The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The Grove School ("School") and its Executive Director Robert Matson
("Matson")*fn1 charge Guardianship and Advocacy Commission of the State
of Illinois ("Commission") and its employees Elizabeth McKee ("McKee"),
Mary C. Gibb ("Gibb"), Evelyn Engler ("Engler"), Ruth Durkin ("Durkin")
and Hector E. Palacious ("Palacious")*fn2 violated Grove's First and
Fourteenth Amendment rights*fn3 during a GAC investigation of alleged
violations by Grove of state laws for treatment and education of
handicapped children. Those are advanced under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Section 1983"). Grove also asserts pendent common-law libel and trade
libel claims against GAC.
GAC invokes Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to challenge Grove's Complaint on a
multiplicity of grounds. It attacks the sufficiency of the First and
Fourteenth Amendment allegations generally and also asserts the following
1. Commission is not a "person" for Section 1983
2. Under the Eleventh Amendment no action for
monetary damages may be brought against Commission or
its employees sued in their official capacities.
3. Federal courts lack authority to compel state
officials to conform their conduct to state law. That
bars the pendent claims.
4. Commission is a quasi-judicial board, so its
officers enjoy absolute judicial immunity.
5. Allegations against Engler, Gibb and Palacious
are insufficient to establish their direct involvement
in a deprivation of Grove's rights.
6. Gibb and Engler may not be held liable for
damages on respondeat superior grounds.
Grove of course seeks to repel all of GAC's onslaughts.*fn4
Because GAC's motions to dismiss various defendants may be treated more
readily in the context of at least one valid substantive claim, this
opinion will first deal with Grove's First Amendment assertions, then turn
to the objections by specific defendants, then return to the other claims
in the Complaint. For the reasons stated in this opinion, GAC's motions
to dismiss (1) Commission as a defendant and (2) the Fourteenth Amendment
due process claims against all individual defendants are granted. Its
motions to dismiss (1) the individual defendants generally, (2) First
Amendment claims and (3) the pendent claims are denied.
School is a residential, medical and educational facility for the
multiply handicapped and developmentally disabled. It was founded by
Virginia Matson in 1958 and is now run by her son Robert.
Commission is an executive agency of the State of Illinois created to
protect the rights of the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. Among
its three divisions is the Human Rights Authority ("Authority"), which
operates through regional boards that investigate complaints alleging
violations of such persons' rights. Those regional boards are empowered
to conduct hearings, subpoena witnesses and documents, release findings
to the public, recommend that other agencies take punitive or remedial
action, and propose legislation for the protection of the handicapped.
Ill. Rev.Stat. ch. 91 1/2, ¶ 714-728.
Engler is Authority's Director. McKee is Chairperson, Gibb is
Vice-Chairperson and Durkin is a Board member of Authority Region 2 North
(the region in which the School is located). Palacious is an attorney
employed by Commission.
Matson and his mother Virginia have run School according to a
philosophy that conflicts with the prevailing philosophy of Commission and
other Illinois agencies as to the proper way to handle the education of
the multiply handicapped and developmentally disabled. Both Matsons and
School have advocated their own philosophy and criticized Commission
To punish Matson and School for such criticisms and nonconformist
philosophy, GAC instituted a harassment campaign under the guise of an
investigation of charges GAC knew were false.*fn6 GAC made numerous
visits to School's campus to question students and employees, and it also
made burdensome document requests, all of which disrupted School's
On July 6, 1983 GAC held a public "hearing" at which it released a
number of false charges against School and Matson, including charges of
understaffing, improper distribution of medication and permitting sexual
abuse of residents. "Hearing" is really a euphemism for what actually
took place, for GAC had refused Grove's several requests for advance
notice of the nature of the charges, nor did GAC give Grove any
opportunity to object or respond at the "hearing" or to attach a response
to the written report GAC distributed to the press. Since that time GAC
has continued its investigation and has recommended that other Illinois
agencies and the Illinois legislature take action against Grove,
including cutting off School's funding, removing Matson as Executive
Director and revoking School's and Matson's licenses.
School's and Matson's factual allegations (though not their conclusory
allegations of law) advance two possible bases for asserting violation of
their First Amendment rights. One surely states a valid claim: the charge
that GAC's actions have been motivated by a desire to punish Grove for
criticizing GAC and for advocating Grove's own philosophy of treatment of
the multiply handicapped and developmentally disabled.
One major purpose of the First Amendment was to protect free discussion
of governmental affairs. Landmark Communications, Inc. v. Virginia,
435 U.S. 829, 838, 98 S.Ct. 1535, 1541, 56 L.Ed.2d 1 (1978). It is
axiomatic that government may not attempt to inhibit criticism of public
policies or officials by punishing those who express critical views, at
least unless the expression actually hinders the functioning of the
state. Hostrop v. Board of Junior College District No. 515, 471 F.2d 488,
492 (7th Cir. 1972) and authorities there cited. On Grove's allegations,
GAC's actions are an impermissible attempt to inhibit Grove from
exercising the constitutional right to criticize ...