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Vasquez v. Will County Sheriff's Office

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

September 5, 2019

JOSE T. VASQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
WILL COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, COUNTY OF WILL, ILLINOIS, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Over the course of more than a decade, Jose Vasquez was wrongfully arrested numerous times based on an electronic warrant that erroneously listed his social security number instead of that of the actual suspect. The Will County Sheriff's Office generated and administered this electronic warrant. Vasquez has sued the Sheriff's Office and Will County, Illinois under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). He alleges that the Sheriff's conscious decision not to adopt a policy to review and ensure the accuracy of its electronic warrants violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and caused his wrongful arrests. Vasquez also asserts several state-law tort claims.

         The defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of Vasquez's claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants summary judgment for the defendants on one of Vasquez's Monell claims but denies the motion on the remaining claims.

         Background

         Vasquez has the same name and birth date as a suspect in a 1979 murder that took place in Joliet, Illinois. Vasquez lives in the Washington, D.C. area, has never been to Illinois, and he is not a suspect in the Joliet murder case.

         In June 2005, the Will County Sheriff's Office loaded a failure-to-appear warrant for a suspect in the 1979 Joliet murder into Illinois's criminal information database, the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS). This warrant erroneously listed Vasquez's social security number rather than that of the murder suspect. The Will County Sheriff's Office is the agency that enters all warrants issued in Will County into the LEADS system, and it is responsible for editing and deleting those warrants as necessary. When a warrant is loaded into LEADS, it also appears in the federal criminal database, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Consequently, LEADS warrants are available to law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

         In August 2005, police in Prince George's County, Maryland detained Vasquez based on the Will County warrant with his social security number. The Prince George's County police then contacted the Will County Sheriff's Office seeking confirmation that the warrant was still active. The Will County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the warrant was active. The Sheriff's Office also contacted the Joliet Police seeking photos and fingerprints of the suspect to forward to Prince George's County for identification verification. The warrants division supervisor at the Sheriff's Office testified that he also requested photos and fingerprints of the Prince George's County detainee-Vasquez- to determine if the right person had been detained in Maryland. After the photo exchange confirmed that Vasquez was not the suspect associated with the 1979 Joliet murder, the Prince George's County police released him.

         Despite this, the Will County Sheriff's Office did not modify the erroneous warrant with Vasquez's social security number for a number of years, waiting until September 2017 to delete the warrant. In the meantime, Vasquez was arrested numerous times based on the same warrant. According to the warrant division supervisor in the Sheriff's Office, as of March 2017, Vasquez had been arrested "nine times in the last ten years." Rojek Dep., Ex. F. to Defs.' L.R. 56.1 Stmt., dkt. no. 75-7, at 78:7-79:8. In the eight-month period from July 2016 and March 2017 alone, Vasquez was arrested four times based on the erroneous warrant. Vasquez testified that one of these arrests caused him to miss shifts at work and ultimately lose his job. During the most recent arrest, in March 2017, a U.S. Secret Service officer injured Vasquez's neck, shoulder, knee, and hand to such an extent that he required ambulance transport and hospitalization.

         In September 2017, the Will County Sheriff's Office deleted the warrant with Vasquez's social security number from LEADS.

         Discussion

          The defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of Vasquez's claims.[1]Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor. Rasho v. Elyea, 856 F.3d 469, 475 (7th Cir. 2017).

         A. Monell claims

         Vasquez asserts two Monell claims. In the first (count 1), he alleges that the County and Sheriff's Office violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. In the second (count 2), Vasquez alleges that the defendants deprived him of his liberty without due process of law, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. He claims that the following actions or inaction by the Will County Sheriff's Office caused these constitutional injuries: loading warrants with erroneous information into LEADS, failing to review its LEADS warrants to ensure accuracy, and ignoring significant errors in those warrants.

         The defendants have moved for summary judgment on both Monell claims. First, the defendants argue (correctly) that because Vasquez's Fourteenth Amendment claim is based on injuries that amounted to wrongful pretrial detentions, the Fourth Amendment-not the Fourteenth Amendment-governs this claim.[2]See Lewis v. City of Chicago, 914 F.3d 472, 475 (7th ...


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