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STRAUSS v. DREW

June 18, 1990

SHARON STRAUSS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BERNARD E. DREW, JR., Defendant


James B. Zagel, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ZAGEL

JAMES B. ZAGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 I. BACKGROUND

 The plaintiffs in this case are various Driving Under the Influence Evaluators (Evaluators), motorist/driving under the influence defendants (DUI defendants) ordered by defendants to be evaluated by the Northern Illinois Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (NICASA), and an attorney who represents individuals charged with DUI violations in the Nineteenth Judicial District. Evaluators are recognized therapists who are licensed through the Illinois Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to practice the occupation of DUI Evaluator pursuant to the Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependency Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 111 1/2, para. 6351-1, et seq. Defendant is the Chief Judge for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Lake County, Illinois. *fn1" The Circuit Judges of the Nineteenth District promulgated local Circuit Court Rule No. 10.00, Local Criminal Rules, Subsec. 10.11, (effective since March 1, 1989), which functions to require DUI defendants to have evaluations performed by NICASA.

 Defendant files, pursuant to 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and argues that the eleventh amendment bars plaintiffs' claim, that this court should abstain from adjudicating the case under the abstention doctrines formulated in either Younger or Burford, and that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars plaintiffs' claim. Plaintiffs respond that none of the theories advanced by defendant are appropriate in this case and that the plaintiffs are entitled to have their claims adjudicated in their chosen federal forum.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Eleventh Amendment Claim

 In Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, the Supreme Court held that the eleventh amendment bars "a federal suit against state official on the basis of state law . . . when . . . the relief sought and ordered has a direct impact on the State itself." 465 U.S. 89, 104 S. Ct. 900, 914, 79 L. Ed. 2d 67 (1984). State courts, and not federal courts, are the appropriate forum for enforcing state rules. Archie v. City of Racine, 847 F.2d 1211, 1217 (7th Cir. 1988) (en banc). This is justified, because "it is difficult to think of a greater intrusion on state sovereignty than when a federal court instructs state officials on how to conform their conduct to state law." Pennhurst, 104 S. Ct. at 911.

 Defendant reads plaintiffs' complaint as asking this federal court to require a state official (the Chief Judge of the Nineteenth Circuit) to abide by an Illinois statute (the Illinois Alcoholism and other Drug Dependency Act) which, according to plaintiffs, requires process before revocation of a DUI Evaluator's license. If defendant's characterization is correct, review of the complaint by this court directly contravenes Pennhurst. But I read the complaint differently. Plaintiffs' reliance on the Illinois statute is merely a reference to state law necessary to establish a property interest in the Evaluator's license. See Doe v. Milwaukee County, 903 F.2d 499 (7th Cir. 1990). "Property" is a term defined by law and to establish a property interest may depend on establishing a legitimate claim of entitlement under state law. Archie, 847 F.2d at 1217 (citing Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 92 S. Ct. 2701, 33 L. Ed. 2d 548 (1972). Here, state law provides the basis for a claim under the due process clause. The plaintiffs are not seeking to enforce due process requirements based on the statute, but rather the minimal due process requirements prescribed by the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution. Determining whether defendant violates the Constitution by enforcing the local rule relating to DUI evaluations does not implicate Pennhurst and is clearly within the province of this court's jurisdiction.

 B. Abstention

 Defendant argues that I am precluded from exercising jurisdiction in this case by principles of equitable restraint. Federalism and comity principles may require a federal court to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in circumstances that would unduly interfere with state activities, and thus, disrupt the balance between the federal and state system. This principle was first enunciated in Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman, where the Supreme Court recognized that concerns of judicial economy, as well as comity, indicated that a federal court "exercising a wise discretion" would avoid deciding a federal constitutional question where the case could be disposed of on state law grounds. 312 U.S. 496, 61 S. Ct. 643, 85 L. Ed. 971 (1941).

 Since Pullman was decided, various other arguments for abstention by a federal court have gained recognition, including doctrines to 1) preclude federal courts from exercising their equitable jurisdiction to enjoin ongoing state prosecutions (Younger Abstention), 2) avoid needless conflict with a State's administration of its own affairs (Burford Abstention), and 3) avoid duplicative litigation (Colorado-River Abstention). C.A. Wright, Law of Federal Courts sec. 52, at 303. Abstention doctrines, however, are narrowly applied; the assumption is that a litigant is entitled to resort to a federal forum in seeking to redress an alleged violation of federal rights. Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705, 97 S. Ct. 1428, 1433, 51 L. Ed. 2d 752 (1977) (citing Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 94 S. Ct. 1209, 39 ...


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