Glanz v. Illinois et al
OPINION and Order: For the reasons stated in the accompanying Opinion and Order, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment 51 . The State of Illinois remains as nominal defendant solely for the purpose of indemnification. See Order for further details. Signed by the Honorable Sara L. Ellis on 4/4/2017. Mailed notice(ep, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, TROOPER
EHLERS STAR #6131, AND AS-YET
UNKNOWN ILLINOIS STATE TROOPERS, )
No. 15 C 6337
Judge Sara L. Ellis
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Vicki Glanz alleges that Illinois State Trooper Christopher Ehlers violated 42
U.S.C. § 1983 by using excessive force to pull her out of her car and handcuff her after she
refused to exit her car during a speeding stop. Defendants Ehlers and the State of Illinois move
for summary judgment . Because the State of Illinois is immune from claims seeking
monetary damages under the Eleventh Amendment, the Court grants summary judgment to the
State. But the Court denies summary judgment to Ehlers because an issue of fact precludes
granting Ehlers qualified immunity on Glanz’s excessive force claim.
While Glanz drove in Harvey, Illinois, an hour after midnight, Ehlers, in his squad car,
saw her and believed she was speeding. Ehlers pulled Glanz over on the street, stepped out of
The facts in this section are derived from the Joint Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. The Court
has considered the supporting exhibits and included in this background section only those portions of the
statements that are appropriately presented, supported, and relevant to resolution of the pending motion
for summary judgment. The parties agree that most facts in the Joint Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts derive from a videotape of the incident they agree is not doctored or altered in any way nor depicts
anything different than what actually happened. To the extent possible, the Court relies on the facts
describing the videotaped portion of Glanz and Ehler’s encounter “in the light depicted by the videotape.”
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380–81, 127 S. Ct. 1769, 167 L. Ed. 2d 686 (2007). All other facts are
taken in the light most favorable to Glanz, the non-movant.
his car, and approached hers. His squad car’s videorecording system captured video and audio
of the traffic stop. Ehlers questioned Glanz about her speeding and if she had consumed alcohol.
After he shined his light in Glanz’s face and tracked her eyes to attempt a field sobriety test,
Ehlers asked Glanz to step out of her car. Glanz refused. The two went back and forth–Glanz
continued to refuse. Ehlers opened Glanz’s door and removed the car key from the ignition. He
did not see her reach for anything, and after she said she was going to make a phone call, he did
not believe she had a gun when she reached for her cellular phone.
Ehlers then told Glanz she was under arrest for resisting arrest and locked a handcuff
bracelet on Glanz’s left arm. Ehlers unbuckled Glanz’s seatbelt and “attempted to pull [Glanz]
out of the vehicle, using the handcuff as leverage.” Doc. 53 ¶ 32. Although Ehlers did not
remove Glanz from the car on the first pull, he pulled her out on the second attempt. Glanz tried
to move back towards her seat. Ehlers then used “an ‘iron wrist takedown’ and an ‘arm bar
takedown’ to take [Glanz] onto the ground” on the street. Id. ¶ 37. Glanz began moving back
toward her car, and Ehlers then kneeled on her and asked for her other arm. For approximately
one minute, Ehlers attempted to handcuff Glanz while he told her to “stop resisting.” Id. ¶ 40. A
pedestrian walked by the scene, saw the two, kneeled close to Glanz, and told her to relax as
Ehlers continued to try to handcuff her. An off-duty City of Harvey police officer, who had been
driving by the scene, left his car, replaced the pedestrian, and told Glanz to “relax” and “stop
resisting.” Id. ¶ 44. Approximately three minutes and thirty-five seconds after Ehlers pulled
Glanz out of her car, he completed handcuffing her other wrist and pulled her off the ground.
Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.
To determine whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must pierce the pleadings and
assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and
affidavits that are part of the record. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 & advisory committee’s notes. The party
seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving that no genuine issue of material
fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265
(1986). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on mere pleadings alone but must use the
evidentiary tools listed above to identify specific material facts that demonstrate a genuine issue
for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). Although a
bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, Bellaver v.
Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 492 (7th Cir. 2000), the Court must construe all facts in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986).
Glanz, in her only remaining claim, alleges that both Defendants are liable for the
constitutional violation that occurred when Ehlers used excessive force to remove her from her
car and handcuff her. Defendants present separate arguments as to why the Court should grant
them summary judgment: the State of Illinois argues that it is immune from suit under the
Eleventh Amendment, and Ehlers argues that he is protected by qualified immunity. The Court
addresses each argument in turn.
The Eleventh Amendment bars suits brought against a State in federal court. Pennhurst
State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S. Ct. 900, 79 L. Ed. 2d 67 (1984).
Sovereign immunity does not apply where the State consents to suit or federal legislation
abrogates the immunity pursuant to a constitutional grant of authority. Tennessee v. Lane, 541
U.S. 509, 517, 124 S. Ct. 1978, 158 L. Ed. 2d 820 (2004). Section 1983 does not abrogate state
sovereign immunity. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 58, 109 S. Ct. 2304, 2306,
105 L. Ed. 2d 45 (1989). The State of Illinois has consented to suit exclusively in the Illinois
Court of Claims, Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2009) (“The Illinois State Lawsuit
Immunity Act stipulates that tort suits against the State must be pursued in the Illinois Court of
Claims.”), but Glanz argues that the State of Illinois consented to the suit here by indemnifying
its employee Ehlers, by remaining “a Defendant since inception of this case,” and by ordering its
Attorney General’s office to defend Ehlers, Doc. 55 at 2–3. These arguments fail. See Stoner v.
Wis. Dep’t of Agric., Trade & Consumer Prot., 50 F.3d 481, 482–83 (7th Cir. 1995) (“Case law
in this Circuit has rejected the notion, advanced by Stoner, that a state which chooses to
indemnify its employees for damages threatens its Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit.”);
Young v. Dart, No. 06 C 552, 2009 WL 2986109, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 15, 2009) (noting that a
defendant with an Eleventh Amendment defense may raise the issue as late as at summary
judgment); Goka v. Bobbitt, 625 F. Supp. 319, 323 (N.D. Ill. 1985) (noting that even if state
employees qualified for indemnification and defense by the State under indemnification statute,
“the theory that such indemnity makes the state the real party of interest in a suit against its
employees is flawed and has been rejected by several courts.”). The State of Illinois’ failure to
answer the complaint does nothing to change the Court’s analysis. Higgins v. Mississippi, 217
F.3d 951, 954 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that waiver of sovereign immunity requires affirmative
waiver and holding that district court could address sovereign immunity even on its own
initiative where the State of Illinois failed to respond to the plaintiff’s § 1983 complaint).
Hearing no further persuasive argument in support of abrogating the State’s sovereign immunity,
the Court grants summary judgment to the State of Illinois.
“Qualified immunity attaches when an official’s conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
White v. Pauly, --- U.S. ----, 137 S. Ct. 548, 551, 196 L. Ed. 2d 463 (2017) (citation omitted)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “[T]wo central questions must be addressed in the course of
determining whether qualified immunity is available: whether the plaintiff has alleged a
deprivation of a constitutional right at all, and whether the right at issue was clearly established
at the time and under the circumstances presented.” Bianchi v. McQueen, 818 F.3d 309, 319 (7th
Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). The Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures
limits an officer’s use of force during an arrest, and the Court reviews the totality of the
circumstances and “engage[s] in ‘a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on
the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at
stake.’” Weinmann v. McClone, 787 F.3d 444, 448 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Graham v. Connor,
490 U.S. 386, 395, 396, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989)). When balancing these
competing factors, the Court considers “the facts and circumstances of each particular case,
including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the
safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade
arrest by flight.” Id. (quoting Graham, 490 U.S. at 396). The Court evaluates reasonableness
from the “perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene” and not with “20/20” hindsight.
Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. “An officer’s use of force is unreasonable if, judging from the totality
of the circumstances at the time of the arrest, the officer uses greater force than was reasonably
necessary to effectuate the arrest.” Phillips v. Cmty. Ins. Corp., 678 F.3d 513, 519 (7th Cir.
Here, balancing the competing factors and reviewing the totality of the circumstances
requires factual determinations that preclude the Court from ruling as a matter of law on the
constitutionality of Ehlers’ actions. The facts before the Court and the videotape of the arrest
create rival interpretations of the incident. Glanz alleges that the force Ehlers used was
unreasonable in light of the totality of the circumstances because she claims she posed no threat,
that Ehlers escalated the situation when he pulled her out of her car, and that once she was on the
ground, he continued to use objectively unreasonable force. Ehlers, on the other hand, argues
that his actions were entirely proportionate to the situation, that Glanz actively resisted arrest,
and that any objective police officer would have done the same thing he did.
Although the videotape documents much of the incident in question, it does not resolve
the competing interpretations of what happened during the stop and arrest. See Monetti v. City of
Seattle, 875 F. Supp. 2d 1221, 1228 (W.D. Wash. 2012) (“Scott v. Harris is distinguishable
because the video in this case did not capture the entire incident and is susceptible to differing
interpretations. The Court finds that a reasonable jury could find that the video actually supports
the plaintiff’s theory that the threat to officer and bystander safety was actually quite low, and
that the plaintiff was not a flight risk.”). For example, the parties and the videotape provide little
information about what Glanz did when she was in her car. And after Ehlers pulled Glanz out of
the car, the videotape creates fact issues regarding the level of Glanz’s resistance and the amount
of force that Ehlers used. Because Glanz’s interpretation reasonably lays out a constitutional
violation and because Ehlers’ version does not, the competing interpretations of the incident
prevent the Court from accurately judging the totality of the circumstances and require the issue
to be submitted to a jury. See Cyrus v. Town of Mukwonago, 624 F.3d 856, 862 (7th Cir. 2010)
(“[S]ummary judgment is often inappropriate in excessive-force cases because the evidence
surrounding the officer’s use of force is often susceptible of different interpretations.”).
Because there are jury questions about the nature of Glanz’s resistance and the degree of
Ehler’s use of force, the Court cannot resolve the qualified immunity question in favor of Ehlers.
See Weinmann, 787 F.3d at 451 (“The existence of a factual dispute about the circumstances
surrounding McClone’s decision to fire on Jerome precludes a ruling on qualified immunity at
this point.”). At least one reasonable interpretation of the facts before the Court would mean that
Ehlers’ use of force was so excessive that he was on notice he was violating the Fourth
Amendment. See Phillips, 678 F.3d at 528–29 (noting that Seventh Circuit precedent “does not
stand for the proposition that an officer may use any amount of force on an unresponsive driver”
but instead permits “only ‘minimal’ force to remove a non-responding intoxicated driver from
his car” (citing Smith v. Ball State Univ., 295 F.3d 763, 771 (7th Cir. 2002)); Abbott v. Sangamon
County, Ill., 705 F.3d 706, 732 (7th Cir. 2013) (“Prior to 2007, it was well-established in this
circuit that police officers could not use significant force on nonresisting or passively resisting
suspects.”); Boothe v. Wheeling Police Officer Sherman (Star #155), 190 F. Supp. 3d 788, 799
(N.D. Ill. 2016) (officer not entitled to qualified immunity for 2012 incident where, in light most
favorable to plaintiff, the officer dug his knee into the plaintiff’s back for over a minute while
she was on the ground and subdued). Therefore the Court denies Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment as to Ehlers.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants’ motion
for summary judgment . The State of Illinois remains as nominal defendant solely for the
purpose of indemnification.
Dated: April 4, 2017
SARA L. ELLIS
United States District Judge
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