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MANOS v. CAIRA

March 30, 2001

JOHN MANOS, A.K.A. JOHN MANOLATOS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
ANTHONY CAIRA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS POLICE COMMANDER FOR THE VILLAGE OF ELMWOOD PARK; TOM BAGLIA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF POLICE FOR THE VILLAGE OF ELMWOOD PARK; GEORGE BERTUCCI, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE FOR THE VILLAGE OF ELMWOOD PARK; FRANK FAGIANO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS POLICE DETECTIVE FOR THE VILLAGE OF ELMWOOD PARK; ELMWOOD PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT; VILLAGE OF ELMWOOD PARK; STEVEN KRUEGER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT ILLINOIS STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR THE COUNTY OF COOK; RUSSELL BAKER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT ILLINOIS STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR THE COUNTY OF COOK, RICHARD DEVINE, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ILLINOIS STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR THE COUNTY OF COOK, DEFENDANTS.



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

        MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

John Manos ("Manos"), also known as John Manolatos, has sued Anthony Caira, Police Commander for the Village of Elmwood Park; Tom Braglia,*fn1 Chief of Police for the Village of Elmwood Park; George Bertucci, Deputy Chief of Police for the Village of Elmwood Park; Frank Fagiano, Police Detective for the Village of Elmwood Park, in their individual and official capacity; Elmwood Park Police Department; Village of Elmwood Park; Steven Krueger and Russell Baker individually and in their official capacity as Cook County Assistant State's Attorneys; and Richard Devine in his official capacity as Cook County State's Attorney, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983") for alleged deprivation of his rights under the Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motions.

FACTS

On October 23, 1997, Peter Skoufis ("Skoufis") burglarized Manos' residence and stole eleven firearms that Manos lawfully owned and possessed and registered with the Illinois State Police. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 15.) On October 24, 1997, the Elmwood Park Police Department recovered the firearms and confiscated them for evidentiary purposes to be used in the prosecution's case against Skoufis. (Id. ¶ 14.) Manos was the complaining witness in Illinois v. Peter Skoufis heard in the Fourth Municipal District of Cook County. (Id. ¶ 1.) On July 14, 1998, Skoufis pled guilty to theft. (Id. Count IV ¶ 5.)

After the conclusion of the criminal proceedings against Skoufis, Manos appeared in court in the Fourth Municipal Judicial District of Cook County numerous times on a motion for the return of his firearms. On September 17, 1998 and December 3, 1998, Judge Prendergast denied Manos' motion for the return of his firearms because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ("ATF") traces on the firearms had not been completed due to a delay caused in part by Manos' changing his name from Manolatos to Manos. (Id. Count I ¶¶ 31, 44; Count III ¶ 2.) On November 16, 1998, Judge Golniewicz denied Manos' motion for the return of his property because the ATF traces were still incomplete. On January 27, 1999, Judge Prendergast again denied Manos' motion for the return of his firearms because the ATF traces were not complete. (Id. Count I ¶¶ 9-10; Count III ¶ 2.)

In Counts I and II, Manos alleges that Krueger, Baker, Caira, Braglia, Bertucci, Fagiano, Elmwood Park Police Department, and the Village of Elmwood Park violated his rights as guaranteed under the Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution when they unlawfully retained his firearms after the proceedings concerning Skoufis had come to a close and when they engaged in a conspiracy to do so.

In Count III, Manos alleges that Assistant State's Attorneys Krueger and Baker, in their individual and official capacity, violated his rights as guaranteed under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they made false representations to the court regarding: (1) the progress of the ATF traces (id. Count III ¶ 2); (2) seizure by Elmwood Park or the federal government (id. ¶ 3); (3) that the firearms were assault rifles (id. ¶ 7); (4) that the ATF delay was due to Manos' change in name (id. ¶¶ 8-9); and (5) that Illinois law prohibits "a lawful firearms owner to reside with convicted felons [and] that Manos resided at the time with two convicted felons" depriving him from the right of return of the firearms (id. ¶¶ 5-6). Manos alleges that Krueger and Baker acted with "a reckless disregard" and "indifference" towards his rights by not reasonably investigating the alleged unreasonable delay in the completion of the ATF traces and by making representations without knowledge as to the truth or falsity of such representations resulting in the deprivation of his lawfully owned property. (Id. ¶¶ 10-16.).

In Count IV, Manos alleges that his right to due process rights was violated by Richard Devine in his official capacity as Cook County State's Attorney and requests injunctive relief. (Id. Count IV ¶¶ 1-2, 10.) Manos alleges that Devine deprived him of his property when he, through Krueger and Baker, opposed and objected to the return of his property. (Id.) Against Devine, Manos seeks an injunction for the return of his firearms.

DISCUSSION

I. Rule 12(b)(1)

The Cook County State's Attorney has moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the Rooker-Feldman and Younger abstention doctrines apply. Abstention doctrines are jurisdictional in nature. See Hanover Group Inc. v. Manufactured Home Communities Inc., No. IP00-0739-C-T/G, 2000 WL 1124877, at *2 (S.D.Ind. July 12, 2000). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss requires a court to dismiss any action for which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Rule 12(b)(1) motions are based on either facial or factual attacks on jurisdiction. Villasenor v. Industrial Wire & Cable, Inc., 929 F. Supp. 310, 311 (N.D.Ill. 1996). If the defendant factually attacks the plaintiff's assertion of subject matter jurisdiction, the court may look beyond the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint and "view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Capitol Leasing Co. v. F.D.I.C., 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993); see also Barnhart v. United States, 884 F.2d 295, 296 (7th Cir. 1989). To withstand defendants' Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff must competently prove by a preponderance of the evidence that subject matter jurisdiction exists. NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-America, Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 237 (7th Cir. 1995); see also Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir. 1993); McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Inc., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S.Ct. 780, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936).

The Rooker-Feldman abstention doctrine prevents the federal district court's exercise of jurisdiction over the review of decisions of state courts. District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923). If the state court judgment caused plaintiff's alleged injury, then the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes the federal court's exercise of jurisdiction. Remer v. Burlington Area Sch. Dist., 205 F.3d 990, 996 (7th Cir. 2000). However, if the plaintiff alleges "that people involved in the decision violated some independent right of his, . . . then he can, without being blocked by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, sue to vindicate that right and show as part of his claim for damages that the violation caused the decision to be adverse to him and thus did him harm." Nesses v. Shepard, 68 F.3d 1003, 1005 (7th Cir. 1995). "Otherwise there would be no federal remedy for a violation of federal rights whenever the violator so far succeeded in corrupting the state judicial process as to obtain a favorable judgment. . . ." Id. "This result would be inconsistent with cases in which, for example, police officers are sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for having fabricated evidence that resulted in the plaintiff's being convicted in a state court." Id.

In this case, Manos alleges, among other things, that defendants conspired to withhold his firearms from him even after Skoufis' criminal proceedings ended by lying to state court judges about the necessity of an ATF trace and the progress of such traces. Manos clearly alleges that defendants' conduct during the proceedings, independent of the state court rulings themselves which denied his motion to return the firearms, violated his right to due process and equal protection. Manos thus alleges that defendants succeeded in corrupting the judicial process in order to obtain a favorable ruling regarding the continued withholding of his firearms during the ATF traces. Because the Seventh Circuit in Nesses carved out an exception to the application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine in a case such as this one, the Court denies the Cook County State's Attorney's motion to dismiss on this ground.

Next, the Cook County State's Attorney argues that this Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this case pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). The Younger abstention doctrine requires "federal courts to abstain from enjoining ongoing state proceedings that are (1) judicial in nature, (2) implicate important state interests, and (3) offer an adequate opportunity for review of constitutional claims, (4) so long as no extraordinary circumstances — like bias or harassment — exist which auger against abstention." Majors v. Engelbrecht, 149 F.3d 709, 711 (7th Cir. 1998).

The problem, as discussed above, is that Manos has alleged throughout the Complaint that defendants have acted in bad faith and have conspired to harass him with vindictive bias. Having been provided no evidence to cast doubt on the Manos' version of events as described in the Complaint, the Court cannot find that it is required to abstain under Younger.

The last jurisdictional consideration involves the Eleventh Amendment*fn2 and surprisingly was not addressed by the Cook County State's Attorney or the Assistant State's Attorneys. In Count III, Manos has sued Krueger and Baker in their official capacity as Assistant State's Attorneys and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

A suit against Assistant State's Attorneys in their official capacity is a suit against the Cook County State's Attorney. See Taylor v. Partee, No. 90 C 1134, 1991 WL 136015, at *2 (N.D.Ill. July 17, 1991). "[T]he Eleventh Amendment prohibits suits against the state, its agencies, and its officials acting in their official capacities." Id. "Illinois has made its state's attorneys `state officials' and liability under Section 1983 does not extend either to suits against the state itself or to official capacity lawsuits against state officials." Id. (discussing Ingemunson v. Hedges, 133 Ill.2d 364, 367, 140 Ill.Dec. 397, 549 N.E.2d 1269 (Ill. 1990), and Houston v. Cook County, 758 F. Supp. 1225, 1227 (N.D.Ill. 1990)).

Manos' suing Baker and Krueger in their official capacity as Assistant State's Attorneys in Count III is the same as his suing the Cook County State's Attorney himself. Because the Cook County State's Attorney is a "state official," Manos' claim for damages against the Assistants State's Attorneys in their official capacity is jurisdictionally barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

II. Rule 12(b)(6)

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts the "well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Hentosh v. Herman M. Finch Univ. of Health Scis./The Chicago Med. Sch., 167 F.3d 1170, 1173 (7th Cir. 1999). Dismissal is proper where "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). However, if the complaint fails to allege ...


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