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Regains v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 13, 2019

Paul Regains, Plaintiff-Appellant,
City of Chicago, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued April 4, 2016

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 9687 - James B. Zagel, Judge.

          Before Easterbrook and Hamilton, Circuit Judges, and Pepper, District Judge. [*]

          Pepper, District Judge.

         The Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) requires sex offenders to register with the police. Because he did not have a permanent address (he was homeless), Paul Regains followed the instructions of officers who directed him to a local homeless shelter (which they listed on his registration as his permanent address), and to return for re-registration in ninety days. When he appeared to report three months later, Chicago police officers arrested Regains on an "investigative alert/' because other officers had not been able to locate Regains at the address provided. Regains remained in custody seventeen months before the Illinois trial court found him not guilty of failing to a report a change of address.

         Regains sued the City of Chicago under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that it violated his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), finding that either the claim was time-barred under Illinois' two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, or that it was barred by this court's decision in New-some v. McCabe, 256 F.3d 747, 751 (7th Cir. 2001), abrogated by Manual v. City ofjoliet, 137 S.Ct. 911 (2017) ("Manuel I"). The district court also found that the amended complaint lacked sufficient factual details to give the City fair notice, and that because Regains did not specifically identify a particular constitutional violation, the City could not be held liable under Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978).

         We reverse the district court's decision that Regains' claim was time-barred, and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         In 2012, SORA required sex offenders to register in person within three days of establishing a residence or a temporary domicile in any county. 730ILCS § 150/3(b) (2012). Sex offenders in the City of Chicago registered "at the Chicago Police Department Headquarters." 730 ILCS § 150/3(a)(1). The law required sex offenders without a fixed address or temporary domicile to report weekly to the chief of police in the municipality in which that person was located. 730 ILCS § 150/3.

         The plaintiff asserts that SORA required "persons with a fixed abode" to report every ninety days, citing 730 ILCS § 150/6. Appellant's Br. at 2. In fact, that section of the statute required a person who had been adjudicated to be sexually dangerous or was a sexually violent person to report every ninety days (and required such offenders to report weekly if they did not have a fixed residence). "Any other person" required to register under the statute was required to report once a year. The record does not indicate whether Regains, had he had a fixed residence, would have been subject to the ninety-day reporting interval or the one-year reporting interval. Either way, the law required homeless sex offenders to report more frequently than sex offenders with fixed residences. Failure to comply with the provisions of the statute constituted a felony, for which there was strict liability. 730 ILCS § 150/10(a); People v. Molnar, 857 N.E.2d 209, 224 (111. 2006).

         By 2012, the Chicago police officers assigned to sex offender registration/reporting duty felt that the weekly reporting requirement for homeless sex offenders had become burdensome. Some of those police officers engaged in a widespread practice of steering homeless sex offenders to homeless shelters that would accept sex offenders, and directing the sex offenders to return with documentation showing the shelter as the sex offender's residence. This scheme had the effect of providing homeless sex offenders with a "residence," which meant that they were not subject to the weekly reporting requirement. The officers who engaged in this steering practice, and their supervisors, were aware that the number of persons registered at the shelters far exceeded the shelter's capacity. In other words, they knew that the homeless sex offenders who listed the shelter as their "address" likely would not be able to remain there.

         Other Chicago police officers assigned to registration duties disagreed with the steering practice. These other officers visited homeless shelters that accepted sex offender registrants and attempted to locate the registrant; if they could not locate the registrant at the shelter, the officers would prepare an investigative alert, informing any Chicago police officer who encountered the registrant that there was probable cause for arrest.

         Regains alleges that in April 2012, Chicago police officers employed the steering practice when he attempted to register as a homeless sex offender. He asserts that they directed him to a shelter, registered him as residing at that shelter, and instructed him to return for quarterly reporting and re-registration in July 2012.

         In early May 2012, two Chicago police officers went to the shelter to look for Regains. They did not find him, and they prepared a report for failure to register at that address. The next day, a Chicago police detective reviewed the report, visited the shelter without finding Regains, and issued an investigative ...

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