Judge Kendall Allows A Plaintiff To Proceed On An Equal Protection Class of One Claim Based on the Filling of False Reports

In Ivy v Powers, 2009 WL 230542, January 30, 2009, Judge Kendall rulled that a plaintiff could survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss an Equal Protection Class of One claim, based on his allegations that officers filed false police reports and criminal complaints against him to cover-up for their alleged misconduct.

Judge Kendall explained:

[Defendants, relying on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture et al., ---U.S. ----, 128 S.Ct. 2146, 170 L.Ed.2d 975 (2008), argued that plaintiff's Equal Protection “class of one” claim is barred as a matter of law.] In Engquist, the Supreme Court held that the class-of-one theory of equal protection does not apply in the public employment context. 128 S.Ct. at 2151. In reaching its holding the Court reasoned “that there are some forms of state action which by their nature involve discretionary decision making based on a vast array of subjective individualized assessments” and “[i]n such cases the rule that people should be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions is not violated when one person is treated differently from others, because treating like individuals differently is an accepted consequence of the discretion granted.” Id. at 2154. The Court went on to state that, “[t]his principle applies most clearly in the employment context, for employment decisions are quite often subjective and individualized, resting on a wide array of factors that are difficult to articulate and quantify.”Id. As an example, the Court stated that an equal protection claim on the ground that a traffic officer gave a speeding ticket to one person and not to others, even if for no discernible reason, would be incompatible with the discretion inherent in the challenged action. Id. Defendants' assert that the Engquist Court's analogy to the enforcement of speeding laws shows that Ivy's Equal Protection claim fails because Ivy's equal protection claim is premised on the decision of the Defendant Officers to arrest Ivy and that decision is discretionary like the decision to give someone a speeding ticket.

Here, however, unlike the Court's analogy in Engquist, Ivy does not base his Equal Protection claim on the Defendant Officers' decision to arrest him. Ivy bases his claim on the Defendant Officers' alleged decision to file false police reports and criminal complaints against him to cover-up for their alleged misconduct. This is different from the discretionary decision to arrest one individual among many (due to logistical reasons) as set forth in the Engquist analogy. “The paradigmatic ‘class of one’ case, more sensibly conceived, is one in which a public official, with no conceivable basis for his action other than spite or improper motive ..., comes down hard on a hapless private citizen.” Lauth, 424 F.3d at 633. Here, Ivy alleges that he was a “hapless” private citizen who was the victim of the Defendant Officers misconduct and that this misconduct was spurred by an improper motive, that is, covering up their alleged violations of Ivy's Fourth Amendment rights. Ivy's claim against the Defendant Officers is not based on their discretionary decision-making duties as police officers, and is therefore unlike the plaintiff's class of one claim in Engquist.

Further, Ivy's factual allegations in support of his Equal Protection Class of One claim are sufficiently plead and provide the Defendants with sufficient notice. Ivy alleges that by falsifying police reports and charging documents against him, the Defendant Officers treated Ivy differently than other persons subject to arrest by the Defendant Officers, that there is no rational basis for the different treatment and that the Defendant Officers acted with discriminatory intent by treating Ivy differently. These facts, if taken as true, at least plausibly suggest that Ivy is entitled to relief. Therefore, Ivy's assertions against the Defendant Officers are sufficient to state a claim for an equal protection class of one violation. See Craft v. Flagg, 2008 WL 1883337 at *3 (N.D.Ill.2008) (Gettleman, J.) (holding plaintiff sufficiently plead equal protection “class of one” claim where he alleged that officers treated him differently then other individuals by planting evidence on him).

 

Federal Jury Finds In Favor Of Chicago Police In 100 Pound Marijuana Arrest Case

 After a week-long trial, a federal court jury found in favor of Chicago police officers Sean Whelan and Elise Padilla, who had been sued for false arrest and unlawful entry by plaintiffs Maria Leyva and Laura Leyva. The case stemmed from a 2005 drug bust. On May 24, 2005, Officer Whelan received information from a confidential informant that the informant had purchased marijuana from Rapheal Leyva and Humberto Leyva (sons of Maria and brothers of Laura)  at 312 East 117th Street. Officers Whelan and Padilla went to the 117th Street address and spoke to Maria Leyva and advised her that they were informed that drugs were being sold from the house. Maria Leyva gave them consent to search the house and that search revealed the presence of 100 pounds of marijuana in an upstairs bedroom belonging to Laura Leyva, who had just returned home when the marijuana was found. Maria Leyva told the Officers that  she was aware there was marijuana in the house but not that much and that the bedroom where the marijuana was found belonged to Humberto, not Laura. Maria, Laura and Humberto Leyva were all arrested and charged with felony possession of narcotics with intent to sell. Maria and Laura spent two months in jail before charges against them were dropped. Humberto plead guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to sell. In the civil suit, Maria Leyva claimed that she never consented to a search of her home and that she never told the Officers she was aware of marijuana in the house. Laura Leyva claimed she had no knowledge of marijuana in the house and that the closet where the marijuana was found belonged to Humberto. Each plaintiff asked the jury to award them $3.3 million in damages, for a total of $6.6 million. The jury rejected the plaintiff's claims and found in favor of Officers Whelan and Padilla. Officers Whelan and Padilla were represented at trial by attorneys Scott Jebson and Suyon Reed from the City of Chicago Corporation Counsel's Office. Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Joel Ostrander, Sam Amirante and Pam Curran. Judge Ronald A. Guzman presided over the trial.   

Judge Reduces Jury Verdict Against Chicago Police from $7.9 Million to $1.9 Million

 In a 17-page Order dated January 26, 2009, United States District Court Judge Ruben Castillo reduced a jury verdict against the City of Chicago and three Chicago police officers from $7.9 million to $1.9 million. The plaintiff in the case, Rachelle Jackson, had sued three Chicago police officers and the City of Chicago claiming she was falsely arrested and detained for attempting to disarm a Chicago police officer. Ms. Jackson was arrested on November 19, 2002 for attempting to disarm Chicago police officer Kelly Brogan after Brogan's squad car was involved in a serious automobile accident. Ms. Jackson admitted to pulling Officer Brogan out of the squad car and placing her in a "full nelson" hold but claimed she was trying to rescue Officer Brogan, not disarm her. Ms. Jackson spent ten months in jail before her criminal charges were ultimately dismissed at trial. Ms. Jackson then filed a civil suit against the Chicago police officers involved in her arrest. Following a nine-day jury trial, the jury awarded Ms. Jackson $7.9 million on her various claims. In granting the defendants' motion for a remittitur, Judge Castillo agreed that the jury's damage award was "monstrously excessive," not rationally related to the evidence presented, and out of range with awards in similar cases. Judge Castillo noted that "[t]here was no evidence that Plaintiff requires professional treatment for mental or emotional distress (other than her alcohol treatment), nor was there any evidence of lost wages, medical expenses, or other out-of-pocket losses. Based on the evidence an award of $7.9 million in compensatory damages was grossly excessive." Judge Castillo reduced plaintiff's compensatory damages to $1.9 million. This is only the second time in fifteen years that Judge Castillo has modified a jury verdict. Defendants were represented at trial by attorneys Andrew Hale, Avi Kamionski and Ebone Liggins of the law firm of Andrew M. Hale & Associates, LLC.