University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Davis v. City of Chicago CJ-IL-0014
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-03691 ( N.D. Ill. )
Additional Docket(s) 2019CH05413  [ 19-5413 ]  Trial Court (IL)
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Institute for Justice
Case Summary
This lawsuit is a constitutional challenge the city of Chicago’s vehicle impound program. The plaintiffs, individuals whose cars had been impounded by the city, filed this putative class action suit in Illinois state court (Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division) on April 29, 2019 ... read more >
This lawsuit is a constitutional challenge the city of Chicago’s vehicle impound program. The plaintiffs, individuals whose cars had been impounded by the city, filed this putative class action suit in Illinois state court (Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division) on April 29, 2019. Represented by attorneys from the Institute for Justice and a private law firm, they claimed that the city impounded cars in connections with offenses not committed by their owners, required the owners of impounded cars to pay administrative penalties prior to the entry of judgment in their cases, did not provide adequate notice of disposal and other proceedings to impounded car owners, and held cars as collateral while their owners paid their fines. The plaintiffs, bringing suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged that these practices violated their Eighth Amendment rights to be free from excessive fines, their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, and their analogous rights under the Illinois Constitution. Additionally, they brought a separate count demanding the return of tools and other items seized from the car of one of the named plaintiffs. They asked the court for the certification of a class, declaratory and injunctive relief, nominal damages of $1, and attorneys’ fees.

Before any significant litigation could occur in state court, the city removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. There it was initially assigned to District Judge Thomas M. Durkin. Shortly after the case was removed, the plaintiffs filed a motion to remand it back to Cook County. Judge Durkin denied that motion in an oral ruling on August 5, 2019.

After the motion to remand had been denied, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint including additional named plaintiffs, but no new legal theories. The city then filed a motion to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. While that motion was pending, the case was reassigned to the newly appointed District Judge Mary M. Rowland.

Judge Rowland partially granted and partially denied the defendants motion to dismiss in an August 21, 2020, opinion. 481 F. Supp. 3d 757. (The ruling was likely delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.) Under a variety of federal court doctrines, Judge Rowland dismissed the plaintiffs’ federal excessive fines claim, their search and seizure claims under the federal and Illinois constitutions, and their federal and Illinois due process claims to the extent that they involved substantive due process and the city’s procedures for notifying plaintiffs of the fines they faced. However, the plaintiffs’ additional due process claims, as well as their Illinois proportionate penalties claim and their request for the named plaintiffs’ tools, remained.

As of November 2021, the parties continue to litigate various discovery issues. The case is ongoing.

Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 11/21/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Excessive bail/fines
Unreasonable search and seizure
General
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) City of Chicago
Plaintiff Description All individuals who own vehicles that have been or will be impounded by Defendant City of Chicago pursuant to Chicago Municipal Code Section 2-14-132.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Institute for Justice
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 04/29/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
No documents currently in the collection

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