Wilson ex rel. Adams v. Cahokia School Dist. # 187

Decision Date19 January 2007
Docket NumberCivil No. 05-297-GPM.
Citation470 F.Supp.2d 897
PartiesBrenda WILSON, as mother and next friend of Teniesha ADAMS, a minor, Plaintiff, v. CAHOKIA SCHOOL DISTRICT # 187, Lela Prince, Dwayne Cotton, Mearl Justus, and County of St Clair, Illinois, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Illinois

William F. Kopis, Law Offices of William F. Kopis, Belleville, IL, for Plaintiff.

Donald J. Ohl, Knapp, Ohl & Green, Edwardsville, IL, Michael J. Garavalia, Alvin C. Paulson, Becker, Paulson et al., Belleville, IL, for Defendants.


MURPHY, Chief Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment brought by Defendants Mearl Justus and the County of St. Clair, Illinois ("St. Clair County") (Doc. 63), the motion for summary judgment brought by Defendants Cahokia School District # 187 ("Cahokia"), Lela Prince, and Dwayne Cotton (Doc. 65), and the motions for reconsideration (Doc. 70, Doc. 71) brought by Plaintiff Teniesha Adams, by and through Brenda Wilson as her mother and next friend. For the following reasons the motions for summary judgment are GRANTED and the motions for reconsideration are DENIED.


This case arises from an incident that occurred on April 27, 2004, in which Teniesha Adams, a sixth-grade student at Wirth/Parks Middle School in Cahokia, Illinois, allegedly was sexually assaulted on the school's premises after regular classroom hours by Craig Nichols, a classmate who was serving a period of after-school detention at" the school on that afternoon. See Doc. 1 at 3-4 ¶¶ 2-5; Doc. 68, Ex. A at 31-32; Id., Ex. B at 37; Id., Ex. G at 24. Adams immediately reported the incident to Lela Prince, a principal at the school. See Doc. 66, Ex. O; Doc. 68, Ex. A at 31-32; Id., Ex. B at 39-40. Prince notified Dwayne Cotton, the school resource officer charged with investigating disciplinary infractions at the school and a deputy of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, about the incident and informed Adams's mother, Brenda Wilson, that there was likely to be an investigation of the incident by Cotton. See Doc. 64, Ex. B at 25, 37; Doc. 66, Ex. K; Id., Ex. L; Doc. 68, Ex. B at 53; Id., Ex. C at. 113-14. Wilson in turn informed Prince that she did not wish for her daughter to be interviewed by Cotton about the alleged attack without Wilson's knowledge. See Doc. 68, Ex. C at 114-15. The following morning, April 28, 2004, Cotton called Adams out of class and escorted her to his office, where he interviewed her about the alleged attack the previous day. See Doc. 64, Ex. A at 77; Id., Ex. B at 107, 120. During the interview Wilson spoke with Cotton by telephone and asked him to terminate the interview and send Adams home. See Doc. 64, Ex. B at 103-04; Doc. 68, Ex. C at 128. Cotton declined to end the interview but invited Wilson to retrieve her daughter from the school. See Doc. 64, Ex. B at 104. In the course of the interview, Adams consented to be examined by a female school employee for scratches on her back and arms caused by the alleged assault. See Doc. 64, Ex. A at 82, 87; Doc. 66, Ex. N. At the conclusion of the interview, Cotton escorted Adams back to class. See Doc. 64, Ex. A at 87-88.

Adams by Wilson as her next friend subsequently filed this action in connection with the alleged assault and the investigation thereof. In her complaint Adams asserted claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging deprivations of her constitutional rights by persons acting under color of state law, together with claims under Illinois state law. Specifically, Adams alleged violation of her Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights by Prince and Cahokia, which operates Wirth/Parks Middle School, violation of her Fourth Amendment right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures by Prince, Cotton, Cahokia, and Mearl Justus, the Sheriff of St. Clair County, and conspiracy to violate her Fourth Amendment rights by Prince and Cotton. Adams also alleged claims under Illinois law for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Prince, Cotton, Cahokia, Justus, and St. Clair County. By Order entered September 29, 2005, the Court dismissed with prejudice Adams's claims of false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court also dismissed Adams's section 1983 claims against Prince and Cotton in their official capacities.

Prince, Cotton, and Cahokia have moved for summary judgment as to Adams's claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. Justus and St. Clair County have brought a separate request for summary judgment as to Adams's Fourth Amendment claims. Adams has responded to the summary judgment motions and has moved in turn for reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of her false imprisonment claims. Having reviewed all of the submissions of the parties and conducted a hearing on the subject motions, the Court now is prepared to rule.


A. Summary Judgment

1. Legal Standard

Summary judgment may be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to in terrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c). In considering a summary judgment motion, a court must review the entire record and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-America, Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 234 (7th Cir.1995); Enquip, Inc. v. Smith-McDonald Corp., 655 F.2d 115, 118 (7th Cir.1981). On summary judgment a court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence, because these are tasks for a factfinder. See Betaco, Inc. v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 32 F.3d 1126, 1138 (7th Cir.1994); Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 3 F.3d 1035, 1041 (7th Cir.1993). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial." Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir.1994).

2. Fourteenth Amendment Claims

The Fourteenth Amendment provides, in relevant part, that "[IA() State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. Adams alleges that Prince and Cahokia, acting under color of state law, violated her due process rights by failing to protect her from an assault by Craig Nichols. In evaluating this claim on summary judgment, the Court must proceed from the assumption that the state has no constitutional duty to protect its citizens from assaults by fellow citizens. "The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let people alone; it does not require the federal government or the state to provide services, even so elementary a service as maintaining law and order." Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616, 618 (7th Cir.1982). Cf. Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 478, 48 S.Ct. 564, 72 L.Ed. 944 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting) ("The makers of our Constitution. . . . conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men."). "The men who wrote the Bill of Rights were not concerned that government might do too little for the people but that it might do too much to them." Jackson v. City of Joliet, 715 F.2d 1200, 1203 (7th Cir.1983).

The purpose of the Constitution, then, is to shield citizens from the state, not from their fellow citizens. Thus, "there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen," Bowers, 686 F.2d at 618, or any of the host of lesser insults citizens may visit on one another. For example, in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189, 109 S.Ct. 998, 103 L.Ed.2d 249 (1989), the Court held that employees of a state family services agency owed a little boy no constitutional duty to protect him from harm while in the custody of an abusive father:

[N]othing in the language of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors. The Clause is phrased as a limitation on the State's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of safety and security. It forbids the State itself to deprive individuals of life, liberty, or property without "due process of law," but its language cannot fairly be extended to impose an affirmative obligation on the State to ensure that those interests do not come to harm through other means. . . . Its purpose [is] to protect the people from the State, not to ensure that the State protected them from each other. The Framers were content to leave the extent of governmental obligation in the latter area to the democratic political processes.

Id. at 195-96, 109 S.Ct. 998. Accordingly, the Court held that the state officers were not liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the massive brain damage the boy's father eventually inflicted on him. See 489 U.S. at 193, 202-03, 109 S.Ct. 998.

There is, of course, an exception to the rule that the state generally owes no constitutional duty of protection for cases in which the state has assumed custody over an individual and, by reason of the custody, has deprived the individual of the ability to, care for himself or herself. See, e.g., Revere v. Massachusetts Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244-45, 103 S.Ct. 2979, 77 L.Ed.2d 605 (1983) (holding that due process requires the state to provide medical...

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