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ADKINS v. UNDERWOOD

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois


January 16, 1974

LEVA ADKINS, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF EVERETT ADKINS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE HON. ROBERT C. UNDERWOOD ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bauer, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This cause comes on the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for want of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

This is an action seeking to redress the alleged deprivation of the plaintiff's civil rights as guaranteed by Article IV and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and protected by 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

This Court allegedly has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343.

The plaintiff, in the complaint, alleges, inter alia, the following facts:

  1.  The plaintiff Leva Adkins is a citizen of the
      United States and a resident of the State of
      Michigan.

  2.  Defendants, The Honorable Robert C.
      Underwood, The Honorable Walter V. Schaefer,
      The Honorable Daniel P. Ward, The Honorable
      Joseph H. Goldenhersh, The Honorable Thomas
      E. Kluczynski, The Honorable Charles H.
      Davis, The Honorable Howard C. Ryan are and
      were at all times relevant to this complaint
      residents of the State of Illinois, and
      Judges of the Supreme Court of the State of
      Illinois; and defendants, The Honorable Dan
      H. McNeal and The Honorable Charles J. Smith
      are and were residents of the State of
      Illinois, and Judges of the Circuit Court of
      the County of Rock Island, State of Illinois.

  3.  On January 16, 1968, as administratrix of her
      husband's estate, the plaintiff filed a civil
      action in the Circuit Court of Rock Island
      County, in the State of Illinois, against the
      Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad
      Company, a Delaware corporation, doing
      business in Illinois, for damages resulting
      from the death of her husband when the
      tractor trailer he was driving was struck by
      defendant's train at a railroad crossing in
      Booneville, Iowa. Plaintiff, as
      administratrix of her husband's estate, had
      on October 18, 1966, filed a civil action in
      the Federal District Court for the Southern
      District of Iowa, Central Division, against
      the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad
      Company for damages arising out of her
      husband's death. However, on November 9,
      1967, plaintiff and defendant in that action
      stipulated to dismissal without prejudice and
      the case was ordered dismissed without
      prejudice in the Federal District Court in
      accordance with Rule 41(a)(1)(i)(ii) of the
      Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

  4.  On May 14, 1968, plaintiff moved to amend her
      complaint to add as defendants three
      employees of the railroad, W.B. Throckmorton,
      W.B. Johnson, and R.V. Loftus, all residents
      of Illinois. On August 12, 1968, that motion
      was granted by defendant McNeal, trial judge
      for the action. Plaintiff dismissed her
      complaint against defendant Johnson only

      on December 18, 1968. On August 12, 1968,
      defendant McNeal, trial judge for the action,
      denied the motion of the defendant railroad
      for dismissal for forum non conveniens.
      Defendants Throckmorton and Loftus have never
      agreed to submit to service of process in Iowa,
      or any forum other than Illinois; never
      requested dismissal for forum non conveniens;
      and in fact, there was no forum other than
      Illinois in which they could have been sued by
      plaintiff. The case proceeded to trial, and the
      jury returned a verdict for plaintiff against
      all defendants in the amount of four hundred
      forty-nine thousand seven hundred fifty-seven
      ($449,757) dollars.

  5.  The Appellate Court of the State of Illinois
      ordered a remittitur in the sum of one
      hundred ninety-nine thousand seven hundred
      fifty-seven ($199,757) dollars, and
      unanimously affirmed the judgment of two
      hundred fifty thousand ($250,000) dollars for
      plaintiff against all defendants.

  6.  On May 14, 1974 the Supreme Court of the
      State of Illinois reversed the verdict of the
      trial court and the Appellate Court in the
      action, on the grounds of forum non conveniens
      concluding, without a hearing on the issue,
      that plaintiff had joined the individual
      defendants in bad faith solely to gain access
      to the Courts of Illinois, and remanded the
      case to the trial court, with instructions to
      grant the defendant railroad's motion to
      dismiss for forum non conveniens. The Court in
      its opinion allegedly attached prejudice to
      plaintiff's earlier dismissal of a similar case
      upon order of the Federal Court that it was to
      be without prejudice. The Court denied
      rehearing on September 27, 1973.*fn1

7. If dismissal

      McNeal or Judge Smith, defendants herein,
      plaintiff will be denied such access to the
      Illinois court as is available to the
      citizens of Illinois allegedly in violation
      of the privileges and immunities clause of
      the Constitution of the United States
      (Article IV, Section 2) and denied the equal
      protection of the laws guaranteed by Section
      1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
      States Constitution. If the motion to dismiss
      is granted, plaintiff will allegedly be
      denied the due process of law guaranteed by
      Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the
      Constitution of the United States in that:

      a. plaintiff has never had an adversary
      hearing on the question of her good faith in
      suing the individual defendants or on the
      convenience of an alternate forum; and

      b. if the case is dismissed, plaintiff will
      BE forced to retry a case which has already
      been tried at great cost to her in time and
      money before a court of competent
      jurisdiction; she will again be forced to
      expend that time and money and will not be
      able to sue the two individual defendants.

  8.  Since the case has been heard by the highest
      Illinois court, plaintiff is without an
      adequate remedy at law. Plaintiff applied for
      rehearing by the highest Illinois court and
      rehearing was denied.

  9.  If the motion to dismiss is granted,
      plaintiff will allegedly suffer immediate and
      irreparable injury in that:

      a. she will be unable to proceed against the
      individual defendants as there is no forum
      other than

      Illinois in which they can be sued;

      b. she will be forced to relitigate issues
      which have already been adjudicated in a
      court of competent jurisdiction; and

      c. the decision is further violative of
      Federal law in that the Illinois Supreme
      Court attaches prejudice to the dismissal
      ordered to be without prejudice by the
      Federal District Court in Iowa.

  10. Plaintiff asks this Court to issue a
      temporary restraining order and preliminary
      injunction directing that defendants McNeal
      and Smith not grant the motion to dismiss in
      the State of Illinois Civil Action titled
      LEVA ADKINS, as Administratrix of the Estate
      of Everett Adkins, deceased vs. CHICAGO, ROCK
      ISLAND & PACIFIC RR CO. et al., and reinstate
      the judgment of the Appellate Court in the
      State of Illinois in that action; and upon
      final hearing of this cause, a declaratory
      judgment and permanent injunction be entered
      by this Court:

      a. declaring that the action by the defendant
      Illinois Supreme Court judges in ordering
      dismissal of the above case was
      unconstitutional as violating plaintiff's
      rights under Article IV, Section 2 and the
      Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1 of the United
      States Constitution; and

      b. permanently enjoining defendants from
      ordering the case dismissed or dismissing the
      case and directing them to reinstate the
      judgment below.

The defendants, in support of their motion to dismiss, contend that:

  1.  This Court lacks jurisdiction to act as a
      court of direct review for judgments rendered
      by the Illinois Supreme Court.

  2.  The plaintiff has failed to state a claim
      upon which relief can be granted under
      42 U.S.C. § 1983.

  3.  The defendants are all Justices of the
      Illinois Supreme Court and Judges of the
      Circuit Court of Rock Island County and are
      immune from suit based on their activities
      performed in the course of their judicial
      duties.

4.  The action is barred by collateral estoppel.

  5.  There is an absence of indispensable parties
      to this action.

The plaintiff, in opposition to the instant motion, contends that this Court has jurisdiction over the instant controversy and that the allegations in the complaint are sufficient to adequately state a cause of action.

I.  THE PLAINTIFF IN THE COMPLAINT FAILS TO ADEQUATELY STATE
    A CLAIM UNDER 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ON WHICH RELIEF CAN BE
    GRANTED.

This is not an action to enjoin a proceeding pending in a state court. This is an action to enjoin the enforcement of a final judgment rendered by the highest court of the State of Illinois. This is not an action to enjoin prosecutors or other state officials from further state court proceedings. It is an action to review the validity of judicial actions performed within the judicial functions assigned by state law.

Whether or not there may be circumstances in which an injunction may lie to prevent or preclude judges from performing their official functions, there is no authority whatsoever to suggest, as is suggested in the instant action, that they may be called to account, by way of either legal or equitable relief, for the propriety of judgments that they have already rendered. See Brown v. Dunne, 409 F.2d 341 (7th Cir. 1969).

The doctrine of judicial immunity is not for the protection or benefit of a malicious or corrupt judge but for the benefit of the public, whose interest it is that the judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions with independence and without fear of consequences. It is a judge's duty to decide all cases within his jurisdiction that are brought before him, including controversial cases that arouse the most intense feelings in the litigants. Since a judge is just as human as those he judges, his errors may be corrected on appeal, but he should not have to fear that unsatisfied litigants may pursue him with litigation charging malice, corruption or deprivation of civil rights. To impose such a burden on judges would not contribute to just and fearless decision-making but to decisions made under the veil of intimidation. Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967).

The Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, creates no claim that may be asserted against judges acting within their judicial capacities in order to destroy a final judgment of a state court. Brown v. Dunne, supra; Goss v. State of Illinois, 312 F.2d 257 (7th Cir. 1963); Skolnick v. Spolar, 317 F.2d 857 (7th Cir. 1963).

By commencing this civil rights suit in federal court after the adverse ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court and before the United States Supreme Court has had an opportunity to rule on this matter, the plaintiff seeks to thwart the final state court judgment by relitigating in a trial de novo the very issues that had been litigated in the state trial court and on appeal. If this newly proposed appellate procedure is permitted, many state civil cases will not only face chaos but also uncertainty and unenforceability. Mere errors and irregularities occurring in a judicial proceeding are to be differentiated from a situation wherein the proceeding itself is a sham or nullity. Sarelas v. Sheehan, 326 F.2d 490 (7th Cir. 1963), cert. denied 377 U.S. 932, 84 S.Ct. 1334, 12 L.Ed.2d 296 (1964). The federal courts and the federal civil rights acts do not guarantee a citizen against the loss of a private civil action due to alleged irregularities such as in the instant action in the state court trial and appeal. It is clear that the instant complaint fails to state a proper cause of action because the defendant judges are immune from the instant action because they were merely performing their official judicial duties.*fn2

II. THIS COURT LACKS JURISDICTION TO ACT AS A COURT OF ERRORS
    AND APPEALS TO REVIEW THE JUDGMENT OF A STATE SUPREME
    COURT.

It appears that the plaintiff in the instant action is seeking to have this Court review the propriety of the judgment of the Illinois Supreme Court, to reverse that judgment and to reinstate the judgment of an intermediate Illinois Appellate Court. This Court is not authorized or competent to perform the function of reviewing state court decisions.

While lower federal courts were given certain power in the Judiciary Act of 1789, they were not given any power to directly review cases from state courts, and they have not been given such powers since that time. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. v. Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 90 S.Ct. 1739, 26 L.Ed.2d 234 (1970). Only the Supreme Court is authorized to review on direct appeal the decision of state courts. From the beginning this country has had two essentially separate legal systems. Each system, federal and state, proceeds independently of the other with ultimate review in the United States Supreme Court of federal questions raised in either system.

Even if a state court decision is constitutionally wrong, that does not make the judgment void, it merely leaves it open to reversal or modification in an appropriate and timely appellate proceeding. Unless and until so reversed or modified, it would be an effective and conclusive adjudication. Under the legislation of Congress, no court of the United States other than the United States Supreme Court can entertain a proceeding to reverse or modify a state court judgment which is in error. Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923).

Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that the defendants' motion to dismiss is granted and the cause is dismissed.


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