Amati v. City of Woodstock, Ill., No. 92 C 20347.

Decision Date10 August 1993
Docket NumberNo. 92 C 20347.
PartiesCharles AMATI, Carol Bolda, Brian C. Brucher, Edward R. Burton, Peggy K. Burton, Jennifer L. Ciesielski, James M. Davis, John Doe, a minor by his next friend, Steven Gorski, Jeffrey Gosselink, Carol Gulledge, Wally B. Hajost, Diane L. Hajost, Bruce R. Hillstrom, Esther K. Hohol, Vincent M. Hohol, John J. Hohol, Jr., John J. Hohol, Norma A. Jacobs, Robert A. Jacobs, John E. Jasper, Valerie A. Johns, Richard M. Johns, John B. Johnson, Wendy Johnson, Steven J. Karolewicz, Robin L. Karolewicz, Karen A. Karpavicius, Donna Karpavicius, Ann M. Kerr, Timothy R. Kerr, Elaine Klimczak, Robert G. Klimczak, James W. Koura, Daniel E. Latham, Dana L. Latham, Dennis E. Leard, Donald E. Madsen, Michael J. McCleary, Michael P. McCluskey, Laura A. Miller, Robert Minerly, Anthony H. Olszewski, Mary Jo Olszewski, Theodore E. Pierce, Joan Pierce, Thomas B. Porter, Peggy J. Porter, Shiela R. Readel, Jeffrey J. Rhode, JoAnn Richards, Cindy Schultz, Stanley Schultz, Vickie Spitzer, Kathi Taylor, Yvonne Vasquez, Dilia Vasquez, Louis Vasquez, Jr., Louis Vasquez, Plaintiffs, Charles Amati, Anthony J. Olszweski, and Louis Vasquez, as Representatives of the Absent Class Members, v. The CITY OF WOODSTOCK, ILLINOIS, a municipal corporation, Herbert J. Pitzman, individually and as Chief of Police of the Police Department of the City of Woodstock, and Randall Beu, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Kenneth Kandaras, Chicago, IL; James T. Harrison, Woodstock, IL; Kenneth Leo Cunniff; and George B. Trubow, Chicago, IL, for plaintiffs.

Michael T. Caldwell, Caldwell, Berner & Caldwell, Woodstock, IL and Thomas G. DiCianni, Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Cope & Bush, Chicago, IL, for defendants.

ORDER

REINHARD, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

On November 25, 1992, plaintiffs filed a 28-count complaint against defendants, the City of Woodstock, Illinois (City), Herbert J. Pitzman, individually and as the Chief of Police of the City's police department, and Randall Beu, a City police officer. Counts 1, 2, 11, 12, 21, 23 and 24 arise under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq., (Crime Control Act) and the court has jurisdiction over these counts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Counts 3, 4, 13, 14 and 25 arise under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the court has jurisdiction over these claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343. In Counts 5, 6, 15, 16 and 26 plaintiffs present claimed violations of the Illinois Constitution, Article I, section 6.1 In Counts 7, 8, 17, 18 and 27 plaintiffs allege a violation of their right to privacy, giving rise to the common law tort of intrusion into plaintiffs' seclusion. Counts 9, 10, 19, 20, 22 and 28 arise under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, 720 ILCS 5/14-1 to -9 (1993). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims in Counts 5-10, 15-20, 22 and 26-28 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Each defendant has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court will address the three motions herein.

FACTS2

The relevant facts are as follows. The police department for the City maintained a telephone system for the transmission of telephone communications to and from the police department. Several of the lines were tapped, and, since at least 1982, the police department maintained one untapped telephone line for the private, personal telephone communications of police department personnel. On December 10, 1982, the police department issued a departmental correspondence which stated in relevant part:

DICTAPHONE RECORDER.

The recorder is now hooked up and in full operation.

* * * * * *
As you know, all the telephone lines are taped with the exception of 338-7799. The line was intentionally left untaped to allow for personal calls * * *.
This policy will take effect immediately and be strictly adhered to.

(Compl. ¶ 5, Exh. A).

Plaintiffs offer evidence showing this practice was still in effect as of January 2, 1988 (See Compl.Exh. B). According to plaintiffs, at all relevant times they believed telephone communications made on the private line were not intercepted by a mechanical or electronic device. However, in June 1991, Pitzman sought and received authorization from the City Manager, Dennis Anderson, to surreptitiously wiretap the private line. This practice of intercepting calls on the private line continued until October 1992 when the private line was disconnected. In August 1992, Pitzman told plaintiff Vasquez that the police department had been intercepting telephone calls on the private line since June 1991. This was the first notice to plaintiffs that the City's "official" policy had been abandoned.

DISCUSSION
I. THE CITY'S MOTION TO DISMISS
A. Count 1

In Count 1, plaintiffs maintain the City violated section 2511(1)(a) of the Crime Control Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a),3 in that the City intentionally intercepted telephone communications made by plaintiffs on the private line. The City argues the Crime Control Act is inapplicable to municipalities. According to the City, the Crime Control Act does not include a municipal corporation within its definition of "person." Plaintiffs argue a later amendment to the Crime Control Act altered the meaning of "person" to include municipalities within its ambit.

According to section 2511(1)(a), "except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter any person(a) who intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication" shall be found in violation of the statute. (emphasis added). 18 U.S.C. § 2510(1)(a) (Supp.1993). "Person" is defined as "any employee, or agent of the United States or any State or political subdivision thereof, and any individual, partnership, association, joint stock company, trust, or corporation." 18 U.S.C. § 2510(6) (1970). The City notes that when Congress originally enacted the Crime Control Act, it specifically mentioned the exclusion of governmental units. In commenting on the definition of "person," Congress notes the definition's applicability to the entire chapter, and states:

The definition explicitly includes any officer or employee of the United States or any State or political subdivision of a State. But see Pierson v. Ray, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 386 U.S. 547 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967). Only the governmental units themselves are excluded. Compare Monroe v. Pape, 81 S.Ct. 473, 365 U.S. 167, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961); Wilford v. California, 352 F.2d 474 (9th 1965). Otherwise the definition is intended to be comprehensive.

S.Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong., 2d Sess. (1968), reprinted in 1968 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2112, 2179. Historically, courts have interpreted sections 2510(6) and 2520 to exclude governmental units from liability under the Crime Control Act. See Spock v. United States, 464 F.Supp. 510, 513-14 n. 4 (S.D.N.Y.1978).

Plaintiffs argue the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (Privacy Act of 1986), 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., amended the Federal Wiretapping Act to authorize recovery of civil damages against any person or entity.4 According to section 2520, "any person whose wire, oral or electronic communication is intercepted, disclosed, or intentionally used in violation of this chapter may in a civil action recover from the person or entity which engaged in that violation such relief as may be appropriate." 18 U.S.C. § 2520(a) (Supp.1993). Plaintiffs argue inclusion of "entity" within section 2520(a) means Congress intended victims to be able to recover from governmental units.

The starting point for interpreting a statute is the language of the statute itself. Milwaukee Gun Club v. Schulz, 979 F.2d 1252, 1255 (7th Cir.1992). Absent a clearly expressed legislative intent to the contrary, the statutory language must be regarded as conclusive. Schulz, 979 F.2d at 1255. If the statutory language is clear, it is unnecessary to look beyond that language to interpret the statute. Schulz, 979 F.2d at 1255. The court must not only look to the particular statutory language at issue but also to the language and design of the statute as a whole. Schulz, 979 F.2d at 1255.

In the present case, the statute at issue contains a definition of person which expressly excludes local governmental entities. See 18 U.S.C. § 2510(6). While the Congressional comment regarding this provision cites to Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961), such legislative history is of no consequence in light of the plain language of section 2510(6). The definition of person contained in section 2510(6) was intended to be applied chapter-wide. See 18 U.S.C. § 2510. Furthermore, section 2520, the remedial portion of the Crime Control Act, originally provided for recovery of civil damages against "any person who intercepts, discloses, or uses * * * such communications." Thus, under the original provisions, it is clear that Congress intended to preclude local governmental entities from those who could be sued civilly under the Crime Control Act.

Of course, the Crime Control Act has since been amended, particularly section 2520, and hence, the question of Congressional intent is now subject to a difference of opinion. Plaintiffs look to section 2520 as evidence that Congress intended to amend the Crime Control Act in 1986 to include local governmental entities as potential civil defendants, whereas defendants point to section 2511(a)(1) as indicative of a contrary Congressional intent. Neither provision is dispositive, however.

Even after the 1986 amendment, section 2510(6) remains unchanged. It still unequivocally excludes local governmental entities from its definition of person and continues to apply to the entire chapter. While it is true that the amended version of section 2520 now contains the language "person or entity" when referring to parties...

To continue reading

Request your trial
27 cases
  • Conner v. Tate, CIV.A.1:00-CV-1723-TWT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 9, 2001
    ...conclusion, holding that governmental entities are exempt from liability under the Wiretap Act. See, Amati v. City of Woodstock, Ill., 829 F.Supp. 998, 1002-03 (N.D.Ill.1993) (holding that "a municipality is not a `person' subject to the [Wiretap Act] and, thus, the municipality could not b......
  • Ameritech Corp. v. McCann, 99-C-0675.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • March 16, 2004
    ...to potential liability without any expression of that intent in the legislative commentary." Id. (quoting Amati v. City of Woodstock, 829 F.Supp. 998, 1003 [N.D.Ill. 1993]). The court indicated that it was "persuaded that municipalities are immune from suit, not only because of the corrobor......
  • Walden v. City of Providence, C.A. No. 04-304 S.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • July 6, 2007
    ...without any expression of that intent in the legislative commentary." Abbott, 205 F.3d at 980 (quoting Amati v. City of Woodstock, 829 F.Supp. 998, 1003 (N.D.Ill.1993)). The court also found persuasive the fact that "Congress has never amended the definition of `person' in § 2510(6)." Id. T......
  • Abbott v. Village of Winthrop Harbor, 93 C 4642.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • December 13, 1996
    ...the Plaintiffs' argument is untenable. 6. In support of their position, the Plaintiffs rely heavily upon Amati v. City of Woodstock, 829 F.Supp. 998 (N.D.Ill.1993), which clearly held that "[w]hether the communication is heard by the human ear is irrelevant" under circumstances virtually id......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT