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Gallagher v. Gentile

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

January 13, 2020

Robert Gallagher, Plaintiff,
David Gentile, Jason Boyer, Three Unknown Police Officers, and The Village of Lemont, Illinois, Defendants.



         Pro se plaintiff Robert Gallagher brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois law after being issued traffic citations that ultimately led to a trial in state court. Defendant Officers David Gentile and Jason Boyer and the Village of Lemont, Illinois (the latter, “the Village, ” and all three collectively, “Defendants”) moved to dismiss Gallagher's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 36. For the following reasons, that motion is granted in its entirety.


         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the “sufficiency of the complaint.” Berger v. Nat. Collegiate Athletic Assoc., 843 F.3d 285, 289 (7th Cir. 2016). A complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully- harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While “detailed factual allegations” are not required, “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “‘A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Boucher v. Fin. Sys. of Green Bay, Inc., 880 F.3d 362, 366 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Tobey v. Chibucos, 890 F.3d 634, 646 (7th Cir. 2018).


         This action arises out of traffic citations issued to Gallagher on two occasions in 2017. The facts recounted here are drawn from Gallagher's complaint and the additional documents and CD-ROMs containing police video of the traffic stops that were included with Gallagher's response brief.[1]

         At about 11:00 p.m. on August 31, 2017, Gallagher, an Indiana resident, was driving his 1977 Lincoln Mark V from the parking lot of a grocery store to his garage in the Village when Officer Gentile pulled him over. Officer Gentile explained to Gallagher that he stopped him because his vehicle bore a 1978 state of Indiana license plate without evidence of registration. Gallagher then told Officer Gentile: (1) that Indiana-the state in which his vehicle was registered-allowed a “model year” plate without evidence of registration; (2) that Illinois grants reciprocity to Indiana's laws regarding historic vehicles and model year plates; and (3) that Illinois's laws regarding model year plates and registration were basically the same. Gallagher showed Officer Gentile a copy of both the Illinois and Indiana laws allowing older vehicles to bear “model year” license plates under certain circumstances. Gallagher had shown Officer Gentile the same laws about a month prior. At that time, Officer Gentile advised Gallagher to display his current license plate going forward, and did not issue a citation. This time, Officer Gentile discussed with his colleagues whether Gallagher's vehicle was in compliance with Illinois statutes, and decided that it violated more than one. But rather than issuing Gallagher a citation for a more serious violation classified as a misdemeanor, Officer Gentile issued Gallagher only a traffic ticket for failure to display a registration sticker as required by 625 ILCS 5/3-413(b) (the “Illinois registration display statute”). According to Gallagher, the citation was issued in retaliation for Gallagher previously having admonished Officer Gentile for harassing children at a local McDonald's restaurant, and because Officer Gentile did not like “model year” plates.

         On October 19, 2017, Gallagher was stopped by Officer Boyer for speeding. In the course of the stop, Officer Boyer asked Gallagher about his 1978 license plate, and for proof of insurance (which Gallagher could not produce). Gallagher again presented a copy of the Illinois and Indiana laws regarding historic vehicles and “model year” license plates and explained how he was in compliance. In the end, Officer Boyer issued Gallagher citations for: (1) speeding; (2) operating an uninsured vehicle; and (3) failure to display a registration sticker.

         According to Gallagher, of the four citations issued to him in 2017, one proceeded to a jury trial in which Gallagher prevailed, and the others were resolved in his favor on pretrial motions.

         Gallagher then filed this lawsuit. While far from a model of clarity, and despite that the allegations also implicate the Village's mayor, a prosecutor, and a state court judge, Gallagher's complaint names only Officers Gentile and Boyer, three unknown police officers, and the Village as defendants. His complaint purports to state claims for: malicious prosecution (Counts I-III); extortion/intimidation (Counts IV and V); attempted obstruction of justice (Count VI); negligence (Count VII); false arrest and imprisonment (Count VIII); aiding as an accessory in furtherance of a crime (Count IX); and failure to intervene (Count X). R. 1. Defendants moved to dismiss all counts for failure to state a claim. R. 36.


         I. Federal Claims

         False arrest/imprisonment (Count VIII).

         Gallagher seeks relief under Section 1983 for false arrest and imprisonment in connection with both traffic stops, claiming the officers detained him without consent or probable cause. See generally R. 1, Count VIII. “The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but the existence of probable cause renders traffic stops and resulting warrantless arrests permissible.” Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 942 (7th Cir. 2016). Indeed, probable cause “is an absolute defense to any claim under Section 1983 against police officers for wrongful arrest[ or] false imprisonment.” Burritt v. Ditlefsen, 807 F.3d 239, 249 (7th Cir. 2015). Further, “probable cause to believe that a person has committed any crime will preclude a false arrest claim, even if the person was arrested on additional or different ...

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