Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Simic v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 20, 2017

Tamara Simic, Plain tiff-Appellant,
City of Chicago, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued February 16, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15-cv-00019 - Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge.

          Before Posner, Williams, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

         On November 7, 2014, plaintiff Tamara Simic was driving in Chicago and texting on her cell phone. A police officer issued her a ticket because texting while driving violates a Chicago ordinance. Simic failed to pay the ticket, and the City took steps to collect a fine. Simic then sued the City, claiming that the ordinance is unconstitutional. She moved for a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the ordinance throughout Chicago, but the City then non-suited its case against her. The district court denied Simic's motion for an injunction, and Simic has appealed.

         We affirm the district court's denial of Simic's motion for a preliminary injunction for two reasons. Simic did not face any threat of irreparable harm. Also, without assessing her likelihood of success on the merits of her constitutional arguments, it appears that Simic lacks Article III standing for the relief she seeks. Once our mandate issues, the district court should consider dismissing Simic's lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A 2005 Chicago ordinance prohibits drivers from using handheld mobile telephones while operating their vehicles. Chic. Mun. Code § 9-76-230. On November 7, 2014 a Chicago police officer ticketed Simic for violating the ordinance. The ticket directed Simic to appear for a hearing or to pay a $100 fine by mail. Simic did neither. The Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings entered a default judgment against her for $540. As the ticket had warned, $500 was the maximum fine for Simic's infraction and $40 was for administrative costs.

         Simic did not dispute that she was texting while driving; instead she challenged the constitutionality of the Chicago ordinance. She sued the City on January 3, 2015, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages in excess of one million dollars. She alleged that Chicago's cell phone ordinance violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause. She also alleged several state-law claims and sought certification of a plaintiff class.

         Simic's main theory is that the ordinance somehow violates the United States Constitution because it exceeds the powers the State of Illinois has granted to the City of Chicago. Illinois prevents municipalities from creating ordinances regarding certain traffic offenses, such as those offenses in the Illinois Vehicle Code. See 65 ILCS 5/1-2.1-2. The Illinois Vehicle Code contains a prohibition on cell phone use while driving. 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2 (prohibiting a person from operating "a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device"). Simic argues that Chicago's cell phone ordinance is preempted by the Illinois statute. See Catom Trucking, Inc. v. Chicago, 952 N.E.2d 170, 175-76 (111. App. 2011) (holding city could not enforce through administrative adjudication a city ordinance limiting vehicle weight). The Illinois statute on cell phone use while driving caps the amount a driver may be fined: "A person who violates this Section shall be fined a maximum of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense." Id.

         How such an issue of state law presents a federal constitutional issue remains something of a mystery. Simic's theory seems to be that Chicago's fines are both "excessive and disproportionate to the gravity of the offense" and imposed without authority under state law, from which she concludes that the city's fines violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As explained below, however, Simic's case runs into trouble at the preliminary level of standing.

         On January 23, 2015, after Simic filed her motion for a preliminary injunction, the Department granted Simic's motion to set aside the default judgment in her state case and continued her case until March 11, 2015. On May 18, after several agreed continuances, the city non-suited the administrative proceeding. Simic never paid any money for violating the Chicago ordinance, and she is no longer liable for the fine.

         On June 24, 2015, the district court denied Simic's motion for a preliminary injunction because she failed to show a threat of irreparable injury and because her prospects for success on the merits were "doubtful." There was no threat of irreparable harm because "the very nature of Simic's claim that the $500 fine is excessive necessarily means that her complaints can be remedied by monetary damages, and thus, there exists an adequate remedy at law." Simic was unlikely to prevail on the merits, the court said, because ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.