Battle v. Alderden et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Z. Lee on 9/19/17.Mailed notice(ca, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
14 C 1785
Judge John Z. Lee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Ruben Battle (“Battle”), formerly a Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy,
has sued Chicago Police Officer Jacob Alderden (“Alderden”) and the City of Chicago
(collectively, “Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his
constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Battle’s claims arise from an incident in which he refused to identify a
suspect in a crime that Alderden was investigating, following which Alderden
purportedly threatened him and then reported him to the Sheriff’s department for
Defendants have moved for summary judgment.
reasons stated herein, Defendants’ motion  is granted.
The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. 1
employed as a security guard at a Walgreens store in Chicago on March 16, 2012.
Defendants filed a reply to Battle’s response to their statement of undisputed facts.
Defs.’ Reply Supp. Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., ECF No. 139. Such a reply, however, is not
contemplated by Northern District of Illinois Local Rule (LR) 56.1, which allows moving
parties to “submit a concise reply” to a non-movant’s counterstatement of facts but does not
Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 1, ECF No. 113. He was concurrently employed as a
sheriff’s deputy by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (“Sheriff’s Office”), but he was
not on duty in that capacity on March 16. Id. ¶ 2. He was, however, wearing a vest
emblazoned with the sheriff’s star that identified him as a sheriff’s deputy on that
day. Id. ¶ 50.
While working at Walgreens on March 16, Battle was standing outside the
store with Jerry McGhee, 2 a store clerk, when he saw a man attempting to fire a
gun at a moving vehicle. Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 9, 11–14. He then saw the
man hand the gun to someone else. Id. ¶ 16. Battle went inside the Walgreens
store to report what he had seen to Jamal Wright, the store manager. Id. ¶ 18.
Alderden, a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department, was notified of the issue
and called to the scene. Id. ¶¶ 6, 19, 21.
Battle told Alderden that the recipient of the gun had taken it into a nearby
See id. ¶ 23.
He also described the clothing the individuals had been
wearing. Id. Specifically, Battle observed that the individual carrying the gun into
the park wore a jacket with “some lettering in the back” that “was like a square
type of a[n] area.” Id., Ex. A, Battle Dep., at 51:23–52:1. Alderden proceeded to the
permit movants to file a reply to the non-movant’s response to its original statement. The
Court therefore disregards Defendants’ reply. See Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 914 (7th
Cir. 2016) (“The district court’s discretion to require strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1
has been upheld time and again.”).
The record is unclear on the spelling of McGhee’s last name. Plaintiff’s brief refers
to him by both “McGee” and “McGhee.” Pl.’s Mem. Opp. Mot. Summ. J. 3, 10, ECF No. 132.
Defendants, however, exclusively use “McGhee.” Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 2, 4, 6,
ECF No. 114. In the interest of consistency, the Court uses “McGhee.”
park, recovered a gun, detained certain individuals he found there, and conducted a
“show-up identification” with witnesses who were still at the Walgreens store. Id.
¶¶ 25–27. During the show-up, Battle told Alderden that he could only identify the
individuals by their clothing but suggested that McGhee might be able to provide a
better identification. See id. ¶¶ 29, 30.
Despite being concerned for his safety, McGhee participated in the
identification process. Id. ¶¶ 35–36. McGhee identified two individuals as having
been involved in the attempted shooting. Id., Ex. C, Alderden Dep., at 37:11–15.
After McGhee participated in the identification process, another officer asked Battle
whether he could identify a specific individual as one of the suspects. Id. ¶¶ 36, 38.
Battle recognized the back of the individual’s jacket as bearing the same design as
the jacket the suspects had worn. Id. ¶¶ 39, 41. He could not, however, identify the
suspect by his face. Id. ¶ 42.
Alderden then told Battle he would need to come to court and identify the
suspect. Id. ¶ 44. According to Battle, he presumed that he would be asked to
identify the individual by face, rather than identifying the person by his jacket. Id.,
Ex. A, Battle Dep., at 92:5–93:3. And so Battle refused, explaining again that he
had not seen the suspect’s face.
Id. ¶ 45.
In response, Alderden asked Battle,
“Have you ever testified in court before? I’ll tell you what to say. If you don’t know
what to say, I’ll tell you what to say.” Id. at 93:12-18; id. ¶¶ 46, 47. At that point,
again assuming that Alderden did not want him to simply identify the person by the
clothes that he wore, but also by face, Battle became “suspicious” that Alderden was
attempting to “set [him] up to identify who that guy was.” Id., Ex. A., Battle Dep., at
92:5–93:3, 94:9–14. Despite this suspicion, however, Battle did not ask Alderden
what he meant by his statement or what Alderden wanted him to say in court, and
refused to provide any testimony at all. Id. ¶ 48.
Soon thereafter, Alderden asked Battle what he wanted Alderden to put in
his police report, and Battle said he could not tell him what to say. Id. ¶¶ 54, 55.
Alderden told Battle that he knew people in “high places” at Walgreens and that he
would never work at Walgreens again if he did not cooperate with the investigation.
Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 3, 4, ECF No. 126; Defs.’ Resp. Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C)
Stmt. ¶¶ 3, 4, ECF No. 140. Battle further claims that Alderden was “loud and
belligerent in tone and manner” toward him, which Alderden denies.
56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 5; Defs.’ Resp. Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 5.
Later, Alderden made an official complaint to the Sheriff’s Office stating that
Battle had failed to cooperate and had recanted a prior identification. Defs.’ LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 58. 3
Alderden believed that because Battle was a law
enforcement officer, he had a duty to cooperate with other law enforcement officers.
Id. ¶ 64. 4 The Sheriff’s Office then opened an investigation into Battle based on two
separate allegations: (1) whether he had failed to cooperate with Alderden, and
(2) whether he had filed the proper secondary employment paperwork with the
Plaintiff admits Alderden made a complaint to this effect. Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B)
Stmt. ¶ 58, ECF No. 126. He denies, however, that he was uncooperative or recanted any
Plaintiff objects to this fact on the grounds that he has no such duty. Pl.’s LR
56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 64. Plaintiff does not, however, deny that this was Alderden’s belief.
Sheriff’s Office with respect to his employment at Walgreens. Id. ¶ 67.
complaint, Battle alleges that he was ultimately de-deputized because of his lack of
proper secondary employment paperwork. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 20, ECF No. 48. As a
result of the de-deputization, he lost his secondary employment with Walgreens. Id.
Summary judgment is appropriate if “the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The Court gives “the non-moving party the
benefit of conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that could be drawn
from it.” Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rose & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th
Cir. 2013). In order to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
Instead, the nonmovant “must establish some genuine issue for trial such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict in [his] favor.” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc.,
674 F.3d 769, 772–73 (7th Cir. 2012).
Battle claims that Alderden’s actions denied him equal protection of the laws
as a class of one under the Fourteenth Amendment. 5 In addition to prohibiting the
Defendants also seek summary judgment as to Battle’s due process claims. Defs.’
Mem. Supp. at 7–10. This Court previously dismissed Battle’s due process claims, however,
rendering Defendants’ request moot. See Battle v. Alderden, No. 14 C 1785, 2015 WL
government from discriminating on the basis of certain “immutable characteristics,”
the Equal Protection Clause also protects against government actors irrationally
“singling out a person for arbitrary abuse.” Brunson v. Murray, 843 F.3d 698, 705
(7th Cir. 2016). 6 Such a “class-of-one” claim requires the plaintiff to demonstrate
that he has suffered “intentional, irrational, and arbitrary discrimination.” Bell v.
Duperrault, 367 F.3d 703, 707 (7th Cir. 2004). The plaintiff’s burden of proof is
“very significant.” Id. at 708.
A class-of-one plaintiff must show that (1) he has been intentionally treated
differently from someone who is similarly situated and (2) there is no rational basis
for the difference in treatment. Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564
(2000) (per curiam). It is the plaintiff’s burden to prove the lack of a rational basis
by excluding all possible rational explanations for the government action. Fares
Pawn, LLC v. Ind. Dep’t of Fin. Insts., 755 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 2014); Smith v.
City of Chi., 457 F.3d 643, 652 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and
Identifying similarly situated comparators who were treated differently can
be used to demonstrate the absence of a rational basis. Fares Pawn, 755 F.3d at
8330103, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 9, 2015); Battle v. Alderden, No. 14 C 1785, 2015 WL 1522943,
at *4 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 30, 2015).
Battle initially brought a protected-category equal protection claim on the basis of
his race, but the Court dismissed the claim with leave to replead. Battle, 2015 WL
1522932, at *5. He suggests in his amended complaint and response to Defendants’
statement of facts that he believes Alderden discriminated against him based on his race.
See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 67–68, 71; Pl.’s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 60–61. In his response brief,
however, he states that his claim is limited to an equal protection class-of-one theory. Pl.’s
Mem. Opp. at 1. Thus, the Court evaluates only whether he can proceed to trial on a classof-one claim.
Where the lack of a rational basis can be proven through a pattern of
discriminatory harassment alone, however, the plaintiff need not identify a
similarly situated comparator. Brunson, 843 F.3d at 706–07; see also Miller v. City
of Monona, 784 F.3d 1113, 1121 (7th Cir. 2015).
In addition, evidence of personal animus on the part of the defendant can be
used to prove the lack of a rational basis. Bell, 367 F.3d at 709. Whether animus is
a required element that the plaintiff must prove, however, remains an open
question in this circuit. In 2012, the Seventh Circuit heard a class-of-one claim en
banc in a specific attempt to answer this question but was unable to reach a
majority. Writing for four judges, Judge Posner believed that plaintiffs must show
both the absence of a possible rational basis for the challenged action and evidence
of animus. Del Marcelle v. Brown Cty. Corp., 680 F.3d 887, 889 (7th Cir. 2012) (en
Judge Easterbrook concurred separately, contending that animus should
have no role. Id. at 899 (Easterbrook, J., concurring). Judge Wood, writing for five
judges, dissented and argued that animus should not be required but can be used to
prove the lack of a rational basis.
Id. at 913 (Wood, J., dissenting).
Notwithstanding the Seventh Circuit’s division in Marcelle, however, if there is a
rational basis for the action, “that will be the end of the matter—animus or no.”
Fares Pawn, 755 F.3d at 845; see also D.B. ex rel. Kurtis B. v. Kopp, 725 F.3d 681,
686 (7th Cir. 2013).
Alderden argues that Battle cannot sustain his equal protection class-of-one
claim by any of these means. Specifically, he maintains that Battle has failed to
identify a similarly situated comparator, present evidence of direct animus, and
rebut the proffered rational basis for Alderden’s actions—namely, that Alderden
believed that it was his duty to report to the Sheriff’s Office a sheriff’s deputy who
refused to cooperate in a criminal investigation. Alderden further argues that he is
entitled to qualified immunity. The Court will address each of these arguments in
Similarly Situated Comparator
Defendants first argue that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to
whether Alderden treated a similarly situated comparator differently, thereby
foreclosing this avenue of disproving a rational basis. To be similarly situated,
comparators must be “identical or directly comparable to the plaintiff in all material
Miller, 784 F.3d at 1120 (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). But there is no “precise formula” for determining similarity. McDonald,
371 F.3d at 1002. While it is typically for the jury to decide whether individuals are
similarly situated, “a court may properly grant summary judgment where it is clear
that no reasonable jury could find that the similarly situated requirement has been
Defendants also argue that Battle has not identified any laws of which Alderden
failed to provide him equal protection. Defs.’ Mem. Supp. at 12. Class-of-one claims,
however, are not limited to circumstances in which a private citizen is deprived of the
benefit of an actual law, but also include instances where a government actor uses the color
of law to harass a private citizen. E.g., Kyung Hye Yano v. City Colls. of Chi., No. 08 CV
4492, 2013 WL 3791616, at *2 (N.D. Ill. July 19, 2013) (denying summary judgment in a
class-of-one claim where the defendant teacher had discriminated against the plaintiff by
“applying a different grading system to her exams, refusing to meet with her during office
hours . . . [and] treating her with open hostility in and outside the classroom”).
Battle argues that Jamal Wright and Jerry McGhee, the other employees at
Walgreens, were similarly situated to him but treated differently because they were
not subject to Alderden’s “derision, belligerent rebuke[,] and yelling.” Pl.’s Mem.
Opp. at 10.
He further observes that Alderden did not report them to their
employers, as he did with Battle. See id. Turning first to Wright, he is not a
similarly situated comparator because he did not witness the crime that Alderden
was investigating. Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 18. The basis for Battle’s suit in this
case is Alderden’s report to the Sheriff’s Office, which Alderden filed based on
Battle’s refusal to identify suspects of a crime. Quite simply, Wright cannot be
considered similarly situated because he did not even see the crime.
Nor is McGhee similarly situated to Battle because, as Battle acknowledges,
McGhee was not a law enforcement officer at the time of the incident. 8 Pl.’s Mem.
Opp. at 10; see Kolbe v. Hogan, 813 F.3d 160, 187 (4th Cir. 2016) (Agee, J.,
concurring) (holding that law enforcement officers are materially different from the
general public in part because of their duties to protect the public and enforce the
law), rev’d on other grounds, 849 F.3d 114 (4th Cir. 2017) (en banc). As a sheriff’s
deputy, Battle had a different standing in his community because of his “publicly
oriented responsibilities.” Kolbe, 813 F.3d at 187. McGhee, on the other hand, was
a Walgreens store clerk and thus had no such obligation to the public.
whereas Battle possessed a duty to the public to enforce the law, McGhee did not,
Although Battle was not on duty as a sheriff’s deputy on the day in question, he was
employed at Walgreens in a security capacity, Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 3, and he was
wearing a vest with the sheriff’s star on it that identified him as a deputy, id. ¶ 50.
making them dissimilar. Id.; see also Maglietti v. Nicholson, 517 F. Supp. 2d 624,
638 (D. Conn. 2007) (holding that job responsibilities were relevant factors in
determining whether the plaintiff and any alleged comparators were similarly
situated); cf. Russo v. City of Hartford, 341 F. Supp. 2d 85, 116 n.27 (D. Conn. 2004)
(holding that the plaintiff, who was a police detective, was not similarly situated to
the police chief). What is more, McGhee participated in the identification process
and made a facial identification, while Battle did not. Accordingly, no reasonable
jury could conclude that McGhee and Battle were similarly situated, but treated
Battle’s failure in this regard is grounds enough to grant Defendants
summary judgment on Battle’s claim. This is not a case in which a pattern of
discriminatory treatment obviates the need to identify a similarly situated
comparator. Geinosky v. City of Chi., 675 F.3d 743, 748, 748 n.3 (7th Cir. 2012);
Hill v. Rubald, No. 13 C 4847, 2017 WL 201357, at *8 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 18, 2017)
(holding that, where there was no pattern of harassment, the plaintiff’s inability to
identify a similarly situated comparator who was treated differently was sufficient
to justify granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants). However, the
Seventh Circuit has suggested that in some circumstances where “the plaintiff
alone suffer[s]” the discriminatory treatment at issue, a comparator may not be
necessary. See Brunson, 843 F.3d at 707. Accordingly, for the sake of completeness,
the Court will proceed to consider Battle’s remaining avenues of eliminating a
rational basis for Alderden’s actions.
Defendants also argue that there is no evidence demonstrating any overt
animus by Alderden against Battle. Recall that animus can be used as a method of
demonstrating that there is no rational basis for government action.
Demonstrating animus, though, requires evidence of “deep-seated animosity” that
goes beyond mere rudeness. Bell, 367 F.3d at 709 (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). Animus-based claims also tend to require a lengthy pattern of
mistreatment. See Brunson, 843 F.3d at 707–08; Swanson v. City of Chetek, 719
F.3d 780, 785 (7th Cir. 2013) (holding that the plaintiff presented a strong
argument for the existence of animus in part because he “detailed a series of alleged
actions by [the defendant] that appeared illegitimate on their face”); see also
Geinosky, 675 F.3d at 748–49.
Battle has not adduced evidence that Alderden displayed animus. His claim
of animus relies on the argument that Alderden “threatened and browbeat” Battle
in an attempt to force him to identify the suspect. Pl.’s Mem. Opp. at 12. But this
“threaten[ing] and “browbeat[ing]” amounts to nothing more than the isolated
incident on which his complaint is based and evidence of one incident between a
government official and the plaintiff is generally insufficient to support animus in a
class-of-one claim. Moreover, there is no evidence of any prior history between
Battle and Alderden or any indication that the incident was the culmination of a
feud or part of a pattern of harassment. Granted, Alderden admits to telling Battle
that he intended to inform his supervisors at Walgreens about his lack of
cooperation, and Battle maintains that Alderden was belligerent when addressing
Battle in the immediate aftermath of the incident. But even if Alderden was rude
and angry, his actions are insufficient to establish animus.
For these reasons,
Battle has not presented evidence that Alderden’s actions toward him were
motivated by personal animus.
That said, as noted above, Chief Judge Wood’s opinion in Del Marcelle left
open the possibility that a showing of animus may not be required for a class-of-one
claim. See id., 680 F.3d at 913 (Wood, J., dissenting). Therefore, despite Battle’s
failure to present evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find animus, the Court
will examine whether a reasonable jury could find that he has nevertheless
excluded all possible rational explanations for Alderden’s action.
Conceivable Rational Basis
Defendants claim that Alderden had a rational basis for reporting Battle to
the Sheriff’s Office because Alderden believed that Battle had a duty to cooperate
with a criminal investigation and that Battle had breached his duty. Whether a
rational basis exists for government action is determined by analyzing whether the
action has a rational relationship to a legitimate government interest. Smith, 457
F.3d at 652. The burden is on the plaintiff, though, to “‘eliminate any reasonably
conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis for the explanation.’”
Bell, 367 F.3d at 708 (quoting Discovery House, Inc. v. Consol. City of Indianapolis,
319 F.3d 277, 282 (7th Cir. 2003)). Whether the plaintiff has done so is generally a
question for the jury, but a court may grant summary judgment if no reasonable
jury could find that a rational basis for the defendant’s action was absent. Knaus v.
Town of Ledgeview, 561 F. App’x 510, 514 (7th Cir. 2014); RJB Props. Inc. v. Bd. of
Educ. of City of Chi., 468 F.3d 1005, 1010 (7th Cir. 2006).
Importantly, an action does not amount to an Equal Protection violation even
if based on a mistaken belief, so as long the action is rationally related to a
legitimate government interest, and the belief is reasonable. RJB Props., 468 F.3d
Particularly where state actors are vested with discretion, they are
permitted to reasonably exercise that discretion, regardless of whether their
decisions turn out to be correct. E.g., id. at 1011 (holding that a government agency
could refuse to do business with the plaintiff because of a belief that the plaintiff
had committed wrongdoing, regardless of whether that wrongdoing actually
occurred); Fares Pawn, 755 F.3d at 848 (holding that the government is allowed to
make discretionary decisions about the credibility of individuals without violating
the Equal Protection Clause).
To that end, police officers are given wide
enforcement discretion, such that a single mistake is insufficient grounds for a
See Geinosky, 675 F.3d at 748 (holding that the rational
explanation for the defendant officers’ actions disappeared somewhere after the
“first several” bogus parking tickets).
Defendants argue that Alderden’s belief that Battle had a duty to cooperate
with his investigation provides a rational explanation for his reporting Battle to the
Battle, however, argues that no official duty exists, and that
Alderden has provided nothing that supports the existence of such a duty. For
purposes of this motion, the Court assumes Battle is correct that he was under no
official duty to cooperate with Alderden. But, as explained above, it is not enough
that Alderden was mistaken, so long as his actions were reasonably related to a
legitimate state interest. Here, Alderden wanted Battle, a fellow law enforcement
officer, to cooperate with his investigation and help solve a crime. Alderden was
under the impression that, because Battle was also a law enforcement officer, he
owed Alderden a duty to cooperate with him.
Further, Alderden believed that
Battle had breached this duty, given that Battle refused to testify in any capacity,
despite having identified a jacket that one of the individuals had been wearing.
Thus, when Battle refused to testify, Alderden thought it appropriate to pressure
him to reconsider, and when he still refused, Alderden decided it was prudent to
report him to the Sheriff’s Office. Alderden therefore made a discretionary decision
to report Battle in pursuit of the government’s legitimate interests in investigating
a crime. 9
This is a rational basis for Alderden’s actions, and Battle has not
produced evidence from which a reasonably jury could find that he has negated it.
Battle correctly points out that, while police officers have broad discretion in
enforcing laws, Alderden’s alleged violation is not a case of selective enforcement of
an established law. Instead, Alderden believed that Battle had a duty to cooperate
with him when, at least according to Battle, he did not. But this is a distinction
without a difference. Alderden reasonably believed that Battle had a duty to help
assist his investigation, which was rationally related to a state interest in
Battle does not argue that investigating a crime and seeking cooperation in such an
investigation from another law enforcement officer is not a legitimate state interest. Doe v.
Moore, 410 F.3d 1337, 1345 (11th Cir. 2005) (“It has long been in the interest of government
to protect its citizens from criminal activity.”).
investigating crime. Furthermore, he acted within his discretion on the basis of this
belief only once, rather than targeting Battle repeatedly.
Battle also argues that Alderden attempted to suborn perjury, which cannot
be rationally related to a legitimate government interest because it is arguably
Pl.’s Mem. Opp. at 13.
As a point of reference, Illinois law defines
suborning perjury as “knowingly procur[ing] or induc[ing] another” to “make[ ] a
false statement, material to the issue or point in question, knowing the statement is
false” while under oath. 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/32-2 to -3. Here, Alderden asked
Battle if he had ever testified in court before, and told him, “If you don’t know what
to say. I’ll tell you what to say.” Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3), Ex. A, Battle Dep. at 93:12–
18. For Battle, this caused him to be “suspicious” because he thought that Alderden
“was trying to set [him] up to identify who that guy was.” Id. at 92:5–93:3, 94:9–14.
But the fact is that Battle had noticed the distinctive jackets that the two
perpetrators had worn when they ran from the scene, and Battle had indeed
identified one of the individuals to Alderden previously by reference to his jacket.
Id. at 51:19–52:5; 87:23–88:2. What is more, Battle did not ask Alderden what he
meant by his statement or what exactly it was that Alderden wanted him to say in
court. Id. at 95:11-15. Nor is there any evidence that Alderden actually asked to
“make something up” as Battle feared.
Id. at 95:3–4.
Battle may have been
“suspicious” of Alderden’s motives, but without more, Battle’s own suspicions are
insufficient to defeat summary judgment. See McGreal v. Vill. of Orland Park, 850
F.3d 308, 314 (7th Cir. 2017) (“[A] suspicion is not enough to get past a motion for
summary judgment.”) (citation omitted); Kim v. Dawn Food Prods., Inc., 206 Fed.
Appx. 558, 560 (7th Cir. 2006) (A plaintiff’s “own suspicion was not a substitute that
could defeat a motion for summary judgment.”). 10
For all of these reasons, Battle has not produced evidence from which a
reasonable jury could find that there was no rational explanation for Alderden’s
Defendant Alderden further argues that even if an issue of material fact
remained as to the constitutionality of his actions, he would still be entitled to
summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. Police officers are entitled to
qualified immunity and thus protection from civil liability as long as “‘their conduct
does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.’” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231
(2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)).
immunity claims comprise two elements: (1) the plaintiff must have alleged a
violation of a constitutional right, and (2) the right must have been clearly
established at the time of the incident.
Id. at 232.
For a right to be clearly
established, it must be “clear to a reasonable offic[ial] that his conduct was unlawful
in the situation he confronted.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 202 (2001).
Further, even assuming for the sake of argument that Alderden’s statement could be
considered a demand that Battle lie in court, for the reasons discussed above, the actions
taken by Alderden as a result of Battle’s refusal would fall well short of the lengthy pattern
of mistreatment that could support a class-of-one claim. See supra at 11–12.
Even though qualified immunity is a defense and summary judgment places
the burden on the movant (here, Alderden) to establish that there is no genuine
issue of fact, plaintiffs have the burden of defeating qualified immunity claims even
at the summary judgment stage. Rabin v. Flynn, 725 F.3d 628, 632 (7th Cir. 2013);
accord Mannoia v. Farrow, 476 F.3d 453, 457 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiffs can defeat
qualified immunity claims either by “‘point[ing] to a clearly analogous case
establishing a right to be free from the specific conduct at issue’ or by showing that
‘the conduct [at issue] is so egregious that no reasonable person could have believed
that it would not violate clearly established rights.’” Wheeler v. Lawson, 539 F.3d
629, 639 (7th Cir. 2008) (alterations in original) (quoting Smith v. City of Chi., 242
F.3d 737, 742 (7th Cir. 2001)).
First, as discussed above, the record does not support Battle’s class-of-one
claim. But, even assuming, for the purposes of argument, that it did, Alderden
would be entitled to qualified immunity on the grounds that the right allegedly
violated was not clearly established at the time of the incident. The act of which
Battle is complaining is the report that Alderden filed with the Sheriff’s Office, and
the right alleged to exist is the right for law enforcement officers to be free from
fellow officers filing such reports when their colleagues refuse to testify as part of an
investigation. Battle has not analogized to any cases that establish that this right
existed in March 2012, when the altercation at issue occurred, and the Court has
likewise been unable to find any cases establishing such a right. 11 Battle argues
that Alderden’s acts constituted criminal attempts to suborn perjury, but this
argument fails for the reasons stated above. Therefore, because Battle has been
unable to identify any cases establishing a constitutional right to be free from
treatment resembling Alderden’s, he has not demonstrated that the right was
clearly established at the time of the incident. Alderden is therefore entitled to
For the reasons stated herein, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment
 is granted.
Judgment will be entered in favor of Defendants.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
John Z. Lee
United States District Judge
In fact, on March 16, 2012, the barriers to succeeding on class-of-one claims were
even higher than they are today, because Seventh Circuit cases relaxing the requirement of
a similarly situated comparator had not yet been decided.
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