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Constitutional Law

Parking-dibs tradition becomes a federal case in Chicago

Posted Jan 9, 2014 8:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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There is a tradition of “dibs” in Chicago in which residents who shovel out a parking space on city streets mark their territory with items such as broken baby chairs and ridiculous lamps.

The practice has led to debates over whether dibs should be honored, and disputes between those who did the shoveling and those who toss aside the place-holding items to claim the parking space. And in one federal case, it led to a ruling against Chicago police officers and a $20,500 settlement, columnist John Kass writes in a column for the Chicago Tribune.

U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang ruled last March on behalf of Oscar Flores and cited columns by Kass about the practice. According to the opinion, Chicago police were called after Flores threatened to damage the car of a neighbor who disrespected his dibs and moved aside a chair to take his parking space.

The officers told Flores he couldn’t use markers to save his parking space, and he responded by telling them, “F--- you,” the officers testified in depositions. After the officers announced they were going to arrest Flores, he ran into his apartment and the officers followed, police said. The officers said they had to strike Flores and use pepper spray to subdue him. Flores maintained the officers were they aggressors.

Chang ruled the officers should not have entered Flores’ home without a warrant, and they violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The settlement for $20,500 plus attorney fees followed Chang’s ruling.

"Don't disrespect the dibs," Kass writes. "So let it be written. So let it be done."

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