Police Officers’ Internal Affairs Complaint Cannot Support Defamation Suit

Attorneys: Callicoat, Jason    Rettberg, Paul A.

Related Practices: Defense of Civil Rights Claims    Litigation


September 26, 2008

Paul Rettberg and Jason Callicoat recently won summary judgment in favor of four suburban police officers and their attorney in a state-court defamation lawsuit. Plaintiff, an off-duty Chicago police officer wearing civilian clothes, was shopping at a home improvement store with his handgun in a holster tucked into the back of his pants. The store notified police, and the four Defendant officers responded and questioned the Plaintiff about the weapon and his credentials. Plaintiff's was allowed to go on his way about 17 minutes later, following verification of his employment as a Chicago police officer.

Plaintiff filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers in connection with this encounter. After the federal lawsuit was filed, the defendant officers, through an attorney, reported to the Chicago Police Internal Affairs Division that Plaintiff had been belligerent with them in the store and had been carrying an improperly secured firearm. Plaintiff’s federal civil rights claims were eventually dismissed and upheld on appeal to the 7th Circuit.

Plaintiff then sued in state court against the officers and their attorney for defamation, alleging that the statements to Chicago Police Internal Affairs Division were retaliation for the filing of his civil rights claims. Querrey & Harrow successfully argued that the alleged defamatory statements were non-actionable statements of opinion and the court agreed and entered summary judgment in favor of all five Defendants on each of Plaintiff’s defamation counts.

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