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Auriemma v. Montgomery

decided: October 21, 1988.

JOHN AURIEMMA, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
JAMES MONTGOMERY AND DONALD HUBERT, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 86-C-9260--Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.

Wood and Manion, Circuit Judges, and Eschbach, Senior Circuit Judge.

Author: Manion

MANION, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs filed a civil suit against several defendants, including two municipal attorneys, alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 through § 1681t. The municipal attorneys filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims against them, contending that they were absolutely immune from suit. The district court denied their motion. We affirm.

I.

NATURE OF THE CASE

This FCRA action arises out of two lawsuits filed by current or former members of the Chicago Police Department against the City of Chicago and various city officials. The first lawsuit, Maloney v. Washington et al., No. 84 C 0689 (N.D. Ill. filed Jan. 25, 1984), was filed by a single plaintiff, William Maloney. Maloney alleged that he had been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of his race and political affiliation. He further alleged that several other members of the police department had been victims of unlawful employment practices and, like Maloney, had suffered financial harm as a result. James Montgomery, Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago, and Donald Hubert, Special Assistant Corporation Counsel, entered appearances on behalf of the City of Chicago and the defendant city officials.

Approximately two weeks after Maloney filed suit, many of the persons named in Maloney's complaint as having suffered from unlawful employment practices also sued the City of Chicago and various city officials. This suit, Auriemma et al. v. City of Chicago et al., No. 84 C 1224 (N.D. Ill. filed Feb. 8, 1984) (Auriemma I), filed on behalf of eighteen plaintiffs, alleged that the plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. James Montgomery filed an appearance on behalf of the defendants. The district court subsequently consolidated the Maloney and Auriemma I cases for discovery purposes.

Based on actions allegedly taken on behalf of the defendants in Maloney and Auriemma I, a third lawsuit, Auriemma II, soon appeared. Sixteen of the eighteen Auriemma I plaintiffs filed a civil suit against, among others, Montgomery, Hubert, and Investigative Consultants, Inc. (Investigative Consultants). The complaint alleged that Montgomery and Hubert violated the FCRA by hiring Investigative Consultants to obtain credit reports on the plaintiffs from a credit reporting agency through the use of false pretenses. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681q.*fn1 According to the complaint, Investigative Consultants then obtained oral and written credit reports on plaintiffs for an unauthorized purpose under the FCRA. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681b.*fn2 The complaint further alleged that Montgomery and Hubert intended to use the information to embarrass and intimidate the plaintiffs and that the information was, in fact, subsequently disseminated.

Hubert and Montgomery filed a motion to dismiss, contending that even if the complaint's allegations were true, they were absolutely immune from civil liability because the alleged misconduct took place as part of their representation of the City of Chicago and the defendant municipal officials in the Auriemma I and Maloney suits. The district court denied their motion to dismiss. This appeal followed.*fn3

II.

Discussion

Hubert and Montgomery argue on appeal that government attorneys are entitled to absolute immunity from suit for actions taken in preparing and presenting their clients' defense. They contend that public policy requires that they be able to prepare and present the defense of their government clients without the fear of being subjected to lawsuits filed by opposing parties. Plaintiffs contend, however, that public policy does not require granting the defendant attorneys absolute immunity from suit. According to plaintiffs, acquiring information from an extrajudicial source does not constitute the type of "quasi-judicial" function entitled to absolute immunity from suit. Rather, plaintiffs contend, the actions Hubert and Montgomery allegedly took fall within the category of ...


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