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Sroga v. Hondzinski

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

December 5, 2019

KEVIN SROGA, Plaintiff,
v.
JENNIFER HONDZINSKI, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Harry D. Leinenweber Judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As noted in the Court's two previous opinions issued in this case, Plaintiff is a “prolific civil litigant.” As initially filed, this case contained 11 counts against 17 individuals and the City of Chicago. A Motion to Dismiss was granted as to all counts, but one, either with or without prejudice. Sroga v. Hondzinski, et al., 2017 WL 3278916 (Aug. 2, 2017). Plaintiff then filed (with the aid of a court-appointed attorney) an Amended Complaint containing three counts: Count I, for illegal seizure of Plaintiff's motor vehicle; Count II, for excessive force; and Count III, against the City of Chicago under Monell. The Defendants, once again, filed a Motion to Dismiss which the Court denied as to Counts I and II, but granted with prejudice as to Count III against the City of Chicago. The Defendants have now filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Count I, for illegal seizure, but do not move on Count II, for excessive force.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Count I - Alleged Illegal Seizure

         The Defendants contend that at the time the Plaintiff's motor vehicle was seized, it was parked along a city street without a license and with its VIN obscured. Plaintiff acknowledges that the vehicle was unlicensed but claims that it had affixed to the back window a so-called “seven-day permit” issued by the Illinois Secretary of State, and that “to the best of his knowledge the VIN was visible outside of the car.” (See Pl.'s Response to Def.' Rule 56.1 Statement, ¶¶ 20 and 22.) It is this somewhat equivocal response that Plaintiff contends raises a question of fact as to Count I so as not to be amenable to a summary judgment motion.

         Be that as it may, this equivocation does not save Count I, because, in addition to the alleged obscured VIN, the vehicle was unlicensed, and, apparently never had been. According to the Secretary of State's records, Plaintiff did not re-register the vehicle after its initial registration after Plaintiff purchased the vehicle from the City of Chicago on July 14, 2011, so the vehicle was unregistered on June 18, 2014, the date of seizure as Defendants set out as undisputed facts in their Rule 56.1 Statement. Defendants cite in support of this allegation records obtained from the Secretary of State which contains a certification in support. (Def. Rule 56.1 Statement, ¶¶ 11 and 12.) Although Plaintiff admits that the vehicle was unregistered on the date of seizure, he contends that he applied for and received a seven-day permit because the reason the vehicle was unlicensed was because it had failed an emission test.

         Concerning the lack of registration statement of fact, ¶ 11, Plaintiff responds with the following language:

Disputed that the Illinois Secretary of State's Office does not have a record of the plaintiff renewing the registration of the vehicle. The defendants have not presented any evidence as to the entirety of the records in the Secretary of State's possession. They have also not presented any evidence to explain what the records in Exhibit D are, how they were obtained, whether they are complete and what they would ordinarily contain.

         However, Plaintiff did not cite to any portion of the record in support of his denial. If in fact Plaintiff wished properly to dispute the issue of re-registration, he could have produced some evidence in support of the denial, not just criticize the completeness of Defendants' Statement of Facts.

         All Plaintiff is willing to allege under oath is that at some point the Secretary of State “issued the 7-day permit to me for my car.” (Pl.'s Aff., ¶ 2.) He does not say when the permit was issued but he does admit in response to Para. 15 and 16 of Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement, that the 7-day permit had expired on May 23, 2014, 25 days prior to the seizure. Therefore, at the time of the seizure the vehicle may or may not have had its VIN obscured but was unlicensed and had on display a 7-day permit that had long since expired.

         The Chicago Municipal Code § 9-80-220 provides as follows:

9-80-220 False, stolen or altered temporary registration permits.
No person shall operate or park on the public way any vehicle bearing a false, stolen or altered state temporary registration permit. A vehicle operated or parked in violation of this section is subject to immediate impoundment. The owner of record of such vehicle shall be liable to the city for an administrative penalty of $500.00 in addition to fees for towing and storage of the vehicle. Whenever a police officer has probable cause to believe that a vehicle is subject to seizure and impoundment under this subsection, the police officer shall provide for the towing of the vehicle to a facility controlled by the city or its agents. When the vehicle is towed, the police officer shall notify the person who is found to be in control of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation, if there is such a person, of the fact of the seizure and of the vehicle owner's right to request a preliminary ...

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