Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, WOLF-LILLI

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore PELL, BAUER and WOOD; HARLINGTON WOOD, Jr.
Citation699 F.2d 864
PartiesArlene C.laintiff-Appellee, v. Gerald M. SONQUIST, Kenosha County Sheriff, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date31 January 1983
Docket NumberP,Nos. 81-1117,81-2833,WOLF-LILLI

Page 864

699 F.2d 864
Arlene C. WOLF-LILLIE, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Gerald M. SONQUIST, Kenosha County Sheriff, Defendant-Appellant.
Nos. 81-1117, 81-2833.
United States Court of Appeals,
Seventh Circuit.
Argued Dec. 14, 1982.
Decided Jan. 31, 1983.

Page 866

Bruce E. Schroeder, Schroeder, Bentura & Breitenbach, Kenosha, Wis., for defendant-appellant.

Louis J. Mestre, Legal Act. of Wisconsin, Inc., Milwaukee, Wis., Arlene C. Lillie, pro se, for plaintiff-appellee.

Before PELL, BAUER and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

HARLINGTON WOOD, Jr., Circuit Judge.

The Sheriff of Kenosha County, Wisconsin, appeals from the judgment of the district court who found that the Sheriff, Gerald M. Sonquist, was legally responsible for damages arising out of the execution of his deputies of an outdated writ of restitution. See Wolf-Lillie v. Kenosha County Sheriff, 504 F.Supp. 1 (1980). The writ had been issued in Kenosha County Small Claims Court following an eviction action commenced by Wolf-Lillie's landlord. For the reasons discussed in this opinion, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

I.

Because this case revolves around the untimely execution of a writ of restitution, it may be helpful to first briefly review the procedures which the State of Wisconsin has adopted in order to effectuate the lawful removal of a tenant and his or her property, following an eviction action, from the real property of another.

In Wisconsin, the civil action of eviction is a proceeding to remove the person and property of a person not entitled to the possession or occupancy of real property. 1 If a court finds that a plaintiff is entitled to possession, an order for judgment is entered granting restitution of the premises to the plaintiff. 2 At the same time, the court is required to order that a writ of restitution be issued and delivered to the sheriff for execution. 3 The writ may be executed only if delivered to the sheriff within 30 days after entry of judgment. 4

Page 867

In executing the writ, the sheriff is required to use ordinary care in the removal of persons and property from the premises; however, he or his deputies are authorized to use such reasonable force as may be necessary in accomplishing the removal. 5 Risk of loss and responsibility for storage charges pass to the defendant-tenant after delivery of the goods to a "place of safekeeping." 6

Wisconsin law makes it clear that a sheriff has no discretion to withhold execution of the writ. Wisconsin Statute Sec. 799.45(1) states in applicable part that:

Upon delivery of a writ of restitution to the sheriff, and after payment to the sheriff of a fee required by Sec. 59.28(24), the sheriff shall execute the writ.

* * *

* * *

Wis.Stat. Sec. 799.45(1) (1979) (emphasis added). 7 Moreover, the sheriff is expressly directed to execute the writ within ten days of its receipt:

Within 10 days of the receipt of the writ, the sheriff shall execute the writ and perform all of the duties required by this section and return the same to the court with the sheriff's statement of expenses and charges incurred in the execution of the writ and paid by the plaintiff.

Wis.Stat. Sec. 799.45(5)(a) (emphasis added). The ten-day requirement of execution and return of the writ, as the district court concluded in this case, is mandatory and goes directly to the validity of the writ itself. 504 F.Supp. at 4. 8 Lastly, all the rights and duties of the sheriff in executing a writ of restitution may be exercised by or delegated to any of his deputies. 9

It is from the untimely execution of a writ of restitution and the attending loss of the plaintiff's property that this lawsuit arises.

II.

Arlene C. Wolf-Lillie owned a mobile trailer-home, in which she resided and kept her personal belongings. The trailer home was located on a lot in the Lakecrest Mobile Home Park in Silver Lake, Wisconsin. Wolf-Lillie rented this lot from the owner of the park, Gary McDonald.

As a result of an eviction action brought by McDonald against Wolf-Lillie, the Kenosha County Small Claims Court, on March 2, 1977, entered a judgment of eviction against Wolf-Lillie. Nine days later, on March 11, 1977, the same court issued a writ of restitution ordering the Sheriff of Kenosha County to remove Wolf-Lillie and her property from the lot she occupied in the park. The writ was received by the sheriff's department on March 22, 1977. A copy of the writ was served on Wolf-Lillie on March 28, 1977. This copy contained an interlineation giving her five days to voluntarily remove herself from the property.

Page 868

On April 22, 1977, one month after receipt of the writ by the sheriff's department, deputy sheriffs executed the writ. 10 Despite Wolf-Lillie's claim that the writ was outdated and invalid, the deputies had Wolf-Lillie's trailer and personal property removed from the Mobile Home Park. The mover who had been hired by the County, Bud DeBoer, repeatedly asked Wolf-Lillie to where she wanted her trailer moved. The plaintiff, because of her objection to the seizure of her property, refused to designate a storage place for the trailer. DeBoer consequently towed the trailer to his Service Center storage yard. There, the trailer was secured, locked, and placed outside of a fenced-in area of his yard.

In the months that followed, DeBoer repeatedly attempted to get Wolf-Lillie to tell him where to move the trailer. The plaintiff, however, continued to insist that it be returned to its original roost at the Mobile Home Park. Throughout this time, Wolf-Lillie had access to her trailer and, although she had found a new place of residence, continued to store personal goods such as clothing in the trailer.

Finally, in January of 1979, DeBoer sold the trailer and its contents; the trailer was removed from his premises later that spring. DeBoer realized $881.01 from the sale of the trailer. The total bill for the storage of the trailer in DeBoer's lot was $3,206.00, apparently leaving a total of $2,324.99 due to DeBoer from Wolf-Lillie.

The plaintiff by this time had commenced suit in district court alleging that the Sheriff of Kenosha County was liable for all damages arising out of the execution of the outdated writ of restitution. Ultimately, Wolf-Lillie, through court-appointed counsel, sought damages for the loss of her trailer, the loss of the contents of the trailer, and the storage costs she had incurred. In addition, she sought damages for the violation of her constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures, for the emotional distress she suffered over the three-year period, and for personal inconvenience. A bifurcated bench trial was held before Judge Warren.

The court held that the writ of restitution, executed thirty-days after receipt by the sheriff, was invalid when executed. 504 F.Supp. at 4. The court also held that under Wisconsin law Wolf-Lillie had a protectable property interest in remaining in possession of the lot she occupied. 504 F.Supp. at 3. Accordingly, the court ruled the execution of the invalid writ violated the plaintiff's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. 504 F.Supp. at 5. The court also concluded, after completing the damage portion of the trial, that Wolf-Lillie's substantive right to be free from unlawful seizures as secured by the Fourth Amendment had been violated. 504 F.Supp. at 11-12.

The district court then addressed the issue of the sheriff's liability. The court concluded that, based on the evidence presented at trial, there existed in the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department a pervasive pattern or practice of executing stale writs of restitution, resulting in the violation of constitutionally protected rights. 504 F.Supp. at 7. Moreover, the court held that there existed an "affirmative link" between the existing unlawful pattern of conduct and the conduct of the sheriff in that the sheriff failed to supervise the process division and to prohibit the execution of stale writs. Id. The sheriff was therefore held liable for the damages resulting from the execution of the outdated writ in this case.

After the damage portion of the trial, the district court ruled that Wolf-Lillie was entitled to $9,000.00 in damages and $9,451.00 in attorney's fees. 11 As a special condition

Page 869

to the damage award, the district court ordered that the defendant directly pay to the court the $9,000.00 damage award. If the plaintiff failed to execute a satisfaction of the judgment within 45 days of the delivery of the award to the court, the district court would then order its judgment vacated and would dismiss the plaintiff's complaint on the merits. This condition was apparently necessary to protect the defendant from any judgment liens, in that Wolf-Lillie had maintained throughout the damage portion of the trial that she would not accept any monetary damages from the defendant nor would she execute a satisfaction of judgment. The plaintiff had ardently demanded that her trailer be returned to her, an event the district court repeatedly told her it had no authority to order. The action proceeded nonetheless. No such condition was placed on the payment of the attorney's fees.

On appeal, the sheriff raises three issues. First, the sheriff argues that the district court erred in finding that the sheriff was liable, in his supervisory capacity, for the losses sustained by Wolf-Lillie. The sheriff also argues that under Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981), the plaintiff's remedy for her injuries lies in Wisconsin common law tort procedures. Lastly, the sheriff claims that the attorney's fee award should have been included in the 45-day satisfaction of judgment condition created by the court. The sheriff argues that should Wolf-Lillie fail to satisfy the judgment within 45 days, both the damage award and the attorney's fee award should be vacated.

III.

The first issue...

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760 practice notes
  • Spell v. McDaniel, No. 84-06-CIV-3.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • July 12, 1984
    ...___, 103 S.Ct. 3535, 77 L.Ed.2d 1386 (1983), which held Parratt applicable to intentional deprivations. See also Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864 (7th Cir.1983); Engblom v. Carey, 677 F.2d 957 (2d Cir.1982); Gilday v. Boone, 657 F.2d 1 (1st Cir.1981); Thurman v. Rose, 575 F.Supp. 1488 ......
  • Pitts v. County of Kern, No. F021678
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 8, 1996
    ...official policy, ' (Monell, supra, 436 U.S. 658, 694 [98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037-2038]; see also Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist [ (7th Cir.1983) ] 699 F.2d 864, 870, indicating that a county sheriff's actions represent the official policy of the county.) Moreover, since this case is still at the pleading......
  • Thomas v. Illinois, Case No. 11-cv-571-MJR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • August 9, 2012
    ...also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Eades v. Thompson, 823 F.2d 1055, 1063 (7th Cir. 1987); Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983); Duncan v. Duckworth, 644 F.2d 653, 655-56 (7th Cir. 1981). Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant Martin had any pe......
  • Cosby v. Ward, No. 86-1181
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 14, 1988
    ...See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2035-36, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978); Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 870 (7th Cir.1983). "Informal actions, if they reflect a general policy, custom, or pattern of official conduct which even tacitly encoura......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
760 cases
  • Spell v. McDaniel, No. 84-06-CIV-3.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • July 12, 1984
    ...___, 103 S.Ct. 3535, 77 L.Ed.2d 1386 (1983), which held Parratt applicable to intentional deprivations. See also Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864 (7th Cir.1983); Engblom v. Carey, 677 F.2d 957 (2d Cir.1982); Gilday v. Boone, 657 F.2d 1 (1st Cir.1981); Thurman v. Rose, 575 F.Supp. 1488 ......
  • Pitts v. County of Kern, No. F021678
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 8, 1996
    ...official policy, ' (Monell, supra, 436 U.S. 658, 694 [98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037-2038]; see also Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist [ (7th Cir.1983) ] 699 F.2d 864, 870, indicating that a county sheriff's actions represent the official policy of the county.) Moreover, since this case is still at the pleading......
  • Thomas v. Illinois, Case No. 11-cv-571-MJR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • August 9, 2012
    ...also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Eades v. Thompson, 823 F.2d 1055, 1063 (7th Cir. 1987); Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983); Duncan v. Duckworth, 644 F.2d 653, 655-56 (7th Cir. 1981). Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant Martin had any pe......
  • Cosby v. Ward, No. 86-1181
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 14, 1988
    ...See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2035-36, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978); Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 870 (7th Cir.1983). "Informal actions, if they reflect a general policy, custom, or pattern of official conduct which even tacitly encoura......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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