Mitchell v. City of Elgin, 010219 FED7, 16-1907

Docket Nº:16-1907
Party Name:Sharon Mitchell, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. City of Elgin, Illinois, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before Kanne and Sykes, Circuit Judges
Case Date:January 02, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Sharon Mitchell, Plaintiff-Appellant,


City of Elgin, Illinois, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 16-1907

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 2, 2019

Argued July 6, 2017

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 3457 - John Robert Blakey, Judge.

Before Kanne and Sykes, Circuit Judges [*]


Sharon Mitchell enrolled in an online criminal-justice course offered by the Elgin Community College. Her participation in the class did not go smoothly. The instructor -an officer of the Elgin Police Department-eventually advised her that she was failing the course. Soon after, the Elgin Police Department received anonymous threats and a harassing email targeting the officer. A second officer swore out a criminal complaint accusing Mitchell of electronic communication harassment. She was arrested, immediately bonded out, and two years later was acquitted after a brief bench trial. Mitchell then sued the City of Elgin and several of its officers seeking damages for wrongful prosecution under various federal and state legal theories.

A district judge dismissed the case, concluding that the federal claims were either untimely or not cognizable and relinquishing supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. Mitchell appealed. We heard argument in July 2017 but held the case to await further developments in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Manuel v. City of J diet ("Manuel I"), 137 S.Ct. 911 (2017), which overturned the circuit caselaw that defeated Mitchell's Fourth Amendment claim below. Manuel I clarified that pretrial detention without probable cause is actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 920. But the Court did not decide when the claim accrues. Instead, the Court left that issue open for this court to decide on remand. Id. at 922. In September a panel of this court answered that lingering question, holding that a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful pretrial detention accrues when the detention ends. Manuel v. City of Joliet ("Manuel II"), 903 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2018).

We asked the parties to file position statements addressing whether Mitchell's claim is timely under Manuel II. They have done so. Based on the current state of the record and briefing, however, we find ourselves unable to decide the timeliness question. The parties have not adequately addressed whether and under what circumstances a person who is arrested but released on bond remains "seized" for Fourth Amendment purposes. Moreover, we do not know what conditions of release, if any, were imposed on Mitchell when she bonded out after her arrest. The most we can say at this juncture is that Mitchell might have a viable Fourth Amendment claim under Manuel I and II. We therefore reverse the judgment on that claim alone and remand to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. In all other respects, the judgment is affirmed.

I. Background

We take the following factual account from Mitchell's amended complaint. In the fall of 2010, Mitchell enrolled in an online criminal-justice course at Elgin Community College taught by Elgin Police Officer Ana Lalley. Officer Lalley required her students to post responses to discussion topics in an online forum. One topic related to students' attitudes toward law enforcement. Mitchell's posts on this topic were so upsetting to Officer Lalley that she removed them, barred Mitchell from posting in the forum, and informed her that she may have violated school policies regarding student behavior. The friction between the two continued the following semester, and at some point Lalley informed Mitchell that she was failing the course.

In May 2011 the Police Department received two anonymous threats against Officer Lalley. First, Officer Todd Ramljak, another Elgin police officer who also taught at the college, found a document containing threats against Lalley in his school mailbox. Officer Ramljak filed a report about the incident...

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