Charles Stokes v. City of Chicago et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Signed by the Honorable Harry D. Leinenweber on 5/22/2017:Mailed notice(wp, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Case No. 16 C 10621
P.O. EWING #8653, P.O. ORTIZ
#9748, and the CITY OF
CHICAGO, a Municipal
Judge Harry D. Leinenweber
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Defendant City of Chicago’s Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff’s Monell claim [ECF No. 16].
For the reasons
stated herein, the Motion is denied.
following facts are drawn from Stokes’ Complaint and are, for
purposes of this Motion, accepted as true, with all inferences
drawn in his favor.
See, e.g., Adams v. City of Indianapolis,
742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2015).
On September 2, 2015, Stokes was leaving the home of his
mother-in-law when Defendant Officers searched his car without
cause and falsely arrested him for possessing a firearm.
Defendant City of Chicago (the “City”) proceeded with baseless
On November 21, 2015, Stokes was again leaving his
mother-in-law’s home when Defendant Officers stopped him without
(Id., Count III, ¶¶ 5-7.)
They searched his person,
took his car keys, and then searched his car.
(Id., Count III,
(Id., Count III, ¶¶ 11-12.)
After arresting Stokes, Defendant Officers informed him and
possession “unless they came up with a gun.”
(Compl., Count VI,
Defendant Officers that they did not have or own a gun.
Count VI, ¶ 14.)
At that point, “[o]ne or both” of Defendant
Officers told them that they could only avoid jail by furnishing
the police with a gun. (Id., Count VI, ¶ 15.)
of them had a gun, Stokes’ co-arrestee “arranged to obtain a
- 2 -
(Id., Count VI, ¶¶ 16-17.)
Once “a gun was tendered” to
Defendant Officers, Stokes was released and requested that the
other individual be released as well.
(Id., Count VI, ¶¶ 18-
Defendant Officers replied that Stokes’ co-arrestee would
Because he did not have a gun, “Stokes was ordered to hit the
streets and obtain or buy an illegal gun and turn it over.”
(Id., Count VI, ¶¶ 20-22.)
Both were released once this second
Count VI, ¶ 27.)
(Compl., Count VI, ¶¶ 22-23.)
This “unwritten practice, customs
officers in certain districts and reward officers accordingly
for bringing in illegal guns off the street(s).” (Id., Count VI,
Ultimately, Stokes attributes his false arrest to this
“custom, practice and policy,” which “promoted illegal arrests
of innocent individuals.”
(Id., Count VI, ¶¶ 25-26.)
- 3 -
The City now seeks to dismiss Stokes’ Monell claim under
FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on which
relief can be granted.
To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint
“must state a claim that is plausible on its face.”
F.3d at 728 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,, 550 U.S. 544,
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the alleged misconduct.”
Adams, 742 F.3d at 728
satisfied, but cannot survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
by alleging only legal conclusions.
Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar,
Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1147 (7th Cir. 2010).
conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
plaintiff must allege “that an official policy or custom not
only caused the constitutional violation, but was the moving
force behind it.”
Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. Cnty. of
Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 514 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation
- 4 -
marks omitted); accord, Teesdale v. City of Chicago, 690 F.3d
829, 833 (7th Cir. 2012).
must allege that:
To state such a claim, the plaintiff
(1) he suffered a deprivation of a federal
right (2) as a result of either an express municipal policy,
widespread custom, or deliberate act of a decision-maker with
final policy-making authority for the city, which (3) was the
proximate cause of his injury.
See, Monell v. New York City
Dep’t of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978); accord,
Gonzalez v. Vill. of West Milwaukee, 671 F.3d 649, 664 (7th Cir.
The plaintiff must also plausibly point to the existence
of an underlying constitutional violation.
Houskins v. Sheahan,
549 F.3d 480, 493-94 (7th Cir. 2008).
In essence, Stokes is suing the City for instituting an
implicit policy, custom, or practice that rewards officers in
proportion to the number of guns confiscated and licenses the
arrest of individuals on false charges unless they can obtain
and turn over a gun.
(ECF No. 23 (“Pl.’s Br.) at 3-4.)
policy, as applied to him, allegedly violated his rights under
the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
(Compl. ¶ 28.)
The City contends that Stokes’ Complaint fatally lacks the
- 5 -
Stokes has not provided facts permitting an inference that the
alleged policy was the driving force behind his injury – “that a
Defendant Officers’ actions” – or that the City was deliberately
indifferent to the effects of its policy.
(ECF No. 24 (“Reply”)
In addition, the City maintains that the Complaint
fails to elevate what happened to Stokes and his co-arrestee
instances of the conduct claimed to be “widespread.”
(Id. at 3-
(The City does not claim that Stokes fails to allege an
hand, warns against applying a heightened pleading standard to
Monell claims and notes that his Complaint sufficiently puts the
City on notice of the factual basis for his suit.
Three of the City’s arguments can be quickly put to the
First, the Complaint does not make merely conclusory or
unconstitutional policy and the circumstances of its application
to him and his co-arrestee.
Cf., e.g., Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d
- 6 -
574, 582 (7th Cir. 2009) (holding that a “formulaic recitation
of the cause of action and nothing more” fails to “put the
defendants on notice of what exactly they might have done to
Romeoville, No. 12 C 3577, 2013 WL 673484, at *6 (N.D. Ill.
alleged only that the municipality was liable under Monell for
officers’ excessive force because it “maintain[ed] a policy by
which officers use excessive force to arrest individuals with no
probable cause or reasonable suspicion warranting such”); Travis
v. City of Chicago, No. 10 C 3011, 2012 WL 2565826, at *5 (N.D.
Ill. June 29, 2012) (“The court thus disregards the allegations
boilerplate Monell language.”); Sheppard v. Village of Glendale
where they claimed sex and race discrimination “pursuant to a
wide-spread practice at the Village of Glendale Heights which
was so permanent and well-settled as to constitute custom or
Regardless of Stokes’ prospects for success, his
Complaint is not so replete with boilerplate or short on unique
- 7 -
facts that the City can be said to lack notice of its alleged
Second, Stokes sufficiently pleads facts that, when viewed
in the light most favorable to him, make it plausible that the
challenged policy was the “driving force” behind his injury.
is a clear enough inference to draw at this stage that, absent
the City’s policy, Stokes and his co-arrestee would not have
been forced to choose between procuring guns off the streets and
Rather than positing misconduct divorced from any specific City
policy or supported only by generic Monell language, Stokes’
Complaint links the alleged policy to an unambiguous incentive
egregious acts with which he charges them.
Taken together with
the Complaint’s further allegations as to Defendant Officers –
for example, that they released Stokes and his co-arrestee once
McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011).
There is no good reason to flunk the Complaint based on the
“driving force” requirement.
assertion, “deliberate indifference” is not an absolute pleading
- 8 -
requirement for Monell claims.
Rather, the Seventh Circuit has
typically regarded it as an alternative to an implicit policy of
implicit policy or a gap in expressed policies, or ‘a series of
(quotation and internal citations omitted).
This jibes with the
treatment of “deliberate indifference” in other situations, such
as claims of inadequate police training.
See, e.g., Connick v.
Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 61 (2011) (“To satisfy the statute, a
respect must amount to deliberate indifference to the rights of
contact.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord, Matthews
v. City of E. St. Louis, 675 F.3d 703, 709 (7th Cir. 2012).
As such, “deliberate indifference” is
conceptually superfluous to the implicit policy alleged here,
- 9 -
concerns the absence of allegations beyond those relating to
Stokes (and, ostensibly, his co-arrestee).
This argument merits
more consideration but is ultimately rejected in view of White
v. City of Chicago, 829 F.3d 837 (7th Cir. 2016).
In White, the
securing arrest warrants on the basis of conclusory complaint
forms resulted in one Officer O’Donnell falsely arresting him
without probable cause.
The district court dismissed the Monell
claim under Rule 12(b)(6), faulting it for being “based upon the
analysis on the grounds that federal courts may not apply a
allegations sufficed to satisfy the “short and plain statement
of the claim” required by Rule 8(a):
In accordance with a widespread practice of the police
department of the City of Chicago:
requested the judge to issue a warrant on the basis of
- 10 -
O’Donnell’s conclusory allegation that other law
enforcement officers claimed or believed plaintiff had
committed an offense, and O’Donnell did not present
affirmative allegation of facts that would indicate
that plaintiff had committed an offense.
Id. at 844.
White was not required to “identify every other or
even one other individual who had been arrested pursuant to a
warrant obtained through the complained-of process.” Ibid.
be sure, at summary judgment, impropriety from a single incident
may not give rise to liability on the sort of Monell claim at
See, e.g., Wilson v. Cook Cnty., 742 F.3d 775, 780 (7th
But that was not the procedural posture in White,
and it is not the situation presented here.
motions to dismiss premised on the same arguments as the City’s.
For example, in Kerlin v. Chicago Board of Elections, No. 16 C
7424, 2017 WL 1208520, (N.D. Ill. Apr. 3, 2017), the court held
that White mandated denial of the defendants’ motion to dismiss
deprivation of their right to vote on March 15, 2016 and alleged
procedure of willfully disregarding citizens’ right to vote.”
Id. at *6-7.
At the pleading stage, plaintiffs “‘need only
plead that the alleged incident is one of many’ occurring in
- 11 -
Id. at *7 (quoting Barwicks v. Dart, No. 14 C 8791,
2016 WL 3418570, at *4 (N.D. Ill. June 22, 2016)).
in Zinn v. Village of Sauk Village, No. 16 C 3542, 2017 WL
783001 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 1, 2017), the court applied White to deny
Amendment violation arising out of a single automobile seizure
“‘pursuant to [Sauk Village’s] widespread practice of illegally
monetary fees for its return ‘in an effort to raise money for
Id. at *7 (quoting the complaint).
applying White in relevant fashion, Kerlin and Zinn involved
factual allegations plainly apposite to those at the heart of
And if White and its progeny leave any doubt, cases of
more mature vintage, such as Jackson v. Marion County, 66 F.3d
151 (7th Cir. 1995), should dispel it.
There, the plaintiff
brought a Monell claim arising out of two distinct policies or
first, a policy or custom of failing to prevent
custom of conspiring with officers “to cover up and/or slant the
facts to achieve an outcome not consistent with the duties of
Jackson v. Marion County, 66 F.3d at 152.
- 12 -
district court dismissed the complaint on the basis that “there
was no explicit allegation of a custom or policy, but only an
allegation of an isolated instance of misconduct.” Ibid.
Seventh Circuit’s review of the dismissal was bifurcated.
respect to the county’s alleged failure to prevent misconduct,
the court noted that “proof of a single act of misconduct will
notice of “what was going on and by failing to do anything must
directly . . . [such
officers, then the drawing of an inference from a series of bad
acts by subordinate officers is not required.”
Id. at 152-53
In this case, Stokes alleges the City’s
misconduct, but in establishing a widespread custom or implicit
policy that licenses unconstitutional conduct.
A “series of bad
acts” is not required to state such a claim. Ibid.
Pursuant to White and Jackson, Stokes need not
- 13 -
misconduct pursuant to the alleged policy.
Of course, the Court
does not opine on Stokes’ chances on the merits, but is merely
requirements of Rule 8(a).
Presented with no sound basis for
dismissing Stokes’ Monell claim, the Court denies the City’s
Motion to Dismiss.
For the reasons stated herein, Defendant City of Chicago’s
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge
United States District Court
Dated: May 22, 2017
- 14 -
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?