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Date: 05-23-2001

Case Style: Chavez v. Illinois State Police

Case Number: 99-3691 and 00-1462

Judge: Kanne

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Plaintiff's Attorney: Imani Chiphe Federal Public Defender Program, Chicago, Illinois; Jane M. Whicher, Harvey Michael Grossman, Adam D. Schwartz, Roger Baldwin Foundation of ACLU, Inc., Chicago, Illinois; and Jonathan Klee Baum, Ted S. Helwig, and Nicole Nehama Auerbach, Katten, Muchin & Zavis, Chicago, Illinois

Defendant's Attorney: Thomas A. Ioppolo, Don R. Sampen, Beverly Cassandra Bryant, Charles Anthony Rego and Patrick J. Solberg, Illinois Attorney General's Office, Chicago, Illinois

Description: Civl Rights - 42 U.S.c. 1983 - In this civil rights lawsuit, a putative class action, plaintiffs claim that the drug interdiction unit of the Illinois State Police (ISP), Operation Valkyrie, has a practice of stopping, detaining, and searching African-American and Hispanic motorists based on their race and without legally sufficient cause or justification. The allegation before us, at its core, is that the ISP engages in the practice of racial profiling. Racial profiling is generally understood to mean the improper use of race as a basis for taking law enforcement action. Challenges to the practice of racial profiling have become increasingly prevalent; indeed, this suit is part of a larger effort to challenge the practice nationwide. Defendants-appellees deny that they engage in racial profiling, and claim that they instruct their officers not to use race in determining which motorists to stop, detain, and search.

Plaintiffs filed suit in August 1994, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Defendants included the Director of the Illinois State Police, Terrance Gainer; the ISP Operation Valkyrie Coordinator, Michael Snyders; the District Commander of the ISP, Edward Kresl; and several individual ISP troopers. Plaintiffs alleged numerous violations of their rights and sought damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. They based their claims upon the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; the right to travel provided by the Privileges and Immunities Clauses of Article IV and the Fourteenth Amendment; the Fourth Amendment; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the administrative regulations effectuating that Title; and a variety of related supplemental state law provisions. They also sought to impose supervisory liability for these violations upon several ISP personnel under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983.

Through a series of rulings spanning the five years of litigation below, the district court dismissed the right to travel claim and granted defendants' motions for summary judgment on the equal protection and supervisory liability claims. Additionally, the court determined that plaintiffs lacked standing to obtain injunctive relief, declined to certify a class of Hispanic motorists stopped on the basis of race, denied plaintiffs' motion to add a new named plaintiff to represent the Hispanic class, and denied one of plaintiffs' discovery related motions. In response to these rulings, plaintiffs moved to voluntarily dismiss, with prejudice, their remaining claims. The court dismissed the Title VI regulatory claims pursuant to Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but stated that, if plaintiffs elected to dismiss their remaining claims, the court would impose reasonable costs. Plaintiffs continued to request dismissal, thus the court issued an order dismissing plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment, Title VI, and supplemental state law claims, with prejudice and pursuant to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Plaintiffs now appeal the grant of summary judgment on their equal protection and supervisory liability claims, the dismissal of named plaintiff Peso Chavez's right to travel claim, the finding that they lacked standing to pursue injunctive relief, and the district court's denial of their motions to add a new plaintiff, to certify a class, and to take certain discovery. Plaintiffs also challenge the propriety of requiring them to pay defendants' costs as a precondition to dismissal.

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Click the case caption above for the full text of the court's opinion.

Outcome: Notwithstanding the disposition of this case, we recognize the destructive effects of racial and ethnic profiling by any police agency. Plaintiffs have not proven that the Operation Valkyrie officers of the Illinois State Police stop, detain, and search African-American and Hispanic motorists on the basis of racial or ethnic profiling. Yet, unfortunately, the oft-cited public perception that race and ethnicity play a role in law enforcement decisions on Illinois highways will no doubt remain. The ISP has asserted throughout this litigation that they do not condone race- based law enforcement action; much of the evidence in this case indicates that they endeavor to conduct police activity through means that respect constitutional rights. How to change public perception and demonstrate compliance with constitutional requirements is a matter the State of Illinois may wish to consider.

Plaintiff's Experts: Unknown

Defendant's Experts: Unknown

Comments: None

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