A former Cook County Jail inmate who claims he was unlawfully detained based on alleged false testimony by police officers can move forward with a claim his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment were violated.
An appeals court ruled Maurice Lewis' case against the city of Chicago can continue as it was filed in a timely manner. The decision, by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a district court judge's finding that the claims against the city were time-barred and should be dismissed.
Lewis' suit stems from his arrest at an apartment on West Walton Street in September 2013. Officers searching the apartment stated they found a handgun. Lewis claimed they had no reason to believe the gun was his, as he told them he did not live in the apartment, according to the suit.
In the police report, it was stated he "admitted to residing in the Walton Street Apartment” and that officers “found and seized evidence establishing that [Lewis] resided in the Walton Street Apartment.” This was false, Lewis claims.
Lewis spent two years in Cook County Jail before the charges were dropped. He filed suit in July 2016, alleging violations under the Fourth Amendment and of due process under the 14th.
Just 12 days after the district court ruling that it was time-barred, finding that he should have sued within two years of the beginning of the legal process, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in Manuel v. City of Joliet. The Supreme Court ruled a claim of unlawful detention violating the Fourth Amendment can be filed after the start of the legal process, though it did not hand down a decision on when. On remand, the Seventh Circuit decided a claim can be filed within two years after the end of the detention.
"Consistent with Manuel I, Lewis pleaded a viable Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful pretrial detention," the Seventh Circuit found in a ruling authored by Circuit Judge Diane Sykes with Judges Kenneth Ripple and Amy Barrett concurring.
Sykes added: "And Manuel II confirms that the claim is timely because Lewis filed it within two years of his release from detention."
The ruling made clear that the claim of unlawful detention is covered by the Fourth Amendment, not the 14th.
Sykes noted the Seventh Circuit already found that if "the complaint is that a form of legal process resulted in pretrial detention unsupported by probable cause, then the right allegedly infringed lies in the Fourth Amendment.”
"It’s now clear that a...claim for unlawful pretrial detention rests exclusively on the Fourth Amendment," Sykes said.
Lewis is represented in the action by attorneys Kenneth Flaxman and Joel Flaxman of the firm of Kenneth N. Flaxman P.C., of Chicago.
The city is represented by the firm of Hale Law LLC, of Chicago.