they had probable cause for Martin's arrest, which limited Martin's damages to the short period between his stop and his arrest. The district court agreed, granting the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment and concluding that although Martin's § 1983 case could proceed as to the initial stop of his car and seizure of his person-before the defendants discovered the illegal gun and cocaine-he could not seek damages for conduct post-dating the discovery of contraband, including his 65-day incarceration.

         Martin's case proceeded to a jury trial, limited as described above by the grant of partial summary judgment. At trial, the facts largely tracked those described above, with the same basic areas of conflicting testimony: (1) Martin testified that his tail and brake lights were both functioning when he was stopped; (2) he also testified that he handed Officer Gonzalez his traffic ticket when he was unable to produce his license; and (3) Martin maintained that the handgun was under the driver's seat, as opposed to on it and visible when he stepped out of the car as directed by Officers Gonzalez and Marinez.

         The district court instructed the jury to decide the following Fourth Amendment questions: (1) whether the officers "unlawfully seized" Martin without reasonable suspicion to support a traffic stop; (2) whether they falsely arrested him without probable cause; or (3) whether they unlawfully searched his person or car without probable cause. The court also instructed the jury that if they found that Martin proved his claims, they could not award him damages for any time spent in custody after officers found the handgun, and should limit their consideration to the period of detention beginning with his traffic stop and ending when they found the gun. The jury found in favor of Martin and against Officers Marinez and Gonzalez on the unlawful seizure claim and awarded him $1.00 in compensatory damages. On that same claim, they found in favor of Officers Chagoya and Turcinovic, and on the remaining claims for false arrest and unlawful search, they found against Martin and in favor of all four officers.

         Martin now appeals from the district court's grant of partial summary judgment before trial ...


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