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Smith v. City of Chicago

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

September 6, 2019

KEITH SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, OFFICER RANITA MITCHELL, and OFFICER HERMAN OTERO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge.

         After the Court granted his Motion to Reconsider (Dkt. 39), Plaintiff Keith Smith timely filed his Amended Complaint[1]. The Amended Complaint brings claims of fabricated evidence and conspiracy, along with a Monell claim against the City of Chicago pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. 45). The fundamental question before the Court is whether Plaintiff's conditions of bond were so substantial as to be considered a seizure, thus prolonging the accrual date of for his constitutional claims. After review of Plaintiff's newly pled allegations, the conditions of bond Plaintiff was subjected to were not sufficiently burdensome to be considered a seizure. The controlling statute of limitations expired in March of 2016, two years after he was released from Cook County Jail. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court is well aware of, and assumes familiarity with, the facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint and his Amended Complaint based upon the Court's ruling on the first motion to dismiss (Dkt. 37) and Plaintiff's subsequent motion to reconsider (Dkt. 44). The well pleaded facts in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are presumed as true for purposes of reviewing the instant Motion to Dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         Briefly, Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that Defendants Mitchell and Otero stopped and searched on September 10, 2013. (Dkt. 45, ¶ 5). Plaintiff was arrested as a result, but “does not assert any claim of unlawful search, seizure, or false arrest.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Mitchell and Otero conspired to produce a fabricated police report which led to Plaintiff's detention in Cook County Jail for seven months. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-10). Plaintiff was released on bond on March 29, 2014 and was required to appear at court hearings and seek permission from the court before leaving Illinois. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-12).

         On July 21, 2016, Plaintiff was found not guilty. (Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiff then filed his original complaint on July 18, 2018. (Dkt. 1). This Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint as barred by the two-year statute of limitations because his claim for unlawful detention accrued at the time he was released from custody on March 29, 2014. (Dkt. 37). Following the Court's ruling, Plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider based on the potential intervening authority of Mitchell v. City of Elgin, 912 F.3d 1012 (7th Cir. 2019). The Mitchell court wrote that conditions of bond could potentially constitute a continuing seizure. However, the exact parameters of Mitchell's bond were not before the court so the matter was remanded for further fact-finding. Mitchell, 912 F.3d at 1017. As was the case with Mitchell, the conditions of bond were not before this Court at the time it ruled on Defendants' first motion to dismiss. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to reconsider was granted and Plaintiff was permitted to file an amended complaint alleging the conditions of bond. (Dkt. 44).

         Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on May 27, 2019 with new allegations detailing the conditions of his bond. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that while on bond, he “was required to appear in court at the state's command, about once per month, ” “was subject to the condition that he seek formal permission from the court before exercising what would otherwise have been his unquestioned right to travel outside the State of Illinois, ” “experienced the financial and emotional strain of preparing a defense, ” and suffered from diminished employment prospects “because he had to appear in court about once each month.” (Dkt. 45, ¶¶ 11-14).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the 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)(internal quotations omitted). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The Court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Olson v. Champaign Cty., Ill., 784 F.3d 1093, 1099 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Toulon v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 877 F.3d 725, 734 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.). “[W]hen the allegations of the complaint reveal that relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim.” Logan v. Wilkins, 644 F.3d 577, 582 (7th Cir. 2011).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Fabrication of Evidence Claim

         Plaintiff brings his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they fabricated evidence which led to his wrongful pretrial detention. “[T]here is a constitutional right not to be held in custody without probable cause.” Manuel v. City of Joliet, Illinois, 903 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2018), cert. denied sub nom. City of Joliet, Ill. v. Manuel, 139 S.Ct. 2777 (2019) (emphasis in original). That right is grounded in the Fourth Amendment. Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S.Ct. 911, 920 (2017). “[A] Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful pretrial detention accrues when the detention ends, not when the prosecution ends.” Mitchell, 912 F.3d at 1015 (emphasis in original). Once a claim accrues, plaintiffs have two years to seek relief. Gekas v. Vasiliades, 814 F.3d 890, 894 (7th Cir. 2016) (“The statute of limitations for § 1983 claims in Illinois is two years.”).

         There is no dispute that Plaintiff was released from the Cook County Jail on bond in March of 2014. However, Plaintiff argues that his wrongful detention did not end until he was acquitted on July 21, 2016-making the July 18, 2018 filing of his Complaint timely. He posits that the conditions of his bond amounted to a seizure and wrongful detention. The dispositive question is whether Plaintiff's conditions of bond constitute a seizure and necessarily delay the accrual of his Fourth Amendment claims.

         Here, Plaintiff alleges just two conditions of his bond.[2] First, that he “was required to appear in court at the state's command, about once per month.” (Dkt. 45, ¶ 11). And second, that he had to seek permission to leave the State of Illinois. (Id. at ¶ 12). These allegations, neither independently nor cumulatively, do not amount to a seizure. Elevating these bond conditions to the level of a Fourth Amendment seizure would fundamentally alter the understanding and structure of the pretrial system. Bielanski v. Cty. of Kane,550 F.3d 632, 642 (7th Cir. 2008) (“To hold otherwise would transform every traffic ticket and jury summons into a potential Section 1983 claim.”); see also Mitchell, 912 F.3d at 1017 (“We have misgivings about construing a simple obligation to appear in court-a uniform condition of any pretrial release-as a ‘seizure' for Fourth Amendment purposes. Converting every traffic ticket into a nascent Fourth Amendment claim strikes us as an aggressive reading of the constitutional text.”). In fact, the very conditions that Plaintiff now alleges have already been classified as insufficient to establish a Fourth Amendment seizure. “No court has held that a summons alone constitutes a seizure, and we conclude that a summons alone does not equal a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes. … Although the travel restriction and the interview with the probation officer might be somewhat more onerous than the summons alone, we conclude that they are insufficient restraints on freedom of movement to constitute a seizure.” Id. ...


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