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Neita v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 19, 2016

Vaughn Neita, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
City of Chicago, Jane N. Raddatz, Melissa Uldrych, and Cherie Travis, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued January 7, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 1107 - James F. Holderman, Judge.

          Before EASTERBROOK, MANION, and SYKES, CIRCUIT JUDGES.

          Sykes, Circuit Judge.

         Vaughn Neita was arrested and charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and neglect under Illinois law after surrendering two dogs to Chicago's Department of Animal Care and Control. An Illinois judge found him not guilty on all counts. Neita maintains that the officials who arrested and prosecuted him had no basis to do so; he brought this suit for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois law. The district court dismissed Neita's federal claims for failure to state a claim and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. Because the allegations in Neita's complaint are sufficient to state claims for false arrest and illegal searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment, we reverse.

         I. Background

         Neita formerly owned and operated a dog-grooming business and rescue shelter called A Doggie Business. On February 14, 2012, he brought two dogs to Chicago's Department of Animal Care and Control. One of the dogs, Osa, had become overly aggressive and attacked and killed another dog in Neita's care. The other dog, Olive Oil, had become ill after whelping a litter of puppies.

         When Neita arrived with the dogs, Cherie Travis, an Animal Control employee, called the police. Chicago Police Officers Jane Raddatz and Melissa Uldrych responded to the call and, after speaking with Travis, arrested Neita. The officers then searched Neita, his vehicle, and later his business premises. The State's Attorney charged Neita with two counts of animal cruelty and thirteen counts of violating an animal owner's duties under Illinois law. An Illinois judge found him not guilty on all counts.

         After his acquittal Neita filed this action against Travis, Officers Raddatz and Uldrych, and the City of Chicago, among others.[1] The complaint alleged that the individual defendants were liable under § 1983 for false arrest and illegal searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment and under Illinois law for malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The complaint also sought statutory indemnification from the City of Chicago for the acts of its employees. See 745 Ill. Comp. Stat. 10/9-102. Neita twice amended his complaint, and the defendants moved to dismiss each iteration for failure to state a claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

         The judge granted the motions. He dismissed the first amended complaint without prejudice, giving Neita an opportunity to replead. But the second amended complaint fared no better. The judge dismissed the federal claims with prejudice, holding that Neita had failed to adequately plead any constitutional violation and that further amendment would be futile. The judge then relinquished supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims, dismissing them without prejudice to refiling in state court. This appeal followed.

         II. Discussion

         Our review of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is de novo. Olson v. Champaign County, 784 F.3d 1093, 1098 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to state a claim for relief that is legally sound and plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The federal claims in Neita's second amended complaint consist of a false-arrest claim against the individual defendants and several illegal-search claims against Officers Raddatz and Uldrych.

         A. False Arrest

         To prevail on a false-arrest claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that there was no probable cause for his arrest. Thayer v. Chiczewski, 705 F.3d 237, 246 (7th Cir. 2012). Neita's claim thus requires us to decide whether he has adequately pleaded a lack of probable cause.

         An officer has probable cause to arrest if "at the time of the arrest, the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge … are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense." Id. (quoting Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 537 (7th Cir. 2009)). That determination depends on the elements of the underlying criminal offense. Stokes v. Bd. of Educ., 599 F.3d 617, 622 (7th Cir. 2010). Neita was arrested for violating Illinois statutes on animal cruelty and an animal owner's duties. The former provides in relevant part that "[n]o person or owner may beat, cruelly treat, torment, starve, overwork or otherwise abuse any animal." 510 Ill. Comp. Stat. 70/3.01. The latter requires animal owners to provide "(1) a sufficient ...


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