Bond v. Atkinson, No. 11-3275 (7th Cir. 2013)

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Justia Opinion Summary

Bond was shot three times by her husband, who then killed himself. She survived and filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, acknowledging that the state is not obliged to protect residents from crime but arguing that when the state chooses to provide protective services it cannot protect men while failing to protect women. She claimed that relatives of her husband had informed police that her husband was suicidal and potentially violent; that she reported that her husband had hit her and had acquired an arsenal of guns, some stolen, despite being disqualified from gun ownership; that she had an order of protection; that he was not arrested despite admitting violating that order; that she requested that the sheriff confiscate the guns; and that when he was arrested for domestic battery, her husband was released. The district court denied a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that the fact that officials assessed the risk to bond differently than Bond herself assessed the risk did not establish sex discrimination.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   STEPHANIE  JANE  BOND,   Plaintiff-­ Appellee,   v.   MICHAEL  R.  ATKINSON,  et  al.,   Defendants-­ Appellants.   ____________________   Appeals  from  the  United  States  District  Court   for  the  Central  District  of  Illinois.   No.  11-­ CV-­ 2059    Michael  P.  McCuskey,  Judge.   ____________________   ARGUED  SEPTEMBER  10,  2012    DECIDED  AUGUST  26,  2013   ____________________   Before   EASTERBROOK,   Chief   Judge,   and   CUDAHY   and   KANNE,  Circuit  Judges.   EASTERBROOK,  Chief  Judge.  Stephanie  Bond  was  shot  three   times  by  her  husband,  who  then  killed  himself.  She  survived   and  filed  this  suit  against  state  and  local  police  officers  and   other  public  officials,  contending  that  they  violated  her  con-­ stitutional   rights   under   the   fourteenth   amendment   by   not   enforcing  an  order  of  protection  issued  by  a  state  court  and   by  failing  to  confiscate  her  husband s  guns  after  his  state-­ law   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   2   right   to   own   firearms   had   been   revoked.   As   a   claim   under   the  fourteenth  amendment s  due  process  clause,  Bond s  suit   is   doomed   by   decisions   such   as   Castle   Rock   v.   Gonzales,   545   U.S.   748   (2005),   and   DeShaney   v.   Winnebago   County   Depart-­ ment  of  Social  Services,  489  U.S.  189  (1989).  But  Bond  invokes   the   equal   protection   clause.   DeShaney   observes   that   equal-­ protection  claims  may  succeed  even  when  due-­ process  theo-­ ries  fail.  489  U.S.  at  197  n.3.  A  state  is  not  obliged  to  protect   residents   from   crime   (that s   the   holding   of   Castle   Rock   and   DeShaney),  but  when  the  state  chooses  to  provide  protective   services  it  cannot  protect  men  while  failing  to  protect  wom-­ en.   The   state   must   provide   equal   protection   of   the   laws,   without   discriminating   on   account   of   race,   sex,   religion,   or   other  criteria  the  Constitution  places  off  limits.   Bond  contends  in  this  suit  under  42  U.S.C.  §1983  that  the   defendants  discriminated  against  her  on  account  of  sex.  She   does  not  present  a  class-­ of-­ one  claim,  on  which  see  Del  Mar-­ celle   v.   Brown   County   Corp.,   680   F.3d   887   (7th   Cir.   2012)   (en   banc),  but  contends  that  she  has  been  disfavored  in  common   with  other  women  by  defendants  failure  to  enforce  the  laws   against  domestic  violence  and  to  confiscate  guns  from  poten-­ tially  dangerous  men.  Defendants  asked  the  district  judge  to   rule  in  their  favor  on  the  ground  of  qualified  immunity.  The   court   referred   this   motion   to   a   magistrate   judge,   who   re-­ marked  that  the  rule  against  sex  discrimination  is  well  estab-­ lished   and   recommended   denying   the   motion.   2011   U.S.   Dist.  LEXIS  119778  at  *18 19  (C.D.  Ill.  Sept.  8,  2011).  The  dis-­ trict   judge   accepted   this   recommendation,   2011   U.S.   Dist.   LEXIS   118026   at   *4   (C.D.   Ill.   Oct.   13,   2011),   and   defendants   immediately   appealed   under   the   doctrine   of   Mitchell   v.   For-­ syth,  472  U.S.  511  (1985),  which  treats  the  rejection  of  an  im-­ 3   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   munity   defense   as   a   final   decision   for   the   purpose   of   28   U.S.C.  §1291.   The  rule  against  sex  discrimination  in  law  enforcement  is   clearly   established,   just   as   the   district   court   observed.   But   does  Bond s  complaint  adequately  allege  sex  discrimination?   Ashcroft  v.  Iqbal,  556  U.S.  662  (2009),  shows  that  an  appellate   court  may  resolve  a  qualified-­ immunity  appeal  by  deciding   that  the  complaint  does  not  state  a  plausible  claim.   According   to   the   complaint,   relatives   of   Gabriel   Omo-­ Osagie,  Bond s  husband,  told  police  in  November  2009  that   he  had  become  suicidal  and  potentially  violent.  Bond  herself   reported   that   Omo-­ Osagie   had   hit   her   and   had   acquired   an   arsenal  of  guns,  some  of  them  stolen,  though  he  lacked  legal   authority   to   own   any   firearm.   A   court   issued   an   order   of   protection   requiring   Omo-­ Osagie   to   stay   away   from   Bond.   Police  arrested  Omo-­ Osagie  for  domestic  battery,  but  a  state   judge  released  him.   Bond   asked   the   police   to   confiscate   Omo-­ Osagie s   guns;   according   to   the   complaint,   an   officer   of   the   Champaign   County  sheriff s  office  replied  that,  as  long  as  Omo-­ Osagie s   name   was   on   the   title   to   the   couple s   house,   confiscation   could   proceed   only   with   a   court   order,   which   neither   the   sheriff s   office   nor   Bond   ever   sought.   The   complaint   adds,   however,   that   neither   Illinois   law   nor   the   sheriff s   office   re-­ quires  judicial  permission.  (A  warrant  would  have  been  nec-­ essary  to  enter  a  house  in  order  to  search  for  the  guns  over   the  occupants  protests,  but  Bond  might  have  had  authority   to   consent   to   an   entry.)   In   late   November   Omo-­ Osagie   ad-­ mitted   to   some   of   the   defendants   that   he   had   violated   the   order  of  protection,  but  (as  in  Castle  Rock)  he  was  not  arrest-­ ed.  On  February  27,  2010,  Omo-­ Osagie  shot  Bond  three  times   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   4   and  then  killed  himself.  Not  until  March  2010  did  the  Illinois   State   Police   begin   to   collect   and   dispose   of   Omo-­ Osagie s   weapons.   That s   the   outline   of   the   complaint s   narration,   which   poses   the   question:   Where s   the   sex   discrimination?   Bond   does  not  allege  that  police  confiscate  guns  from  women  who   should  not  possess  them,  while  leaving  guns  in  the  hands  of   men  who  should  not  possess  them.  The  complaint  does  not   allege  that  defendants  require  a  warrant  to  confiscate  men s   firearms  while  not  waiting  for  a  warrant  to  confiscate  wom-­ en s   firearms.   It   does   not   allege   that   police   vigorously   en-­ force   protective   orders   issued   for   the   benefit   of   men   while   not  enforcing  orders  issued  for  the  benefit  of  women.  It  does   not   allege   that   the   police   arrest   women   who   threaten   or   at-­ tack  male  domestic  partners,  while  failing  to  arrest  men  who   threaten  or  attack  female  domestic  partners.  Bond  does  con-­ tend  that  the  police  described  her  as   only  crying  wolf,  but   both   men   and   women   cry   wolf.   This   is   just   another   way   of   expressing   the   proposition   that   Bond s   estimate   of   the   risk   differed  from  the  officers  estimate;  it  does  not  tend  to  show   sex  discrimination.   Bond s  principal  theory  is  that  enforcing  the  laws  against   domestic   violence   is   a   low   priority   for   state   and   local   law-­ enforcement  agencies  in  Illinois.  Because  roughly  85%  of  the   victims  of  domestic  violence  are  female,  see  Bureau  of  Justice   Statistics,  Intimate  Partner  Violence  1993 2001  (2003),  a  policy   of  weak  enforcement  injures  women  disproportionately  and   therefore  violates  the  Constitution.   The   problem   with   that   approach   is   that   the   harm   comes   from  disparate  impact  rather  than  disparate  treatment.  Some   statutes,   prominently   Title   VII   of   the   Civil   Rights   Act   of   5   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   1964,   deem   disparate   impact   a   form   of   discrimination.   See,   e.g.,  Griggs  v.  Duke  Power  Co.,  401  U.S.  424  (1971).  (Griggs  it-­ self  concerned  race  discrimination,  but  sex  discrimination  is   treated   the   same   under   Title   VII.)   Yet   the   Supreme   Court   held  in  Washington  v.  Davis,  426  U.S.  229  (1976),  that  dispar-­ ate  impact  does  not  violate  the  equal  protection  clause  of  the   fourteenth  amendment  and  cannot  be  redressed  by  suits  un-­ der  §1983.  See  also,  e.g.,  Personnel  Administrator  of  Massachu-­ setts  v.  Feeney,  442  U.S.  256  (1979).   To   obtain   relief,   a   plaintiff   must   show   intentional   dis-­ crimination that   the   defendants   wanted   men   (but   not   women)  left  at  large  to  injure  their  domestic  partners.  Feeney   holds   that   it   is   not   enough   to   show   that   state   actors   knew   that   women   would   fare   worse   than   men   under   an   official   policy;   instead   the   plaintiff   must   show   that   the   state   actors   adopted  that  policy  because  of,  not  in  spite  of  or  with  indif-­ ference   to,   its   effect   on   women.   Id.   at   279.   Yet   Bond s   com-­ plaint   does   not   allege   that   any   defendant   decided   to   give   domestic-­ relations   crimes   a   low   priority   because   that   would   injure   women.   The   allegation   instead   is   that   the   defendants   thought  that  Bond  and  Omo-­ Osagie  were  just  involved  in  a   messy   divorce   in   which   the   risk   of   serious   violence   was   modest   compared   with   other   crimes   such   as   murder,   rape,   armed  robbery,  financial  fraud,  and  sexual  abuse  of  minors.   This  a  sex-­ neutral  reason.  Defendants  were  wrong  about  the   risk   Omo-­ Osagie   posed   to   Bond,   but   the   Constitution   does   not  guarantee  mistake-­ free  law  enforcement.   The   complaint s   allegations   concerning   the   non-­ confiscation  of  Omo-­ Osagie s  weapons  do  not  even  allege  a   disparate  effect  on  women.  Perhaps  the  defendants  violated   Illinois  law,  or  perhaps  the  person  to  whom  Bond  spoke  lied   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   6   to  her  in  an  effort  to  get  her  to  go  away,  so  that  he  could  turn   to  some  other  business.  We  must  assume  that  Bond  was  told   a   tall   tale.   But   state   law   cannot   be   enforced   through   §1983.   See,   e.g.,   Archie   v.   Racine,   847   F.2d   1211,   1215 18   (7th   Cir.   1988)  (en  banc).   Bond  does  not  contend   that   the  police  con-­ fiscated  guns  from  women  (but  not  men)  without  warrants.   Instead   she   appears   to   contend   that   the   police   confiscated   guns  from  everyone,  except  her  husband,  without  waiting  for   a   warrant.   That   might   have   the   makings   of   a   class-­ of-­ one   claim,   but   Bond s   counsel   abjured   a   class-­ of-­ one   claim   both   in   the   appellate   briefs   and   at   oral   argument.   What s   more,   this   court s   inability   to   produce   a   majority   opinion   in   Del   Marcelle   shows   that   the   law   concerning   class-­ of-­ one   chal-­ lenges  to  the  decisions  of  the  police  about  which  laws  to  en-­ force,   and   how   vigorously,   is   anything   but   clearly   estab-­ lished.   Appellants   relied   on   Feeney.   Instead   of   responding   (her   brief  does  not  even  cite  Feeney),  Bond  invokes  an  earlier  de-­ cision,  Arlington  Heights  v.  Metropolitan  Housing  Development   Corp.,   429   U.S.   252,   266   (1977),   for   the   proposition   that   the   disparate  impact  of  a  governmental  policy  violates  the  equal   protection   clause.   Arlington   Heights   says   the   opposite,   how-­ ever.  Citing  Washington  v.  Davis,  the  Court  wrote  that  proof   of  discriminatory  intent  is  essential.  It  added,  as  Washington   v.   Davis   also   had   done,   that   a   policy s   effects   may   help   a   court  understand  the  defendants  intent.  Adoption  of  a  poli-­ cy  that  bears  more  heavily  on  women  than  on  men,  yet  lacks   any   apparent   justification,   could   support   an   inference   that   the  defendants  chose  the  policy  because  of  its  adverse  effect   on  women.   7   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   It  does  not  take  a  supposition  of  animus  toward  women,   however,   to   explain   why   domestic-­ relations   investigations   receive   lower   priority   than   murder,   rape,   or   child   abuse   in-­ vestigations.  Perhaps  a  state  ought  to  appropriate  the  money   necessary   to   allow   better   enforcement   of   the   domestic-­ battery   and   firearms-­ control   laws,   but   a   law-­ enforcement   agency   must   set   priorities   in   light   of   the   resources   in   hand.   Whether  or  not  the  defendants  priorities  were  unwise,  it  is   not  possible  given  Feeney  and  this  complaint s  allegations  to   find  them  unconstitutional.  There  is  certainly  a  rational  basis   for   giving   murder   and   rape   investigations   higher   priority   than   domestic-­ relations   matters,   and   the   equal   protection   clause  does  not  authorize  the  judiciary  to  take  over  priority-­ setting  for  law  enforcement.  How  domestic-­ relations  matters   compare   with   the   many   other   subjects   clamoring   for   law-­ enforcement   attention   is   for   the   people   to   decide   through   elections  and  appointments.   Statements   made   at   oral   argument   lead   us   to   infer   that   Bond s  lawyers  have  not  fully  appreciated  the  difference  be-­ tween  disparate  impact  and  disparate  treatment.  The  district   judge  has  discretion  to  allow  Bond  to  plead  again.  If  she  has   evidence  that  defendants  protect  men  from  threats  of  domes-­ tic   violence   while   failing   to   protect   similarly   situated   wom-­ en,  that  could  demonstrate  sex  discrimination  meeting  Feen-­ ey s  standards.  (This  is  an  individual-­ capacity  suit,  so  the  ev-­ idence  must  deal  with  the  conduct  of  these  defendants  rather   than  law-­ enforcement  officials  in  the  aggregate.)   If   the   court   allows   Bond   to   re-­ plead,   and   she   chooses   to   do  so,  her  lawyers  must  keep  in  mind  that  discrimination  in   law   enforcement   must   be   shown   through   data;   impressions   or   information  and  belief  will  not  suffice.  See  United  States   Nos.  11-­ 3275  &  11-­ 3559   8   v.  Armstrong,  517  U.S.  456  (1996),  which  not  only  sets  a  high   evidentiary  standard  before  a  court  may  order  discovery  in-­ to  law-­ enforcement  practices  but  also  reiterates  that  proof  of   disparate  treatment  is  essential.  See  also  McReynolds  v.  Mer-­ rill   Lynch   &   Co.,   694   F.3d   873,   884 87   (7th   Cir.   2012).   But   Bond  and  her  counsel  may  well  conclude  that  claims  under   state   law   provide   the   best   chance   of   recovery.   (An   affidavit   from   one   officer   calls   another s   failure   to   confiscate   Omo-­ Osagie s  guns   derelict  police  work. )  If  the  federal  claim  is   dismissed  or  abandoned,  the  district  court  should  relinquish   supplemental  jurisdiction  over  Bond s  state-­ law  theories.   VACATED  AND  REMANDED