United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge
David Sheppard, a former long-time employee of the Cook
County Sheriffâs Office, filed this eleven count, forty-four
page complaint challenging his termination as a Police
Investigator within the Sheriff's Office of Correctional
Information and Investigations Division. Among the eleven
counts is a 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983 claim that Sheppard's First
Amendment rights were violated. Sheppard alleges that he was
fired as a means of retaliation for his reporting of certain
misconduct he uncovered during the course of his employment.
All Defendants moved to dismiss Sheppard's claims on
various grounds. However, the Court need only address
Defendantsâ Motion with respect to Count One. Because the
Court ultimately finds that the First Amendment retaliation
claimâthe only claim this Court has original jurisdiction
overâcannot state a claim, the remaining ten counts are
remanded back to the Circuit Court of Cook County for further
Sheppard began serving as a Cook County Sheriff's Police
Officer in June of 2004. (Dkt. 13, ¶ 29). Specifically,
Sheppard worked in the Correctional Information and
Investigations Division (CIID) where he "investigate[d]
information and potential crimes committed by detainees and
crimes committed on the Cook County Department of Corrections
('CCDOC') properties…" (Id. at
¶¶ 38, 40). One of the potential crimes that
Sheppard believes he discovered was a money laundering scheme
orchestrated by CCDOC detainees. (Id. at ¶ 41).
As part of his job, Sheppard conducted an investigation and
proposed plans to eliminate the scheme to his supervisors,
Defendants Curry and Ernst. (Id. at ¶ 42).
Neither Curry nor Ernst did anything to address the money
laundering following Sheppard's report. (Id. at
his employment, Sheppard also learned that an attorney
battered a detainee and subsequently filed a false police
report about the incident. (Id. at ¶ 44).
Sheppard arrested the attorney, and then sought to file
felony charges, but was ultimately asked to withdraw the
request to press felony charges by Defendants Curry and
Whittler. (Id. at ¶¶ 45-46). Sheppard
declined to withdraw the charges, but was later ordered to do
so by Curry. (Id. at ¶ 48). Sheppard was also
involved in a coordinated investigation with the State's
Attorney's Office regarding an internal CCDOC incident.
(Id. at ¶ 51). As part of the investigation,
Sheppard requested video evidence. (Id. at ¶
52). After receiving initial pushback from the
Sheriff’s Video Unit regarding the request, Sheppard
sought the assistance of Defendants Ernst and Curry who only
provided him with a redacted version of the video.
(Id.). Sheppard believed that the redacted video
restricted the evidence in the case and therefore was
considered evidence tampering. (Id. at ¶ 53).
The State's Attorney's Office ultimately subpoenaed
the non-redacted video. (Id. at ¶ 54).
in 2016, Sheppard reported what he considered to be systemic
violations at CCDOC. First, he believed that detainees were
regularly not being read their Miranda rights.
(Id. at ¶ 56). Second, Sheppard
"discovered intake violations of new arrestees."
(Id. at ¶ 59). Again he reported his concerns
to Curry and Ernst who told him not to worry and did nothing
to address his findings. (Id. at ¶¶ 58,
March of 2017, Sheppard filed a report with the Cook County
Office of the Independent Inspector General (OIIG) regarding
the above alleged violations. (Id. at ¶ 62).
Sheppard then filed the same report with seven other state
and federal agencies and officials, including: Cook County
Sheriff's Office of Professional Review, Attorney
General's Office of the State of Illinois, Cook County
State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx, Cook County Board
President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board Commissioner
Richard Boykin, Cook County Board Commissioner John P. Daley,
and the United States' Attorney's Office.
(Id. at ¶ 64).
than a month after submitting this report, Sheppard received
notification that he had to attend a Loudermill
hearing to determine if he would be suspended without pay
pending a termination hearing before the Cook County
Sheriff's Merit Board. (Id. at ¶ 65).
Sheppard came to learn that Ernst personally filed the
complaint against him. (Id. at ¶ 66). Sheriff
Dart later approved Sheppard's suspension without pay and
the termination charges before the Merit Board. (Id.
at ¶ 69). Ultimately, the Merit Board terminated
Sheppard for violating the Sherriff's Department rules
and regulations. (Dkt. 13-1, pg. 5). Specifically, Sheppard
copied files, without permission, that contained
"testing scores, evaluations, attribute questions, and
operational questions for personnel who applied in the CIID
Unit in 2013" in preparation of a union grievance
hearing scheduled for October 2016. (Id. at pg. 4).
filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County and
Defendants removed the case to Federal court. Along with his
First Amendment retaliation claim (Count One), Sheppard
alleges violations of the Illinois Whistleblower Act (Count
Two), Illinois common law retaliatory discharge (Count
Three), violations of Illinois' Administrative Review Law
(Counts Four – Six), Illinois Mandamus actions (Counts
Seven – Nine), a violation of the Illinois Open
Meetings Act (Count Ten), and a count for indemnification
against Cook County (Count Eleven).
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 Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 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.).
Sheppard's First Amendment Retaliation Claim Fails as a
Matter of Law
sole basis for this Court's jurisdiction over the instant
matter is Sheppard's § 1983 claim that Defendants
Dart, Whittler, Curry, and Ernst violated Sheppard's
First Amendment rights when they acted to suspend him without
pay and referred him to the Merit Board for termination.
Sheppard argues ...