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Hegwood v. Meijer, Inc.

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

September 30, 2019

TALMON HEGWOOD, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MEIJER, INC., and Y STEFANO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Gary Feinerman Judge

         Talmon Hegwood, Jr. alleges in this suit that Meijer, Inc. and Berwyn police officer Casey Stefano violated 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and Illinois law in connection with his arrest and prosecution for retail theft. Doc. 3-1. Meijer removed the case to federal court. Doc. 3. After the court denied Defendants' motions to dismiss, Docs. 49-50 (reported at 2017 WL 5517255 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 17, 2017)), the parties engaged in discovery. Defendants now move for summary judgment. Docs. 192, 195. Their motions are granted.

         Background

          Consistent with Local Rule 56.1(a)(3), Defendants filed a statement of undisputed facts along with their summary judgment motions. Doc. 190. Each asserted fact in the Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement is properly supported by citation to competent evidence of record. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) required Hegwood to file “a concise response to [Defendants'] statement … contain[ing] … a response to each numbered paragraph in [Defendants'] statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.” N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). Despite having been served with a Local Rule 56.2 Notice, Doc. 191, which explained in detail the requirements of Local Rule 56.1, Hegwood filed a noncompliant Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response, Doc. 231.

         Other than those paragraphs admitting Defendants' assertions, nearly every paragraph of Hegwood's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response does not respond to Defendants' factual assertions, fails to cite specific record evidence to support his denial of those assertions, cites record evidence that does not contravene those assertions, and/or supports his denials with inadmissible hearsay. Accordingly, the non-compliant portions of Hegwood's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response are disregarded. See Friend v. Valley View Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. 365U, 789 F.3d 707, 710-11 (7th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he district court did not abuse its discretion in disregarding the facts contained in [the nonmovant's] statement of additional facts that were not supported by proper citations to the record.”); Bryant v. Bd. of Educ., Dist. 228, 347 Fed.Appx. 250, 253 (7th Cir. 2009) (“The district court was entitled to disregard those assertions in [the nonmovant's] proposed statement of facts that violated Local Rule 56.1 by not being properly supported … .”). Hegwood's 23-page, 79-paragraph “Counter Affidavit, ” Doc. 239, which he filed a month after responding to Defendants' summary judgment motions, is disregarded because it is tardy and, more significantly, because it does not present facts through the vehicle of a compliant Local Rule 56.1 statement or response. See FTC v. Bay Area Bus. Council, Inc., 423 F.3d 627, 634 (7th Cir. 2005) (“We have noted before that rules like 56.1 provide[] the only acceptable means of disputing the other party's facts and of presenting additional facts to the district court.”) (alteration in original, internal quotation marks omitted); Koszola v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chi., 385 F.3d 1104, 1108 (7th Cir. 2004) (“In granting the Board's motion for summary judgment, the court explained that it had considered only the facts in the parties' Local Rule 56.1 Statements of Material Facts, as it was entitled to do.”) (emphasis added); Mervyn v. Nelson Westerberg, Inc., 142 F.Supp.3d 663 (N.D. Ill. 2015) (holding that facts may be presented on summary judgment only through a compliant Local Rule 56.1 statement or response) (collecting cases); Thorncreek Apartments III, LLC v. Vill. of River Forest, 970 F.Supp.2d 828, 838-39 (N.D. Ill. 2013) (same).

         Hegwood's failure to file a compliant Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response has consequences. The local rules provide that “[a]ll material facts set forth in the [Local Rule 56.1(a)(3)] statement … will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.” N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C). The Seventh Circuit “has consistently upheld district judges' discretion to require strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1.” Flint v. City of Belvidere, 791 F.3d 764, 767 (7th Cir. 2015) (collecting cases); see also Zoretic v. Darge, 832 F.3d 639, 641 (7th Cir. 2016) (same); Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880, 886-87 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Because of the high volume of summary judgment motions and the benefits of clear presentation of relevant evidence and law, we have repeatedly held that district judges are entitled to insist on strict compliance with local rules designed to promote the clarity of summary judgment filings.”). Hegwood's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with Local Rule 56.1. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”); Zoretic, 832 F.3d at 641 (“While we liberally construe the pleadings of individuals who proceed pro se, neither appellate courts nor district courts are obliged in our adversary system to scour the record looking for factual disputes.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); Brown v. Wyndemere LLC, 608 Fed.Appx. 424, 425 (7th Cir. 2015) (“[A] district court is entitled to enforce its local rules, even against pro se litigants.”).

         Accordingly, the court accepts as true the facts set forth in Defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement “to the extent th[ose] facts [a]re supported by admissible and docketed evidence” and not properly controverted by Hegwood's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response. Kreg Therapeutics, Inc. v. VitalGo, Inc., 919 F.3d 405, 411 (7th Cir. 2019) (internal quotation marks omitted) (“According to well-established Seventh Circuit law, [the nonmovant's] noncompliance [with Local Rule 56.1(b)] meant that the district court could exercise its discretion to accept [the movant's] statements of fact as undisputed.”); see also Olivet Baptist Church v. Church Mut. Ins. Co., 672 Fed.Appx. 607, 607 (7th Cir. 2017) (“The district court treated most of the [movant's] factual submissions as unopposed, because the [nonmovant] failed to contest them in the form required by Local Rule 56.1(b). We have held that the district court is entitled to enforce that rule in precisely the way it enforced the rule in this litigation.”) (collecting cases); Curtis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 807 F.3d 215, 218 (7th Cir. 2015) (“When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by [Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B)], those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the motion.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880, 884 (7th Cir. 2012) (similar).

         That said, the court is mindful that “a nonmovant's … failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1, does not … automatically result in judgment for the movant. [The movant] must still demonstrate that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Keeton, 667 F.3d at 884 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The court accordingly recites the facts as favorably to Hegwood as the record and Local Rule 56.1 permit, and then will determine whether Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on those facts. See Johnson v. Advocate Health & Hosps. Corp., 892 F.3d 887, 893 (7th Cir. 2018). At this juncture, the court must assume the truth of those facts, but does not vouch for them. See Gates v. Bd. of Educ. of Chi., 916 F.3d 631, 633 (7th Cir. 2019).

         On December 2, 2016, Marcus Anderson, a loss prevention agent at the Meijer store in Berwyn, “observed Hegwood wearing a black jacket and a New York Yankees baseball hat enter the Meijer store and proceed to a clothing display of Chicago Cubs T-shirts.” Doc. 190 at ¶¶ 8, 17. Anderson further observed Hegwood remove numerous Chicago Cubs T-shirts from the display, place the shirts under his jacket, and leave the store without paying. Id. at ¶ 18. Anderson called the Berwyn Police Department, reported the theft, asked that a police officer be sent to the store, and described the suspect as an African-American male wearing a black jacket and a Yankees hat. Id. at ¶ 19. Anderson left the store, saw Hegwood cross the parking lot, and began following him on foot. Id. at ¶ 21. Anderson again called the Berwyn Police Department and advised that he saw the suspect enter a Popeye's restaurant near the Meijer store. Id. at ¶ 22.

         Officer Stefano was dispatched to the Meijer store to respond to a report of retail theft by an African-American male wearing a black jacket and a Yankees hat. Id. at ¶ 20. The dispatcher advised Stefano that the suspect entered the Popeye's restaurant some 0.2 miles down the street from Meijer. Id. at ¶ 23. Stefano then drove to the Popeye's. Id. at ¶ 24.

         Upon entering the Popeye's, Stefano saw an individual matching the description of the suspect-an African-American male wearing a black jacket and a Yankees hat. Ibid. “Stefano approached Hegwood and asked him to identify himself.” Id. at ¶ 25. Anderson arrived and identified Hegwood as the person he saw at Meijer taking shirts without paying for them. Id. at ¶ 26. Anderson and another officer then saw a stack of twenty-six Chicago Cubs T-shirts with Meijer price tags and hangers at one of the restaurant's tables. Id. at ¶ 27. Stefano arrested Hegwood for retail theft, placing handcuffs on his wrists. Id. at ¶ 29. Anderson then told Stefano that he recognized Hegwood from a previous retail theft at Meijer on or about August 11, 2015, which Anderson had reported to the Berwyn police at that time. Id. at ¶¶ 30-31. Although Hegwood complained of chest pain when Stefano attempted to interview him, resulting in his being taken to a hospital for medical treatment, at no time following his arrest did he assert to any police officer that he had suffered a throat or neck injury from the arrest. Id. at ¶ 35.

         Stefano spoke with a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney (“ASA”) about both shoplifting incidents. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37. The ASA approved one charge of retail theft (class three felony) against Hegwood for the December 2, 2016 incident and one charge of retail theft (class four felony) for the August 11, 2015 incident. Ibid.

         Stefano testified before a state grand jury regarding the two incidents, and Hegwood was indicted. Id. at ΒΆ 39. Hegwood entered into a plea agreement under which, in exchange for his guilty plea to an amended charge of misdemeanor retail theft for the December 2, 2016 incident, the charge for the August 11, 2015 incident was dismissed. As part of his guilty plea, Hegwood stipulated that a ...


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