McCauley v. City of Chicago, 09–3561.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Citation671 F.3d 611
Docket NumberNo. 09–3561.,09–3561.
PartiesBrewster McCAULEY, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Mersaides McCauley, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants–Appellees.
Decision Date20 October 2011


Martin A. Dolan, Attorney, Dolan Law Offices, P.C.; Mark Rosen (argued), Chicago Kent College of Law, Chicago, IL, for PlaintiffAppellant.

Paul Berks (argued), Attorney, Office of the Attorney General, Civil Appeals Division, Mara S. Georges, Attorney, Office of the Corporation Counsel, Appeals Division, Christopher S. Norborg, Attorney, City of Chicago Law Department, Chicago, IL, for DefendantsAppellees.

Before MANION, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

SYKES, Circuit Judge.

Mersaides McCauley was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend Glenford Martinez as she left the parking lot of her church in Chicago. Martinez then turned the gun on himself. At the time of the murder-suicide, Martinez was on parole for an earlier homicide and had a history of harassing and assaulting McCauley in violation of his parole and a court order of protection issued on her behalf. Chicago law-enforcement and Illinois corrections officials were aware of these violations and could have ensured that Martinez was detained without bail, but they neither issued a parole-violation warrant nor arrested him for violating the order of protection.

After Mersaides's death, her father, Brewster McCauley, as administrator of her estate, filed suit in state court against the City of Chicago and several of its officials, the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) and its director, and Martinez's estate. The complaint alleged 13 separate federal and state claims for relief; those relevant here are equal-protection claims against the City of Chicago and the IDOC director.

The city and state defendants removed the case to federal court and promptly moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion. The court held that female victims of domestic violence are not a “suspect” or “protected” class for purposes of equal-protection analysis, so McCauley's equal-protection claim against the City failed as a matter of law. The court also held that McCauley's claim against the IDOC director was barred by the Eleventh Amendment because the claim sought damages from the director in his official capacity. McCauley asked for leave to conduct limited discovery in the hope of finding a basis for a personal-capacity equal-protection claim against the IDOC director. The district court denied this request. McCauley appealed.

We affirm, although on different grounds. The complaint does not plausibly state a policy-or-practice equal-protection claim against the City. It contains only generalized allegations that the City failed to have specific policies in effect to protect victims of domestic violence from harm inflicted by those who violate their parole or court orders of protection by committing acts of domestic violence. The complaint alleges, in essence, that the City failed to single out domestic-violence victims as a class for special protection, not that the City denied this class of victims equal protection.

McCauley does not contest the dismissal of his equal-protection claim against the IDOC director in his official capacity, but he does seek review of the court's denial of his request for limited discovery for the purpose of finding a basis for a personal-capacity claim. At oral argument, however, McCauley's counsel admitted he had no reason to believe the IDOC director had any personal involvement in supervising Martinez's parole, let alone any of the events leading to Mersaides's death. Accordingly, the district court properly denied the request for Rule 12(b)(6) discovery.

I. Background

In 1993 Martinez was convicted of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to 28 years in prison. He was released in 2006 and placed on mandatory supervised release for three years. In November 2007 Martinez was arrested and charged with domestic battery for allegedly choking Mersaides McCauley, his former girlfriend, until she lost consciousness. Two days later an Illinois state court entered an emergency order of protection against Martinez on behalf of Mersaides. Later that month the court issued a plenary order of protection. Both orders prohibited Martinez from having any contact with Mersaides.

On two separate occasions, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office informed Martinez's parole officer at IDOC of the battery charge and arrest. The arrest was a parole violation and subjected Martinez to immediate detention without bail until his trial on the domestic-battery charge. Despite having received this information, no one at IDOC ever issued a parole-violation warrant against Martinez. After his release on bail, Martinez continued to contact Mersaides, repeatedly violating the orders of protection. The complaint alleges that Chicago police were aware of these violations but never arrested Martinez.

That Martinez remained a free man ended tragically for Mersaides. As she was leaving a church service on the evening of April 6, 2008, Martinez blocked her vehicle with his own, trapping her in the church parking lot. He shot her multiple times, and she died of the gunshot wounds 30 minutes later. After leaving the scene, Martinez turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

Mersaides's father, Brewster McCauley, filed this suit as special administrator of his daughter's estate. The complaint alleged 13 federal and state claims (primarily for deprivation of due process and equal protection, and for wrongful death) against the City of Chicago and unidentified Chicago police officers, IDOC, various IDOC officials, then-IDOC Director Roger Walker, and Martinez's estate. The city and state defendants removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The district court granted the motion, dismissed the federal claims, and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Hansen v. Bd. of Trs. of Hamilton Se. Sch. Corp., 551 F.3d 599, 607 (7th Cir.2008).

Only the equal-protection claims against the City and Walker are at issue on appeal. The claim against the City was a policy-or-practice claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). The complaint variously alleges that the City failed to have adequate policies in place for the protection of female victims of domestic violence. The court began its analysis of this claim by rejecting McCauley's contention that female victims of domestic violence are a “suspect class” for equal-protection purposes. The judge opted for rational-basis review and then concluded that to avoid dismissal, McCauley needed to show that Mersaides was a member of a protected class. Noting that “protected class” and “suspect class” mean the same thing in equal-protection doctrine, the judge held that McCauley could not establish a necessary prerequisite for a claim under the Equal Protection Clause; that is, because Mersaides did not belong to a suspect class, she did not belong to a protected class either. That meant, the court held, that McCauley could not satisfy the first requirement of a prima facie case of discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. Finally, the court held that the complaint failed to state a “class of one” equal-protection claim against the City.

As for the claim against IDOC Director Walker, the district court held that the Eleventh Amendment's sovereign-immunity protections barred McCauley from recovering damages against him in his official capacity. See Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363, 121 S.Ct. 955, 148 L.Ed.2d 866 (2001); Peirick v. IUPUI Athletics Dep't, 510 F.3d 681, 695 (7th Cir.2007); Joseph v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Wis. Sys., 432 F.3d 746, 748 (7th Cir.2005). McCauley asked the court for a limited opportunity to conduct discovery in an effort to find a factual basis for a personal-capacity claim against Walker. The court denied this request, essentially holding that it would be futile. Because McCauley's equal-protection claim against the City failed as a matter of law, the court thought any similar claim against Walker in his personal capacity would fail as well.

II. Discussion
A. McCauley's Equal–Protection Claim Against the City

We review de novo the district court's order dismissing the equal-protection claim against the City. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 578 (7th Cir.2009). To avoid dismissal, McCauley's complaint must contain allegations that ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

We note first that the district court's analysis of McCauley's claim against the City suffers from some analytical confusion; it conflates several distinct strains of equal-protection doctrine. The court began by holding that strict scrutiny did not apply because female victims of domestic violence are not a “suspect class” for purposes of equal-protection analysis. The court then opted for rational-basis review, bypassing any form of intermediate scrutiny. The judge then took a detour into the caselaw that applies to claims of discrimination in public employment under the Equal Protection Clause, citing Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 916 (7th Cir.2005), and Salas v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, 493 F.3d 913, 926 (7th Cir.2007), for the elements of a prima facie case under the burden-shifting approach borrowed from ...

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