Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Copeland v. Johnson

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

September 26, 2019

JOHN COPELAND, Plaintiff,
v.
LIEUTENANT LEONARD JOHNSON and THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert M. Dow, Jr United States District Judge.

         For the second time in recent weeks, the Court has before it a lawsuit brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 involving the use of force by an officer of the Chicago Police or Fire Department on a trainee or a subordinate. Both cases present the question of whether the application of force was inflicted by an individual acting under color of state law, which might be actionable in federal court under the federal civil rights laws, or instead constituted a battery actionable only in state court. In the prior case, Ploski v. Medenica, 2019 WL 4014193, at *3-*6 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 26, 2019), this Court concluded at the summary judgment stage that the defendant was entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s only federal claim of excessive force. Here, at a much earlier stage of the case and with no qualified immunity issue raised in Defendants’ motions to dismiss, the Court denies Defendant Johnson’s motion to dismiss [38]; grants in part and denies in part the motion to dismiss [39] filed by the City of Chicago; and denies the motion to bifurcate [40] as moot. This case is set for further status hearing set for October 15, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. The Court directs counsel to file a joint status report, including a proposed discovery plan, no later than October 11, 2019.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff John Copeland brings this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Lt. Leonard Johnson and the City of Chicago (hereinafter, the “City”). Plaintiff is a firefighter for the City. [36 (Am. Compl.), at ¶ 5.] Lt. Johnson was at all relevant times a firefighter employed by the City. [Id. at ¶ 3.] On or about March 25, 2018, Plaintiff and Lt. Johnson were on the scene of a fire in connection with their duties as firefighters for the Chicago Fire Department (“CFD”). [Id. at ¶¶ 6-7.] Although Plaintiff was to remain outside the burning building on standby duty, Lt. Johnson ordered Plaintiff to enter the burning building. [Id. at ¶¶ 8-13.] Plaintiff was required to follow the orders given to him by Lt. Johnson. [Id. at ¶ 10.] Following this order by Lt. Johnson, Plaintiff entered the burning building. [Id. at ¶ 13.]

         On or about March 28, 2018, Plaintiff and Lt. Johnson both attended a mandatory meeting at CFD Engine #121 (located at 1742 95th Street, Chicago, Illinois) to discuss the March 25, 2018 fire. [Id. at ¶¶ 14-24.] At the meeting, Capt. Darryl Moore asked Plaintiff to identify his role in the March 25, 2018 fire. [Id. at ¶ 25.] Plaintiff responded that he was on standby duty. [Id. at ¶ 26.] Capt. Moore then asked Plaintiff why he entered the burning building. [Id. at ¶ 27.] Plaintiff explained that he was ordered to enter the burning building by Lt. Johnson. [Id. at ¶ 28.] Plaintiff then stated to Capt. Moore: “Maybe your lieutenant didn’t know his role at the fire.” [Id. at ¶ 29.]

         Following this comment, Lt. Johnson confronted Plaintiff and stated: “Since I don’t know my role, make sure you know your role.” [Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.] Lt. Johnson then punched Plaintiff in the face two times. [Id. at ¶¶ 32-41.] After Lt. Johnson punched Plaintiff in the face a second time, Plaintiff fell to the ground and lost consciousness after hitting his head. [Id. at ¶¶ 46-49.] Plaintiff spent six hours in the hospital and suffered injuries to his left eye, lip, head, and back as a result of the actions of Lt. Johnson. [Id. at ¶¶ 50-51.] Lt. Johnson was Plaintiff’s superior officer at the Match 25, 2018 fire and at the March 28, 2018 meeting. [Id. at ¶¶ 52-53.]

         Plaintiff alleges that Lt. Johnson punched Plaintiff to enforce the rules of the CFD relative to the chain of command. [36 (Am. Compl.), at ¶ 57.] Plaintiff further alleges that Lt. Johnson punched Plaintiff to enforce the rules of the CFD relative to how a subordinate should report a protocol violation to a superior officer. [Id. at ¶ 58.] Finally, Plaintiff alleges that the “code of silence” in the CFD is a method of preventing firefighters from reporting the misconduct of their coworkers to their superiors. [Id. at ¶ 59.]

         Plaintiff alleges that it is the custom, practice, and/or policy of CFD personnel to: (1) generate false documentation to cover-up misconduct of fellow CFD personnel; (2) fabricate documents concerning acts of misconduct that have occurred by fellow firefighters; (3) engage in acts of sexual misconduct; (4) engage in the excessive use of force; (5) fail properly to discipline CFD personnel who have committed acts of sexual misconduct and/or excessive use of force; (6) fail to properly discipline CFD personnel who have committed acts of sexual misconduct and/or excessive use of force; (7) fail to properly investigate complaints; (8) fail to properly discipline CFD personnel who have committed acts of sexual misconduct and/or excessive use of force; (9) allow misconduct to occur in various types and severity such that CFD personnel believe that they can engage in sexual misconduct and/or excessive force without repercussions and/or significant repercussions; (10) fail to provide adequate sanctions/discipline to CFD personnel who commit acts of sexual misconduct and/or excessive force; and (11) fail to provide adequate sanctions/discipline to CFD personnel who commit acts of sexual misconduct and/or excessive force. [Id. at ¶ 60.] However, Plaintiff fails to allege any factual support for many of these assertions. Plaintiff further alleges that a code of silence exists among CFD personnel. [Id. at ¶ 61.] According to Plaintiff, this code of silence obstructs the legal process (preventing the free flow of honest information with regard to acts of misconduct) and contributes to the generation of secrets in the CFD regarding misconduct. [Id.]

         Plaintiff does identify examples of conduct that-according to Plaintiff-show that it is the practice or custom of the CFD to inadequately discipline its employees for misconduct. Specifically, the complaint identifies the following:[1]

• A firefighter who was promoted after committing a violent attack of a police officer resulting in a settlement of over $1, 000, 000. [Id. at ¶¶ 64-75.]
• A firefighter who was only placed on leave after repeatedly masturbating in full view of his co-workers at his firehouse. [Id. at ¶ 79.]
• A firefighter who was fired for engaging in sexual acts at a firehouse. [Id. at ¶ 78.]
• A dozen firefighters who were disciplined for allowing that firefighter to engage in sexual acts at a firehouse. [Id. at ¶ 77.]

         Based on the alleged misconduct, Plaintiff brings a Section 1983 claim against Lt. Johnson, a claim against the City under Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), and various state-law claims against the City. Before the Court are Defendants’ motions to dismiss and the City’s motion to bifurcate.

         II. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.