Torres v. City of Chi., Case No. 12 C 7844

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtJudge Joan B. Gottschall
PartiesELIGIO TORRES and IRENE CORREA, Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, HENRY PENA, HECTOR ROMERO, and ANDREW ROWE, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 12 C 7844
Decision Date05 August 2016

ELIGIO TORRES and IRENE CORREA, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, HENRY PENA, HECTOR ROMERO, and ANDREW ROWE, Defendants.

Case No. 12 C 7844

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION

August 5, 2016


Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The parties' post-trial motions in this § 1983 case against three City of Chicago police officers and the City of Chicago are before the court. For the following reasons, the plaintiffs' motion for judgment as a matter of law and defendant Henry Pena's motions for judgment as a matter of law, for a new trial, to alter judgment, to amend the judgment, and, in the alternative, for remittitur are denied.

I. BACKGROUND

The court begins with observations about the general lack of citations to the record and authority in the defendants' post-trial submissions and then moves on to a recap of the jury's verdict.

A. The Defendants' Post-Trial Submissions

The defendants (who are represented by very experienced trial counsel) frequently fail to include citations to the trial transcript in their submissions. The lack of consistent citations to the trial transcript forced the court to hunt through the record in an effort to guess what portions the defendants meant to reference. See Ayala v. Rosales, No. 13 C 4425, 2015 WL 4127915, at *1 (N.D. Ill. July 8, 2015). The court "has attempted to the best of its ability to address [the

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defendants'] claims on the merits" despite the defendants' decision to provide sporadic record citations. Id. However, "any arguments lacking necessary record support are, in the first instance, denied as waived." Id. (collecting cases holding that a defendant waives an argument to the extent that citation to the record is necessary to support his position and he fails to provide a citation).

Relatedly, the defendants frequently make conclusory statements, unadorned by explanation, citations to the record, or citations to authority. For example, in their response to the plaintiffs' Rule 50 motion, they assert that "[i]t was reasonable for the officers to believe that Campbell may have fled to his last known address, 3227 W. Pierce, after the shooting." (Dkt. 159 at 8.) Why? And what is this based on? Similarly, in their response to the plaintiffs' Rule 50 motion, they contend that the officers did not seize Torres because he did not know that they had blocked his car with their unmarked squad car. (Dkt. 159 at 7.) Where is the record citation, as well as citations to supporting legal authority and discussion of that authority?

Underdeveloped, conclusory, or legally unsupported arguments are deemed waived. See, e.g., Johnson v. Bellwood Sch. Dist. 88, No. 14 C 10498, 2016 WL 3476660, at *6 (N.D. Ill. June 27, 2016) (citing C & N Corp. v. Gregory Kane & Ill. River Winery, Inc., 756 F.3d 1024, 1026 (7th Cir. 2014). The court need not "speculate as to the details of [an] unexplained argument." Id. It also declines to conduct legal research in an effort to locate support (to the extent it might exist) for unsupported legal contentions. See, e.g., Nelson v. Napolitano, 657 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 2011) (the court is not "obliged to research and construct legal arguments for parties, especially when they are represented by counsel"); United States v. Betts-Gaston, 142

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F. Supp. 3d 716, 732 (N.D. Ill. 2015) ("the Court cannot discern . . . where in the transcript [counsel] is referring, and finds that these arguments are waived").

The defendants' failure to provide citations to the record and legal authority for each and every assertion of fact and law, respectively, is notable because as discussed below, the defendants ask the court to construe the rules governing the timeliness of post-trial motions strictly and to find that the plaintiffs' post-trial motion is untimely. The defendants cannot request strict construction when it benefits them yet fail to follow the rules themselves. This is especially true given that the defendants' presentation makes it difficult if not impossible for the plaintiffs (as well as the court) to understand the complete basis for all of the defendants' arguments. The court will do as the defendants ask and strictly apply the rules, but will do so across the board for all parties. With this in mind, the court turns to the merits of the parties' post-trial motions.

B. The Jury Verdict

Plaintiff Eligio Torres and Irene Correa filed a § 1983 action against the City of Chicago and Chicago police officers Henry Pena, Hector Romero, and Andrew Rowe based on an incident on October 1, 2010. Familiarity with the facts is assumed for the purposes of this opinion; the court will discuss specific portions of the record as necessary below. In a nutshell, after a five-day jury trial, the jury found in favor of Pena and Romero on Torres' unreasonable seizure and excessive force claims and in favor of Pena on Correa's excessive force claim. The jury further found in favor of the plaintiffs on their malicious prosecution claims against Pena. The jury awarded $40,000 in compensatory damages and $60,000 in punitive damages to Torres and $30,000 in compensatory damages and $45,000 in punitive damages to Correa.

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II. THE PARTIES' MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

Both Torres and Pena have renewed their Rule 50 motions for judgment as a matter of law. In their Rule 50 motion, Torres argues that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on his Fourth Amendment claim because the officers seized him when they used their car to block his car into its parking space based merely on his gender and proximity to the address of an alleged shooter. The defendants argue that the plaintiffs' motion is untimely and is thus governed by Rule 60, and that, in any event, it fails on the merits. In his Rule 50 motion, Pena contends that no reasonable jury could find that: (1) he lacked probable cause to arrest and charge Correa with aggravated battery; (2) he lacked probable cause to arrest and charge Torres with aggravated battery; and (3) he acted maliciously in commencing the prosecution of the plaintiffs.

A. Timeliness

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a)(1):

If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may: (A) resolve the issue against the party; and (B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1). A party must file a Rule 50 motion "[n]o later than 28 days after the entry of judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b).

Here, the court entered an amended judgment on December 23, 2015, so pursuant to Rule 50(b), the plaintiffs' Rule 50 motion was due by January 20, 2016. At the defendants' request,

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however, the court extended the due date for all post-trial motions to February 18, 2016.1 The plaintiffs filed their post-trial motion on that date. In response, the defendants assert that the court lacked the authority to extend the time to file a Rule 50 motion so the plaintiffs' motion is untimely.

First, the defendants' arguments about timeliness appear to apply equally to their own post-trial motions. The defendants attempted to avoid the trap they set by affirmatively asking for a sixty-day extension of the date for post-trial motions by filing a five-page motion on January 15, 2016. (Dkt. 144 at 2.) This filing repeated that post-trial motions were due by February 18, 2016, "pursuant to [the] court's briefing schedule" and indicated that the defendants would file a memorandum in support by that date. (Id. at 2.) Critically, the motion contains a summary of the defendants' arguments with no citations to supporting authority. As discussed above, legally unsupported arguments are waived. See, e.g., Johnson, 2016 WL 3476660, at *6. To the extent that the defendants provided citations to authority and the record, they did so in their memorandum, which they filed on February 18, 2016 (Dkt. 153), as did the plaintiffs (Dkt. 149). The court need not, however, determine if the defendants' cursory initial presentation of their post-trial issues is sufficient as it does not affect the result.

The plaintiffs agree that the court cannot extend the date to file post-trial motions. See Blue v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers Local Union, 159, 676 F.3d 579, 582 (7th Cir. 2012); Aponte

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v. City of Chicago, No. 09 C 8082, 2012 WL 1533309, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 26, 2012). Nevertheless, they urge the court to grant their post-trial motion based on Rule 60. This relief is available to courts faced with untimely Rule 50 motions. Blue, 676 F.3d at 584-85. A Rule 60 motion does not "affect [a] judgment's finality or suspend its operation." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(2). Among other things, the court can grant a Rule 60 motion based on "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect" or the "catch-all" clause ("any other reason that justifies relief"). Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1) & (6).

The "'mistake' and 'inadvertence' language of subsection (1) . . . includes inadvertence on the part of both courts and parties." Mendez v. Republic Bank, 725 F.3d 651, 658 (7th Cir. 2013). Thus, "subsection (1) of Rule 60(b) allows a district court to correct its own errors that could be corrected on appeal, at least if the motion is not a device to avoid expired appellate time limits." Mendez v. Republic Bank, 725 F.3d 651, 659 (7th Cir. 2013). Here, the plaintiffs' late filing (and the date that Pena filed his memorandum supporting his post-trial motions) flowed from the court's inadvertent error in granting the defendants' request for an extension of time for all parties to file post-trial motions. Moreover, the defendants agree that the court may, in an exercise of its discretion, consider the...

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