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Case Name Vergara v. Dal Ponte PN-IL-0013
Docket / Court 1:15-cv-02407 ( N.D. Ill. )
Additional Docket(s) 18-1266  [ 18-1266 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On March 19, 2015, three men arrested in Chicago, IL filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs sued the City of Chicago and Chicago police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by a private firm, asked the ... read more >
On March 19, 2015, three men arrested in Chicago, IL filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs sued the City of Chicago and Chicago police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by a private firm, asked the court for compensatory and punitive damages. They claimed that the City of Chicago and police officers violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that Chicago police officers had subjected them to false arrest at the Homan Square detention facility, excessive use of force, and illegal searches; attempted to coerce them into false confessions without an attorney present; and threatened them that they would be charged with crimes if they did not provide information.

The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper, profiled conditions in Homan Square through a series of articles starting in early 2015. Documents filed later in this case mention that the press coverage inspired the plaintiffs to come forward with this lawsuit.

On May 13, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Primarily, the defendants claimed that plaintiffs' complaint was untimely and that the allegation that the police had threatened plaintiffs into not speaking about their experience was not enough to defeat the statute of limitations. On May 27, 2015, Judge Andrea R. Wood granted the defendants' motion to stay discovery pending the resolution of the motion to dismiss.

On March 31, 2016, Judge Wood granted the defendants' motion to dismiss in a minute order. However, Judge Wood did not issue a Memorandum Opinion and Order on the motion to dismiss until January 31, 2018. The docket does not explain the reason for this large gap in time. Given the unusual gap without a written dismissal order, the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(7)(A)(ii) dictates that a dismissal order is assumed to be filed 150 days after judgment is entered into the docket.

In the opinion, Judge Wood held that the case should be dismissed because the complaint was filed after the statute of limitations had expired and the doctrine of equitable estoppel did not apply to the circumstances. Specifically, Judge Wood held that although the plaintiffs adequately alleged facts establishing the first two elements of equitable estoppel—that the defendants acted affirmatively to prevent them from filing suit and the plaintiffs did actually and reasonably rely on the threats while they were made—the plaintiffs did not file suit promptly after the obstacle to filing was removed and therefore failed to adequately allege facts establishing the third element of equitable estoppel.

On February 6, 2018, the plaintiffs appealed Judge's Wood decision granting the defendants' motion to dismiss to the Seventh Circuit. On August 17, 2018, the defendants submitted a docketing statement arguing that the plaintiffs failed to file a timely notice of appeal as required by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(7)(A)(ii). They argued that the district court entered a dispositive order on the docket on March 31, 2016, meaning that the plaintiffs' notice of appeal filed on February 6, 2018 was more than 30 days after the entry of judgment.

A Seventh Circuit panel composed of Judges Daniel Anthony Manion, Diane S. Skyes, and Michael B. Brennan sided with the appellees in a September 30, 2019 opinion. 939 F.3d 882. They wrote that the appellants should have filed their motion to appeal within 30 days of the dismissal order, which came 150 days after the March 30, 2016 minute order dismissing the case. They did not agree with the plaintiff's argument that they should have been allowed to appeal when the written opinion was published. In addition, the panel briefly discussed the merits of the case, and wrote that this case was not filed within the statute of limitations and that equitable estoppel did not apply. They referred back to previous cases in the Seventh Circuit that held that police intimidation was not sufficient to invoke equitable estoppel, and added that the Guardian articles providing "a newfound sense of security" to come forward was not enough to overcome that precedent, either.

The plaintiffs did not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court; the case is now closed.

Kat Brausch - 03/20/2016
Eva Richardson - 01/12/2019
Ellen Aldin - 06/12/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Excessive force
False arrest
Over/Unlawful Detention
National Origin/Ethnicity
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Chicago
Plaintiff Description Chicago residents arrested and detained in the Homan Square detention center
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 03/19/2015
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ill.
PN-IL-0013-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Ill.
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-IL-0013-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ill.
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 47]
PN-IL-0013-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 00713506111] (939 F.3d 882)
PN-IL-0013-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Sykes, Diane S. (Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Wood, Andrea Robin (N.D. Ill.) show/hide docs
PN-IL-0013-0002 | PN-IL-0013-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Amouyal, Kara Brooke (Illinois) show/hide docs
Fay, Katherine Tapie (Illinois) show/hide docs
Horwitz, Blake Wolfe (Illinois) show/hide docs
PN-IL-0013-0001 | PN-IL-0013-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cazares, Jorge V. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Cifonelli, Jonathan Booker (Illinois) show/hide docs
Jones, Walter Jr. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Steiner, Rachel C. (Illinois) show/hide docs

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