Rockford Federal Judge Refuses to Change Pavlin Verdict Against Sheriff’s Department

The broken front door window of Dr. Jerome Pavlin, who lived north of Crystal Lake.

“Defendants’ motion to alter judgment is denied.”

That’s the summary of the decision rendered by Judge Frederick J. Kapala in the case in which Jerome and Carla Pavlin sued a whole passel of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputies

  • Jeremy Bruketta
  • Kyle Mandernack
  • Trevor Vogel
  • Christopher Jones
  • Ryan Lambert
  • Greg Pyle
  • David Shepherd

plus Sheriff Keith Nygren, plus McHenry County (taxpayers).

Here’s all the Judge wrote:

Now before the court is defendants’ motion to alter judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), requesting that the court amend its November 10, 2011 order granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs as to Count V of plaintiffs’ complaint, which alleged that defendants lacked probable cause to enter the Pavlin home without a search warrant in order to arrest Carl Pavlin.

Rule 59(e) allows a court to alter or amend a judgment only when the movant

  1. presents newly discovered evidence;
  2. shows that there has been an intervening change in the law; or
  3. demonstrates that the court has committed a manifest error of law [emphasis added].

This Sheriff's Department photo indicates some McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy was upstairs in a case in which the homeowners were not present with a search warrant..

Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 494 (7th Cir. 2008); Cosgrove v. Bartolotta, 150 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir. 1998). “A ‘manifest error’ is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party.” Oto v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000). Rather, a manifest error “is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Id. (quotation marks omitted).

Defendants proceed on the manifest error of law prong, [emphasis added] contending

  • that the court erred in rejecting their argument that sufficient exigent circumstances were present to form the basis for probable cause to enter the Pavlin house, or
  • that under the facts of this case, the question was not so well settled as to be free and clear from doubt, such that defendants would be entitled to qualified immunity.

Defendants argue that the court improperly found that Carl did not abandon his privacy interest for Fourth Amendment purposes in opening the door to police officers.

The front door's window was broken.

They submit that the court committed a manifest error of law in failing to include in its statement of facts that defendants knew what Carl looked like and that Bruketta was able to positively identify Carl as the subject of the arrest warrant when Carl opened the door. Defendants rely on United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38 (1976) in support of their position, arguing that a suspect may not avoid arrest by simply retreating into a dwelling. In Santana, which the court considered in its previous order, the United States Supreme Court held that the defendant was in a public place for Fourth Amendment purposes when she stood in an open doorway. Santana, 427 U.S. at 42. The Court found that the defendant’s act of retreating into her house could not “thwart an otherwise proper arrest” under the doctrine of “hot pursuit” or exigent circumstances because “there was a realistic expectation that any delay would result in the destruction of evidence” where the defendant was holding a brown paper bag the police believed to contain heroin. Id. at 42-43. In so finding, the Court stated that “a suspect may not defeat an arrest which has been set in motion in a public place . . . by the expedient of escaping into a private place.” Id. at 43.

Neither Santana nor any other authority presented by defendants stands for the proposition that where the
police recognize a defendant who has answered the door without abandoning his Fourth Amendment privacy interest, the police may enter the home to arrest that defendant absent the defendant’s acquiescence to the entry or exigent circumstances.

As the court’s previous order stated, the Seventh Circuit has held that “[a] person does not abandon [his] privacy interest in his home by opening his door from within to answer a knock.” United States v. Berkowitz, 927 F.2d 1376, 1387 (7th Cir. 1991).

Rather, the Seventh Circuit has found that an entry is reasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes where a person answers a knock, then “acquiesces to a slight entry to complete the arrest.” Sparing v. Vill. of Olympia Fields, 266 F.3d 684, 690 (7th Cir. 2001).

Another Sheriff's Department photo of the damage that occurred.

In addition, the Seventh Circuit has found that even when a person does not abandon his privacy interest by answering a knock, under the “plain view” doctrine, if having seen from the threshold . . . a person who they have probable cause to believe has committed a crime and should be arrested, the police reasonably fear that before they can obtain a warrant the contraband or evidence will be destroyed or the criminal flee the nest, the case becomes one of “exigent circumstances” and the police can take steps to secure the evidence or the person. Hadley v. Williams, 368 F.3d 747, 750 (7th Cir. 2004).

Here, defendants have failed to show a manifest error in the court’s finding that Carl did not abandon his Fourth Amendment privacy interest by answering defendants’ knock.

The evidence before the court indicates that Carl did not acquiesce to a slight entry by defendants to complete the arrest, but attempted to shut the door.

Further, there is no evidence before the court to suggest that defendants had a realistic expectation that any delay in following Carl into the house would result in the destruction of evidence or in Carl fleeing the home.

The United States Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit authority cited above indicates that merely recognizing Carl was insufficient to justify defendants’ entry absent such an acquiescence or exigent circumstances.

In the alternative, defendants argue that if their entry into the Pavlin house was unlawful, they should be
entitled to qualified immunity with respect to the entry.

Defendants ask the court to follow the First Circuit in Joyce v. Town of Tewksbury, Mass., 112 F.3d 19, 22 (1st Cir. 1997) and the Seventh Circuit in Sparing to find that the law surrounding “doorway arrest” questions was not so clearly established at the time of Carl’s arrest to defeat qualified immunity.

Here, the arrest in question occurred in 2008, 11 years after the First Circuit’s decision in Joyce and 7 years after the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Sparing.

It was, therefore, not manifest error for the court to find that after Sparing and Hadley, case law on “doorway arrest” questions was clearly established such that a reasonable officer would have known that entering the house to arrest Carl without a warrant and absent acquiescence or exigent circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment.

In this motion, defendants advocate the same position this court previously rejected on summary judgment.

Defendants’ motion for reconsideration is therefore denied, as they have not demonstrated that the court has committed a manifest error of law.

So, the November judgment against the defendants stands. An article about the case since inception can be found here.

The Defendants could appeal to the 7th Circuit of Appeals.

Louis J. Meyer represents the Pavlins.  Stephen E. Balogh represents the Defendants.

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The Fourth Amendment says,

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

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