Jones-Huff v. The City of Chicago et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order signed by the Honorable Andrea R. Wood on 9/21/2016. Mailed notice(ef, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Judge Andrea R. Wood
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This lawsuit grew out of a long-standing feud between neighboring couples: Plaintiff
Hazel Jones-Huff and her now-deceased husband, Joseph Huff, in one house, and Defendant
Courtney Hill, an officer in the Chicago Police Department, and his wife, Cathy Hill, in the
house next door. One day the Hills placed a flower pot on or near the fence separating the two
couples’ houses. Jones-Huff did not like where they put it, so she and Cathy Hill began to argue.
This was not their first argument. But this time the argument escalated into dramatic violence,
with Huff and Defendant Hill ultimately exchanging gunfire. After Huff shot and maimed Cathy
Hill, Defendant Hill returned fire, first killing Huff and then shooting at Jones-Huff. In this
lawsuit, Jones-Huff claims that the shots Defendant Hill fired at her constituted excessive force
in violation of her rights under the Fourth Amendment. She additionally argues that after
shooting her, Defendant Hill took actions resulting in her false arrest and malicious prosecution
in violation of state law. Defendant Hill has moved for summary judgment on all of Jones-Huff’s
claims.1 The Court denies that motion for the reasons that follow.
Jones-Huff’s three-count amended complaint, filed on September 11, 2016, asserts only an excessive
force claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution. (Am.
Compl., Dkt. No. 122.) Jones-Huff’s original complaint also included a § 1983 conspiracy claim as well
as state law claims for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Those
At the time the events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred, Defendant Hill was 46 years
old, a 19-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, and married to Cathy Hill. (Def.’s
Resp. Pl.’s Stmt. Add’l Undisputed Facts (“DRPAUF”) ¶ 56, Dkt. No. 84; Pl.’s Resp. Def.’s
Stmt. Undisputed Facts (“PRDSUF”) ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 87.) Jones-Huff was 91 years old and her
husband was 86 years old. (PRDSUF ¶ 1; DRPAUF ¶¶ 1, 12.) The Hills and the Huffs had
known each other for at least a dozen years. (PRDSUF ¶ 7.) The Hills had lived at 8417 South
Carpenter Street in Chicago since at least 1999. (PRDSUF ¶ 4.) Jones-Huff lived at a
neighboring lot, numbered 8411 South Carpenter Street, with her husband. (DRPAUF ¶ 1.) Each
claims were abandoned by Jones-Huff with the amendment to the complaint. (Min. Entry, Dkt. No. 120.)
In addition, Jones-Huff initially sought relief against other officers for the same causes of action that he
now asserts only against Defendant Hill and asserted two counts against the City of Chicago under
Illinois state law. But she then voluntarily dismissed “all defendants except Courtney Hill from the
lawsuit.” (Pl.’s Mot. to Dismiss Certain Defs., Dkt. No. 62; Min. Entry, Dkt. No. 64 (granting Pl.’s Mot.
to Dismiss Certain Defs.).) This opinion addresses the three surviving claims against Defendant Hill.
Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed for present purposes. On a motion for
summary judgment, the Court must draw “all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor of the
nonmoving party.” Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008)
(internal citation omitted). The facts are gleaned from the parties’ submissions under Local Rule 56.1
(N.D. Ill.). Local Rule 56.1 “is designed, in part, to aid the district court, which does not have the
advantage of the parties’ familiarity with the record and often cannot afford to spend the time combing
the record to locate the relevant information, in determining whether a trial is necessary.” Delapaz v.
Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Local Rule
56.1(a) requires the moving party to provide “a statement of material facts as to which the moving party
contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law.”
Petty v. City of Chicago, 754 F.3d 416, 420 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting N.D. Ill. L.R. 56.1(a)(3)). “The nonmoving party must file a response to the moving party’s statement, and, in the case of any disagreement,
cite specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.”
Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted); see also N.D. Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(A). Finally, Local
Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) “requires specifically that a litigant seeking to oppose a motion for summary judgment
file a response that contains a separate statement . . . of any additional facts that require the denial of
summary judgment.” Sojka v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., 686 F.3d 394, 398 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal citation
and quotation marks omitted). In this case, neither party fully abided by these requirements. Jones-Huff’s
response numbered the responses by paragraph but did not include the initial statements. Defendant Hill
filed an unauthorized reply. The Court declines to sanction either party for this noncompliance but
admonishes the attorneys of record to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Court’s
local rules in future.
house had a yard in back. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 3.) Between the two yards ran two fences. (DRPAUF ¶ 10.)
One was a wrought iron fence; the other was a six-foot “cyclone fence with white privacy slats.”
(PRDSUF ¶ 16; DRPAUF ¶¶ 8, 10.)
On April 25, 2014, Cathy Hill was in her back yard. (PRDSUF ¶¶ 1, 3.) Jones-Huff was
in her own back yard, on her side of the fences. (Id. ¶ 1.) The Hills had placed a flower pot on the
Huffs’ fence. (Id. ¶ 2.) The parties agree that Jones-Huff pushed the pot, although they dispute
whether she pushed it with a stick or with a broom and also whether she knocked it to the ground
altogether. (Id.) According to Jones-Huff, she “used a stick to move the pot off her fence,” and
although she did not knock it to the ground, “Cathy Hill began running toward the fence
screaming and yelling obscenities,” (id. ¶ 3), and then “pour[ed] dirt over the fence onto [ ]
Jones-Huff’s head.” (DRPAUF ¶ 4.) Defendant Hill tells a different story. He claims that JonesHuff used a broom to cause the flower pot “to fall” to the ground, where it broke, such that Cathy
Hill “heard the crash of the flower pot” hitting the ground. (Def.’s Stmt. Undisputed Facts ¶ 3,
Dkt. No. 69.) He further claims that after Cathy Hill and Jones-Huff began to argue, Jones-Huff
swung a broom “over the fence and hit Cathy Hill on her head” and then did the same to
Defendant Hill (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) These disputes turn out to be of greater moment than one might
expect at first blush.
Although the parties disagree about whether Jones-Huff broke the flower pot and hit the
Hills, they agree that the two women argued loudly. (DRPAUF ¶ 3; PRDSUF ¶ 5.) At some
point, Cathy Hill referred to Jones-Huff as a “bitch.” (DRPAUF ¶ 5.) The sounds of the
argument reached Defendant Hill, who was in front of his house. (PRDSUF ¶ 5.) At the time, he
was off duty and in civilian clothes “but did have his duty weapon on his person.” (Id. ¶ 6.)
Defendant Hill walked to his back yard upon hearing his wife and Jones-Huff arguing. (Id.) The
parties dispute what he saw. Although Jones-Huff denies having hit Cathy Hill with a broom,
Defendant Hill claims that he saw her do so. (Id. ¶ 8.) Whether or not Defendant Hill saw
Jones-Huff hit his wife, he did dial 911, apparently in response to whatever was going on
between the two women. (Id. ¶ 11.)
At some point, Huff also arrived at the scene. The parties agree that Defendant Hill was
talking to the 911 operator using an earpiece and facing away from the Huffs’ property when
Cathy Hill saw Huff exit his house into his back yard armed with a shotgun. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)
Cathy Hill yelled to her husband, “he’s got a shot gun.” (Id. ¶ 15.) Defendant Hill then turned to
face Huff, who shot across the fence toward the Hills’ back yard. (Id. ¶ 16.) Huff’s shots struck
Cathy Hill, who was then “lying on the ground[,] screaming out in pain[,] profusely bleeding.”
(Id. ¶¶ 17, 20.) Her injuries ultimately resulted in the loss of her right eye and the amputation of
her right arm at the elbow. (Id. ¶ 17.) After Huff shot his wife, Defendant Hill drew his duty
weapon and returned fire. (Id. ¶ 18.) He struck and killed Huff, whose shotgun fell to his feet.
(Id. ¶¶ 18-19.) Defendant Hill kept his gun drawn and pointed at Jones-Huff. (Id. ¶ 19.) During
the exchange of gunfire, he had remained on the phone with the 911 operator, to whom at some
point he reported that shots had been fired. (Id. ¶ 22.)
The parties dispute what Jones-Huff did after Defendant Hill shot her husband.
Defendant Hill claims that Jones-Huff walked over to Huff’s body and then bent down and
touched it. (Id.) He further claims that he did not know whether Huff’s shotgun remained loaded,
so he not only instructed Jones-Huff to back away from the gun but also warned her that, if she
did not do so, he would shoot her. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 22.) Instead of following his instructions, however,
Jones-Huff grabbed the barrel of the shotgun “and moved it about an inch closer to her.” (Id.
¶ 23.) Defendant Hill also claims that Jones-Huff “reached . . . a second time and touched the
barrel of her husband’s gun, even though [he] order[ed] her to get away from the gun or he
would shoot her.” (Id. ¶ 26.) Jones-Huff tells a different story. She says that she begged
Defendant Hill to let her comfort Huff but “she never got close enough to her husband to even
talk to” him. (Id. ¶ 19.)
It is undisputed that, at some point after shooting Huff, Defendant Hill shot at Jones-Huff
twice. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 27.) The parties do dispute, however, how far Defendant Hill was from Huff’s
shotgun and whether he could have reached it at the time he shot Jones-Huff. They also dispute
whether Jones-Huff was bent down or standing next to Huff’s body (and the shotgun at his feet)
when Defendant Hill shot her. After Jones-Huff was shot, she walked up the stairs from her back
yard into her house. (Id. ¶ 33.)
The Aftermath of the Shootings
At some point during his 911 call, Defendant Hill reported to the dispatcher that “2
people are shot.” (DRPAUF ¶¶ 28-29.) After the shootings, other police officers eventually
arrived at the scene. (Id. ¶ 33.) Defendant Hill remembers about half a dozen officers responding,
but he did not know any of them. (PRDSUF ¶ 39.)
Later that day, Defendant Hill signed a criminal complaint against Jones-Huff for battery
and unlawful aggravated assault of a peace officer. (Pl.’s Stmt. Add’l Undisputed Facts ¶ 41,
Dkt. No. 72.) Specifically, his complaint stated that Jones-Huff knowingly and intentionally
threatened him while she was in control of a shotgun. (PRDSUF ¶ 41.) Although Jones-Huff
does not dispute that, after April 25, 2014, Defendant Hill never met with his superiors in the
police department to explain what had happened, she claims that “Lieutenant Margaret Sears
believed Plaintiff had ‘brandished a gun’ and she approved the charges against Plaintiff based on
the Narrative of the arrest report that Plaintiff was in control of a gun.” (Id. ¶ 43; DRPAUF ¶ 64.)
Jones-Huff was ultimately tried in state court by a judge and found not guilty. (DRPAUF ¶ 51.)
Following her acquittal, Jones-Huff brought this civil lawsuit. The amended complaint
asserts a federal claim against Defendant Hill pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for use of excessive
force, as well as state law claims against him for false arrest and malicious prosecution.
Defendant Hill has moved for summary judgment on each of these claims.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court construes all facts and
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Harney v.
Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008). But “favor toward the
nonmoving party does not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only speculation or
conjecture.” Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal citation and
quotation marks omitted). The “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute” does not suffice
to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Dawson v. Brown, 803 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2015)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis in original). Rather, summary
judgment is appropriate if “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). Material facts are those “that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law.” Lawrence v. Kenosha
Cty., 391 F.3d 837, 842 (7th Cir. 2004) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The
genuineness of a dispute suffices to defeat a motion for summary judgment only “if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. (internal
citation and quotation marks omitted).
Defendant Hill has moved for summary judgment on all of Jones-Huff’s three remaining
claims. Jones-Huff’s claim that Defendant Hill used unconstitutionally excessive force turns on
his shooting of her. The other two claims—false arrest and malicious prosecution—turn on
events subsequent to the shooting.
Federal Law Excessive Force Claim
Jones-Huff’s excessive force claim is based on Defendant Hill’s alleged violation of her
constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. See U.S. Const. Am. IV;
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (providing a remedy for deprivation of a plaintiff’s civil rights by a person
acting under color of state law). “A police officer’s use of deadly force is a seizure” for these
purposes. Muhammed v. City of Chicago, 316 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Tennessee v.
Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 7 (1985)). Accordingly, Jones-Huff alleges that Defendant Hill deprived her
of her Fourth Amendment right by using excessive force when he shot her.
Under Color of State Law
As a preliminary matter, Jones-Huff has a cause of action under § 1983 only if Defendant
Hill acted under color of state law. An officer “who is off duty . . . acts under color of state law
when [and only when] (1) [he] purport[s] to or pretend[s] to act under color of law, (2) his
pretense of acting in the performance of his duties . . . had the purpose and effect of influencing
the behavior of others, and (3) the harm inflicted on [the] plaintiff related in some meaningful
way either to the officer’s governmental status or to the performance of his duties[.]” Naffe v.
Frey, 789 F.3d 1030, 1037 (9th Cir. 2015) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The
Court need not and does not determine here whether Defendant Hill was acting under color of
law during the shootings because he has not disputed that conclusion. In his answer to Jones-
Huff’s amended complaint, Defendant Hill admits that he “was acting under the color of law . . .
at all times.” (Ans. ¶ 20, Dkt. No. 123.) And he has not disputed the issue in connection with his
motion for summary judgment. (See DRPAUF ¶ 65.)
The Court must review Jones-Huff’s excessive force claim under the Fourth
Amendment’s objective reasonableness standard. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395
(1989). The Court evaluates an officer’s use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer,
not the subjective perspective of the officer on the scene whose actions are in question. But the
reasonable officer whose perspective the Court must adopt is one operating under the same
circumstances as the officer on the scene, not one who enjoys the benefits of hindsight that time
for contemplation and a full record allow. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396; see also Maravilla v. United
States, 60 F.3d 1230, 1233 (7th Cir. 1995) (observing that the Fourth Amendment standard is an
objective one) (citing Graham, 490 U.S. at 397).
To determine whether an officer’s actions under the circumstances were reasonable, the
Court must consider several factors, including whether the individual against whom the officer
took action posed an immediate threat, was armed, or was attempting to interfere with the
officer’s duties. Dawson v. Brown, 803 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Padula v.
Leimbach, 656 F.3d 595, 602 (7th Cir. 2011)). The Court examines these factors to determine
“whether the force used to seize the suspect was excessive in relation to the danger” that the
seized individual posed otherwise. Padula, 656 F.3d at 602. The Seventh Circuit has admonished
district courts considering whether a particular use of force is unconstitutional, to “consider the
facts and circumstances of each particular case,” rather than some generalized or archetypical
version of that kind of use of force. Weinmann v. McClone, 787 F.3d 444, 448 (7th Cir. 2015)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted). “Finally, if there are sufficient undisputed
material facts to establish that the officer acted reasonably under the circumstances, then the
court must resolve the issue as a matter of law, rather than allow a jury to ‘second-guess’ the
officer’s actions.” Dawson, 803 F.3d at 833 (quoting Bell v. Irwin, 321 F.3d 637, 640 (7th Cir.
An officer’s use of deadly force requires a special reasonableness inquiry. The Supreme
Court has “stressed . . . that it is reasonable to use deadly force if the officer . . . has probable
cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or
others and, whenever possible, warns the suspect before firing.” Sherrod v. Berry, 856 F.2d 802,
805 (7th Cir. 1988) (citing Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 11-12 (1985)). A suspect’s threat
with a weapon provides such probable cause. See id. “‘It is not necessary that the danger which
gave rise to the belief actually existed; it is sufficient that the person resorting to self defense at
the time involved reasonably believed in the existence of such a danger . . . .’” Id. at 806 (quoting
Davis v. Freels, 583 F.2d 337, 341 (7th Cir. 1978)).
Jones-Huff suggest that, to the extent Defendant Hill reasonably thought she might use
the shotgun to shoot him, he ought to have prevented her from doing so by a method other than
shooting her—for instance, by grabbing the shotgun himself. But the Fourth Amendment does
not require an officer in Defendant Hill’s situation “to use all feasible alternatives to avoid a
situation where deadly force can justifiably be used.” Plakas v. Drinski, 19 F.3d 1143, 1148 (7th
Cir. 1994). Indeed, the Seventh Circuit has cited with approval “cases which support the
assertion that, where deadly force is otherwise justified under the Constitution, there is no
constitutional duty to use non-deadly alternatives first.” Id.
Moreover, an inquiry as to reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment almost always
requires a fact-finder to resolve factual disputes. As a result, federal courts should be sparing in
their grants of summary judgment in such cases. See Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763,
773 (7th Cir. 2005). Cases such as this one turn on the relative credibility of the seizing and
seized parties, which makes summary judgment inappropriate. See, e.g., Sherrod, 856 F.2d at
806 (holding that the veracity of the officer’s testimony and the reasonableness of his actions in
dealing with a suspect who he believed to be armed and dangerous and to have made a quick
movement with his hand going into his coat as if he were going to reach for a weapon were
questions appropriately left for a properly informed and instructed jury).
According to Defendant Hill, Jones-Huff was close enough to the shotgun to give him
probable cause to believe that she might harm him. Jones-Huff disputes that fact. Thus, the
parties dispute a key fact material to the excessive-force claim: Jones-Huff’s proximity to and
behavior toward her husband’s shotgun. If Jones-Huff reached for the gun, as Defendant Hill
claims, a reasonable person knowing what he did at the time might fear serious injury to himself
or his wife—to wit, another round from the shotgun. Jones-Huff and Defendant Hill offer
contradictory testimony on whether Jones-Huff reached for the gun. If the jury believes JonesHuff, it could conclude that she was not near enough to the shotgun when Defendant Hill shot
her to pose a threat to him or his wife. These disputed facts are sufficient to preclude a grant of
summary judgment on Jones-Huff’s excessive force claim.
Before moving on from Jones-Huff’s excessive force claim, however, the Court must
consider Defendant Hill’s argument that he is entitled to summary judgment based on a theory of
qualified immunity. Police officials performing discretionary functions enjoy qualified immunity
from liability for civil damages when they “act in ways they reasonably believe to be lawful.”
Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 691 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal citation and quotation marks
omitted). So “while the substantive constitutional standard protects officers’ reasonable factual
mistakes, qualified immunity protects them from liability where they reasonably misjudge the
legal standard.” Catlin v. City of Wheaton, 574 F.3d 361, 369 (7th Cir. 2009).
Defendant Hill argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity on Jones-Huff’s excessive
force claim. “Determination of whether qualified immunity applies depends on whether the
violation of a constitutional right occurred and whether the unconstitutionality of an officer’s
conduct was clearly established in the law at the time of the alleged misconduct.” Coleman v.
Wiencek, No. 08 C 5275, 2010 WL 1506708, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 13, 2010) (citing Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009)). The issue here is not whether the claimed constitutional
right was clearly established. To the contrary, “[t]t has been well established for years that the
use of deadly force must be reasonable and that reasonableness is determined ‘in light of the
facts and circumstances confronting [the officer] at the moment [he] acted.’” Coleman, 2010 WL
1506708, at *6 (quoting Maravilla, 60 F.3d at 1233). Rather, the issue is whether Defendant Hill
acted reasonably under the circumstances. See id. Where the parties dispute facts key to the
determination of whether the officer acted reasonably, the Court cannot determine whether the
officer enjoys immunity on a summary judgment motion. As described above, the parties dispute
whether Jones-Huff reached for the shotgun before Defendant Hill shot her. A grant of summary
judgment for reasons of qualified immunity would not be appropriate.
State Law Claims
After she was shot, Jones-Huff was arrested based on Defendant Hill’s complaint that she
assaulted and battered him. A person commits aggravated assault in Illinois when she engages in
conduct that places an individual who the person knew to be a peace officer engaged in official
duties in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. See 720 ILCS 5/12-1; 720 ILCS 5/122(a)(4)(i). Criminal battery in Illinois requires “physical contact of an insulting or provoking
nature.” 720 ILCS 5/12-3. Jones-Huff was charged with, prosecuted for, and found not guilty of
criminal battery and aggravated assault. She now argues that Defendant Hill’s actions caused her
to be subjected to a false arrest and malicious prosecution.
To succeed on a false arrest claim under Illinois state law, a plaintiff must demonstrate
(1) that she was restrained or arrested by the defendant and (2) that the defendant acted without
reasonable grounds to believe that the plaintiff committed an offense, i.e., that the defendant
lacked probable cause. See Meerbrey v. Marshall Field & Co., Inc., 564 N.E.2d 1222, 1231 (Ill.
1990); Gvozden v. Mill Run Tours, Inc., Nos. 10-cv-4595, 10-cv-4606, 2016 WL 930514, at *2
(N.D. Ill. Mar. 11, 2016) (“[T]he probable cause analysis focuses on whether the defendant who
is alleged to have procured the plaintiff’s arrest had ‘reasonable grounds to believe that an
offense was committed by the plaintiff.’”) (quoting Johnson v. Target Stores, Inc., 791 N.E.2d
1206, 1220 (Ill. App. 2003)). Whether probable cause exists is a question of law unless the
parties dispute the operative facts. See Gaszak v. Zayre of Ill., Inc., 305 N.E.2d 704, 709 (Ill.
App. Ct. 1973). It “depends upon the totality of the circumstances as viewed under practical
considerations of everyday life from the point of view of reasonable men.” People v. Holmes,
433 N.E.2d 1027, 1031 (Ill. App. Ct. 1982) (citing People v. Green, 410 N.E.2d 1003, 1006 (Ill.
App. Ct. 1980)). Illinois courts “look at all the circumstances presented to the investigating
officer” in order to “determin[e] whether there was probable cause” for that officer to effect an
arrest. Id. “Facts sufficient to establish probable cause need not be sufficient to establish guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt, and probable cause may be founded upon evidence which would not
be admissible at trial.” Id. (citing People v. Blitz 369 N.E.2d 1238, 1240 (Ill. 1977)).
Defendant Hill does not dispute that he caused Jones-Huff’s detention. Instead, he argues
that Jones-Huff has not identified a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether he had
probable cause to effectuate her arrest. In particular, Defendant Hill argues that he had probable
cause to believe that Jones-Huff committed two offenses. Defendant Hill first contends that he
had probable cause to believe that Jones-Huff had committed battery against him and his wife by
hitting each of them with a broom. But Jones-Huff denies hitting either Defendant Hill or Cathy
Hill with a broom and raises a plausible challenge Defendant’s Hill’s credibility in claiming that
he believed she had done so. Because the determination of probable cause for the battery charge
turns on credibility determinations, it would be inappropriate to grant summary judgment on that
The second crime that Defendant Hill says he had probable cause to believe Jones-Huff
committed before her arrest is aggravated assault. As stated above, a person has committed
aggravated assault in Illinois if she places in reasonable fear for his life an individual she knows
to be a peace officer. Defendant Hill argues that Jones-Huff committed aggravated assault when,
knowing that he was a peace officer, she refused to relinquish control over her husband’s
shotgun when ordered to do so. Specifically, Defendant Hill claims that Jones-Huff’s position
before he shot her put her “in control of the shotgun because it was in her immediate area
allowing her the ability to pick it up,” so that “it remained a threat.” (Def.’s Stmt. Undisputed
Facts ¶ 44, Dkt. No. 69.) Jones-Huff responds with reference to her deposition testimony that she
was not close enough to her husband to talk to him. (PRDSUF ¶ 44.)
Defendant Hill’s argument for probable cause turns on key disputed facts: Jones-Huff hit
him and his wife with a broom and then, after her husband shot Cathy Hill with a shotgun and
Defendant Hill returned fire, Jones-Huff grabbed the shotgun before Defendant Hill shot her.
The facts to which Defendant Hill cites, if true, would likely constitute probable cause for the
charges on which Jones-Huff was arrested. But Jones-Huff heartily disputes those alleged
facts—she admits that she was somewhere in the vicinity of Huff’s shotgun but nothing more.
Whether to believe Defendant Hill or Jones-Huff, and moreover, whether Jones-Huff’s mere
position close to the shotgun could put Defendant Hill “in reasonable apprehension of receiving a
battery” as the aggravated assault statute requires, are factual questions inappropriate for
resolution on summary judgment.
The elements of a malicious prosecution claim under Illinois law include:
(1) the commencement or continuance of an original criminal or
civil judicial proceeding by the defendant; (2) the termination of
the proceeding in favor of the plaintiff; (3) the absence of probable
cause; (4) malice; and (5) damages.
Szczesniak v. CJC Auto Parts, Inc., 21 N.E.3d 486, 490 (Ill. App. Ct. 2014), appeal denied, 23
N.E.3d 1207 (Ill. 2015) (internal citation omitted).3 The “commence[ment] or continu[ation of] a
criminal proceeding” is attributed to a defendant if he either “initiated the criminal proceeding or
‘his participation in it must have been of so active and positive a character as to amount to advice
and cooperation.’” Logan v. Caterpillar, Inc., 246 F.3d 912, 922 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Denton
v. Allstate Ins. Co., 504 N.E.2d 756, 760 (Ill. App. Ct. 1987)). “Even where the private citizen
The first requirement is sometimes articulated as two separate elements. See, e.g., Freides v. Sani-Mode
Mfg. Co., 211 N.E.2d 286, 288 (Ill. 1965) (listing as the first two “[e]ssential elements of the action for
malicious prosecution” as “the commencement or continuance of an original criminal or civil judicial
proceeding” and “its legal causation by the present defendant against plaintiff who was the defendant in
the original proceeding”).
knowingly made false statements to the police, ‘he or she is not liable for ‘commencing’ a
criminal proceeding if the prosecution is based upon separate or independently developed
information.’” Gvozden, 2016 WL 930514, at *4 (quoting Szczesniak, 21 N.E.3d at 491).
The absence of probable cause, for these purposes, means the absence of “a state of facts”
which, if known, “would lead a man of ordinary caution and prudence to believe, or entertain an
honest and strong suspicion that the person arrested is guilty.” Freides v. Sani–Mode Mfg. Co.
211 N.E.2d 286, 288–89 (Ill. 1965) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
With respect to the element of malice, the Court must evaluate “‘the state of mind of the
person commencing the prosecution that is at issue—not the actual facts of the case or the guilt
or innocence of the accused.’” Williams v. City of Chicago, 733 F.3d 749, 759 (7th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Sang Ken Kim v. City of Chicago, 858 N.E.2d 569, 574 (Ill. App. Ct. 2006)). One way
for a plaintiff to demonstrate malice is to show “that the [defendant] proceeded with the
prosecution for the purpose of injuring plaintiff or for some other improper motive.” Aguirre v.
City of Chicago, 887 N.E.2d 656, 663 (Ill. App. Ct. 2008) (internal citation omitted). Where a
trier of fact has found a lack of probable cause, that trier “may infer malice . . . if there is no
credible evidence which refutes that inference.” Fabiano v. City of Palos Hills, 784 N.E.2d 258,
270 (Ill. App. Ct. 2002) (internal citation omitted).
Defendant Hill’s argument for summary judgment on the malicious prosecution claim
follows his argument for summary judgment on the false arrest claim: he argues that he had
probable cause to believe that Jones-Huff had committed the crimes of battery and aggravated
assault. But, as discussed above, the parties dispute whether Defendant Hill actually believed that
Jones-Huff had battered him and his wife, and whether Jones-Huff was close enough to Huff’s
shotgun to put Defendant Hill in reasonable fear of her firing it. Defendant Hill’s argument that
the Court should cred his and not Jones-Hu
uff’s version of the facts is an argume for the ju
ndant Hill ha presented no persuasiv legal argu
ument for gr
on the malicious pros
secution clai the Cour denies Def
fendant Hill’s motion fo summary
judgment on that clai as well.
For the forego
oing reasons Defendant Hill’s motio for summ
mary judgme (Dkt. No. 66)
eptember 21 2016
drea R. Wood
Unit States District Judge
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