Thorncreek Apartments I, LLC v. Village of Park Forest, No. 16-3557 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Thorncreek, a Park Forest townhouse complex, applied to the Village for a permit to use a vacant townhouse as a business office but began to conduct its business from the townhouse without a permit. The Village cited it for zoning violations and operating without the required permit. The Village later filed suit to halt the zoning and operating violations and to redress certain building-code violations. Thorncreek counterclaimed against the Village and 10 officials, claiming civil-rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986 and the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Two Thorncreek "areas" went into foreclosure. Thorncreek blamed the Village’s regulatory overreach in denying a business license, interfering with business operations, refusing to grant a conditional use permit, failing to issue a certificate of occupancy, and unequally enforcing a building-code provision requiring electrical upgrades, based on irrational animus against Clapper, the owner, and racial bias against its black residents. A jury found the Village and Village Manager Mick liable for a class-of-one equal-protection violation; found Mick and Kerestes, the director of community development, liable for conspiracy (section 1985(3)); otherwise rejected the claims, and awarded $2,014,000 in compensatory damages. Because the jury rejected the race-based equal-protection claim, the judge struck the verdict against Kerestes. The judge awarded $430,999.25 in fees and $44,844.33 in costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the judgment against Mick, the admission of evidence concerning Clapper’s wealth, and the admission of Thorncreek’s financial records.