December 4, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 18-cv-00141 -
Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge.
Flaum, Ripple, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Hosea Word is a sergeant and aspiring lieutenant in the
Chicago Police Department (CPD). Having just missed out on a
promotion following the 2006 lieutenants' examination,
Word missed the cut again after receiving a lower-ranking
score on the 2015 examination. Word alleges that high-ranking
members of CPD leadership connived to sneak early test
content to their "wives and paramours" prior to the
2015 exam, resulting in those romantic partners acing the
test and receiving promotions. The district court dismissed
Word's constitutional due process and equal protection
claims, as well as his breach of contract claims. Illinois
and federal caselaw squarely preclude Word's case. We
time to time, the CPD administered an examination for those
sergeants seeking promotion to lieutenant. While the CPD
retained discretion over whom to promote, those who scored
highest on the exam were generally first in line.
has served with the CPD since 2001. When he took the
departmental lieutenants' exam in 2006, he was ranked
150th of all candidates. The sergeants ranked 1 through 149
all received promotions; Word was the highest-scoring
sergeant who did not. In 2015, when Word next took the exam,
his ranking fell to 280th. He was passed over a second time.
three individual defendants served as senior members of CPD
leadership: former Superintendent Eddie Johnson, former First
Deputy Superintendent Al Wysinger, and former Chief for
Bureau of Organizational Development Eugene Williams.
According to Word, each of these men's "wives or
paramours" were CPD sergeants who took the 2015 exam and
then received promotions. Word alleges that defendant
Williams had early access to the exam and provided test
content to the wives and paramours, who formed a clandestine
"study group" and cheated their way to passing
scores. For example, Word claims that Wysinger's wife
(who, like the other women, is not named as a defendant in
the complaint) went from ranking 280th in the 2006 exam
results to first in the 2015 results.
filed his complaint in early 2018, suing the City of Chicago,
Johnson, Williams, and Wysinger. He alleged two counts: (1)
violations of equal protection and due process under 42
U.S.C. § 1983; and (2) breach of contract. Defendants
moved to dismiss all counts and the district court granted
their motion in January 2019. Word timely appealed.
review de novo a district court's grant of a motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim, accepting all
well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and drawing all
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor."
Hutchison v. Fitzgerald Equip. Co., Inc., 910 F.3d
1016, 1025 (7th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted). Word appeals
the dismissal of each of his claims and offers multiple
rationales for reversing the district court. He argues that
he had a constitutionally protected property interest in a
fair lieutenants' examination; that he established an
equal protection claim because he was irrationally treated
differently than the "wives and paramours" (and
further sufficiently alleged Monell liability); and
that he has cognizable breach of contract claims based on (1)
a "contract" created by his "accepting the
city's offer" of a fair examination and (2)
purported third-party beneficiary status in a contract
between the City and the exam administrator. None of his
arguments are persuasive.
to Word, he and other legitimate test-takers had a
constitutionally protected property interest in a fair
lieutenants' examination "free of cheating and
rigging." Word grounds this claim in the Illinois
Municipal Code's language that "[n]o person or
officer shall ... wilfully or corruptly furnish to any person
any special or secret information for the purpose of either
improving or injuring the prospects or chances of any person
so examined, or to be examined, being appointed, employed or
promoted." 65 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/10-1-26. Word
contends this statute ...