Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

§ 1983 Conspiracy Claims — Does the Intracorporate Conspiracy Doctrine Apply? — Personal Bias Exception

Drager v. Village of Bellwood, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119557 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 22, 2013):

Defendants next argue that Plaintiff's conspiracy claim is barred under the "intra-corporate" conspiracy doctrine, which holds that a conspiracy cannot exist solely between members of the same entity. Mnyofu v. Bd. of Educ. of Rich Twp. High Sch. Dist. 227, No. 10-cv-7870, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157227 at *21 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 1 2012). The Seventh Circuit has yet to decide whether the doctrine applies to § 1983 conspiracy claims, and district courts in this Circuit are split on whether it does. See, Johnson, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164525 at *7 (discussing cases). Even assuming the doctrine applies to § 1983 conspiracy claims, it would not bar Count IV.

First, the intra-corporate conspiracy doctrine is not a bar because Plaintiff alleges that Defendants conspired to deprive him unlawfully of his civil rights. "The deprivation of civil rights is unlawful and the intra-corporate doctrine only applies when members of a corporation are jointly pursuing the corporation's 'lawful business.'" Sassak v. City of Park Ridge, 431 F.Supp.2d 810, 821 (N.D. Ill. 2006). As such, the doctrine is inapplicable.

Second, an exception to the intra-corporate conspiracy doctrine exists where employees are motivated solely by personal bias. Hartman v. Board of Trustees of Community College Dist., 4 F.3d 465, 470 (7th Cir. 1993). Plaintiff alleged in his Complaint that both Mayor Pasquale and Clerk Moreland were motivated by personal bias, see, Compl. ¶¶ 93-94, and raised the Hartman exception in his Response. Defendants' failed to address this argument. The Court thus finds that Plaintiff pled sufficiently that Mayor Pasquale and Clerk Moreland acted with personal animus to retaliate against Plaintiff, thereby making the intra-corporate conspiracy doctrine inapplicable. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count IV is denied.

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