United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Russell R. Ainsworth, Arthur R. Loevy, Jonathan I. Loevy,
Ruth Z. Brown, Tara Elizabeth Thompson, Loevy & Loevy,
Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.
Vincent Daffada, Thomas More Leinenweber, Kevin Edward
Zibolski, Michael John Schalka, Leinenweber Baroni &
Daffada LLC, James Gus Sotos, Caroline P. Golden, David
Andrew Brueggen, Jeffrey Robert Kivetz, Josh Michael
Engquist, The Sotos Law Firm, P.C., Eileen Ellen Rosen,
Austin Gordon Rahe, Catherine MacNeil Barber, Stacy Ann
Benjamin, Theresa Berousek Carney, Rock Fusco & Connelly,
LLC, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
ROWLAND, United States District Judge.
reasons stated below, Judge Cox's Order denying the
Defendant City of Chicago (the "City")'s motion
to bifurcate Monell claims without prejudice  is
AFFIRMED, and the City's Rule 72(a) objection  is
case arises from Plaintiff Ricardo Rodriguez' arrest and
conviction for the murder of Rodney Kemppainen and attempted
murder of Rudolfo Zaragoza on December 16, 1995. After
spending over 22 years in prison, Plaintiff's conviction
was vacated in March 27, 2018. (Dkt. 11 at ¶50).
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, claiming that several Chicago Police Officers (the
"Individual Defendants") framed him for murder and
attempted murder in 1995. Plaintiff alleges that the
Individual Defendants fabricated purported eyewitness
testimony and suppressed exculpatory evidence in order to
secure Plaintiff's arrest and conviction. (Id.
at ¶¶24-25, 34-40, 47). Plaintiff also alleges that
the City failed to train, supervise, and discipline its
officers, and had a practice of suppressing important
investigatory materials in clandestine files ("street
files") which were maintained solely at the police
department but never disclosed to state prosecutors or
criminal defendants. (Id. at ¶¶55-72). On
September 11, 2019, Judge Cox denied the City's motion to
bifurcate Plaintiff's Monell claims for the
purpose of discovery and trial. (Dkt. 51). Before the Court
is the City's Rule 72(a) objection to the magistrate
judge's order denying bifurcation.
Rules of Civil Procedure 72(a) governs the district
court's review of nondispositive magistrate judge
decisions. Rule 72(a) provides: "The district judge...
must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any
part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). "The clear error standard
means that the district court can overturn the magistrate
judge's ruling only if the district court is left with
the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
made." Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., 126
F.3d 926, 943-44 (7th Cir. 1997); see also McGuire v.
Carrier Corp., No. 1:09-CV-315-WTL-JMS, 2010 WL 231099,
at *1 (S.D. Ind. Jan. 13, 2010) ("This is an extremely
deferential standard and the district court may not reverse
the magistrate judge's decision simply because the
district court judge would have come to a different
conclusion."); S Indus., Inc. v. Centra 2000,
Inc., 249 F.3d 625, 627 (7th Cir. 2001) ("We will
not reverse a determination for clear error unless it strikes
us as wrong with the force of a 5 week old, unrefrigerated,
dead fish."). "An order is contrary to law when it
fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or
rules of procedure." Baker v. McCorkle, No.
116CV03026JMSMPB, 2018 WL 3439078, at *3 (S.D. Ind. July 17,
2018) (citations omitted). To prevail in its objections, the
City must demonstrate that Judge Cox's order was clearly
erroneous or contrary to law. See Dyson, Inc. v.
Sharkninja Operating LLC, No. 14-CV-779, 2017 WL 446043,
at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 2, 2017).
42(b) provides "[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice,
or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate
trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims,
counterclaims, or third-party claims." Fed.R.Civ.P.
42(b). The Seventh Circuit has emphasized that only one of
the above criteria, prejudice or judicial economy, needs to
be satisfied for a court to grant bifurcation "as long
as doing so will not prejudice the non-moving party or
violate the Seventh Amendment." Chlopek v. Fed. Ins.
Co.,499 F.3d 692, 700 (7th Cir. 2007). The district
court has considerable discretion in deciding whether to
bifurcate claims. Volkman v. Ryker,736 F.3d 1084,
1089 (7th Cir. 2013); Krocka v. City of Chicago, 203
F.3d 507, 516 (7th Cir. 2000). In this district, there is a
growing body of precedent for both granting and denying
bifurcation of Monell claims in § 1983 cases.
Giles v. Ludwig, No. 12-CV-6746, 2013 WL 6512683, at
*1 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 6, 2013). "[T]he decision to ...