Woods v. City of Michigan City, Ind.

Decision Date15 August 1991
Docket NumberNo. 90-1582,90-1582
Citation940 F.2d 275
PartiesJon M. WOODS and Connie Blakley, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF MICHIGAN CITY, INDIANA, Michael M. Bigda, Officer Hudson, Four Other Unknown Officers, individually and County of LaPorte, Indiana, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Hugo E. Martz (argued), Valparaiso, Ind., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Charles E. Hervas (argued), James G. Sotos, James R. Schirott, Michael W. Condon, Phillip A. Luetkehans, Betty J. Gloss, Schirott & Associates, Itasca, Ill., Steven C. Snyder, Michigan City, Ind., Shaw R. Friedman, Bokland, Yandt & Friedman, and Martin W. Kus, Newby, Lewis, Kaminski & Jones, LaPorte, Ind., for defendants-appellees.

Before BAUER, Chief Judge, MANION, Circuit Judge, and WILL, Senior District Judge. *

MANION, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Jon M. Woods brought suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 against the City, the County, and various police officers claiming unlawful detention after his arrest for reckless driving. Before releasing Woods the City police required him to post bond in accordance with a bond schedule issued by a state Superior Court judge. State law, however, explicitly eliminated the requirement that bond be posted for release in reckless driving offenses, conditioning such release instead on the defendant's signing a promise to appear in court. Woods claimed that his detention and need to post bond in violation of state law resulted in a denial of his liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court concluded that the state judge's bond directive, although contrary to state law, was not a policy of the City or County. He concluded that Woods did not state a legally cognizable claim and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The district court also ruled that the defendant police officers were protected by qualified immunity, and consequently dismissed Woods' suit against them. Woods appeals, and we affirm.


On May 25, 1986, at or around 10:30 p.m., defendant Officer Bigda of the Michigan City police department, while on his way home noticed an automobile "squealing" its tires in traffic within the city limits of Michigan City, located within LaPorte County, Indiana. Officer Bigda observed the car travel about one block and make an abrupt lane change in front of another car, causing that car to slow down suddenly. When Officer Bigda saw the car "squeal" from another light, he called on his police radio for assistance. Shortly, Officer Hudson and four other unknown policemen pulled the offending car over.

The police officers stopped the car and learned that the driver was Jon Woods (who was seventeen at the time) and that the car was owned by Woods' mother Connie Blakley. Bigda informed Woods that he had been following him and was arresting him for reckless driving, a misdemeanor offense. Bigda told Woods the arrest was based on the squealing tires, and for almost causing an accident with another car because of the unsafe lane change. The policemen searched Woods' car at the scene but found no incriminating evidence. Friends accompanying Woods were permitted to drive the car back to Woods' mother's house. Woods was taken to the Michigan City Jail and charged with reckless driving (Ind.Code Sec. 9-4-1-56.1). Pursuant to a bond schedule issued by LaPorte Superior Court Judge Arthur Keppen, Woods was detained in the Michigan City Jail overnight (for about eight hours) until his mother procured his release with a $250 bond.

As a result of his detention, Woods filed a lawsuit in federal court against Michigan City, LaPorte County, and several police officers alleging an unconstitutional deprivation of his liberty. Woods claims that the police wrongfully detained him pursuant to the bond schedule issued by Superior Court Judge Keppen because Indiana Code Sec. 9-4-1-131 requires the release of every Indiana resident arrested for a traffic misdemeanor offense upon a signed promise to appear in court at a later date. 1 Woods argued that the state law permitting his release upon signature vested him with a state-created liberty interest which may not be arbitrarily or without good reason denied him under the U.S. Constitution.

The district court entered summary judgment against Woods, stating in part that Woods could not show under Indiana law that the LaPorte Superior Court judge was a "policymaker" with ultimate policymaking authority necessary to impose liability on the municipal defendants for activity resulting in due process violations. The district court also granted qualified immunity to the defendant police officers, holding that the police's enforcement of the judicially pronounced bond schedule was not a violation of the "clearly established" rights of individuals within their localities.


Our standard for evaluating the grant of a summary judgment motion is well established. "In examining the district court's grant of summary judgment, our duty is to review de novo the record and the controlling law." PPG Indus. v. Russell, 887 F.2d 820, 823 (7th Cir.1989). Typically our task is to "decide whether the record shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to the judgment as a matter of law." Wolf v. Larson, 897 F.2d 1409, 1411 (7th Cir.1990). However, when the parties do not dispute the factual basis of a motion for summary judgment, as in this case, the reviewing court's only inquiry is whether judgment should have been issued by the district court as a matter of law. Town of South Whitley v. Cincinnati Insurance, 921 F.2d 104 (7th Cir.1990).


Woods argues that Michigan City and LaPorte County are liable under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 2 due to the directive of Judge Keppen making reckless driving a bondable offense. He argues that the directive contravenes Indiana law, Ind.Code Sec. 9-4-1-131 giving Indiana residents an inviolable liberty interest protected by the U.S. Constitution. Woods further argues that Judge Keppen, as a judicial officer, is a senior policymaking official sufficient to subject the City and County to liability for constitutional deprivations suffered from the enforcement of the illegal bond schedule.

The standards establishing municipal liability under Sec. 1983 are set out in Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), where the Supreme Court decided that a municipality can be found liable under Sec. 1983 only where the municipality itself causes the constitutional violation at issue. Id. at 694-95, 98 S.Ct. at 2037-38. "It is only when the 'execution of [the] government's policy or custom ... inflicts the injury' that the municipality may be held liable under Sec. 1983." Springfield, Mass. v. Kibbe, 480 U.S. 257, 267, 107 S.Ct. 1114, 1119, 94 L.Ed.2d 293 (1987) (quoting Monell, supra, 436 U.S. at 694, 98 S.Ct. at 2037). "Congress did not intend municipalities to be held liable unless action pursuant to official municipal policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort." Monell, 436 U.S. at 691, 98 S.Ct. at 2036 (emphasis added).

The "official policy" requirement was intended to distinguish acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, and thereby make clear that municipal liability is limited to action for which the municipality is actually responsible ... [R]ecovery from a municipality is limited to acts that are, properly speaking, acts "of the municipality"--that is, acts which the municipality has officially sanctioned or ordered.

Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-480, 106 S.Ct. 1292, 1298-1299, 89 L.Ed.2d 452 (1986).

Thus, the official acts of a municipality include those of governmental officials "whose acts or edicts may fairly be said to represent official policy." Monell, supra, 436 U.S. at 694, 98 S.Ct. at 2037. When the execution of such a policy or custom results in the deprivation of citizens' rights and privileges, the municipality may be subject to liability under Sec. 1983. Municipal liability under Sec. 1983 "attaches only where the decisionmaker possesses final authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the action ordered." Pembaur, supra, 475 U.S. at 481, 106 S.Ct. at 1299. Authority to make municipal policy may be granted directly by a legislative enactment or may be delegated by an official who possesses such authority, "and of course, whether an official had final policymaking authority is a question of state law." Id. at 483, 106 S.Ct. at 1300. The Supreme Court in Pembaur concluded:

[w]e hold that municipal liability under Sec. 1983 attaches where--and only where--a deliberate choice to follow a course of action is made from among various alternatives by the official or officials responsible for establishing final policy with respect to the subject matter in question. See [Oklahoma City v.] Tuttle, [471 U.S. 808, at 823, 105 S.Ct. 2427, 2436, 85 L.Ed.2d 791 (1985) ] (" 'policy' generally implies a course of action chosen from among various alternatives").

Id., 475 U.S. at 483-484, 106 S.Ct. at 1300-1301. With these standards in mind we must look to the submitted facts and determine whether, as a matter of law, a LaPorte Superior Court judge is a final policymaking authority for the City of Michigan City or LaPorte County.

The parties agree that Judge Keppen, as a LaPorte Superior Court judge, issued a bond schedule to the law enforcement officers within LaPorte County requiring bond for those arrested for reckless driving. 3 This requires that those arrested be held until the bond is paid. It is also undisputed that this directive conflicts with Ind.Code Sec. 9-4-1-131 which requires a defendant's release after signing a promise to appear in court at a future date. Thus, the parties agree that Ind.Code Sec. 9-4-1-131 vests in certain persons, including Woods, a liberty interest entitled to...

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