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BUTLER v. CITY OF CHICAGO

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division


May 16, 2003

GEORGE BUTLER AND JEROME BUTLER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Ashman, United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

This case is before the Court on Plaintiffs George Butler and Jerome Butler's motion for a preliminary injunction and Defendant City of Chicago's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' motion for injunctive relief.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiffs' motion should be denied, and Defendants' motion should be granted.*fn2

I. Background

Plaintiffs George Butler and Jerome Butler filed their Amended Complaint on December 30, 2002, and filed their Motion for Injunctive Relief the same day. Their motion seeks to enjoin a state court criminal action against them for theft by deception.*fn3

The events leading up to Plaintiffs' arrest, as told by Plaintiffs, start with a durable power of attorney form drawn up by Defendant Gay Lloyd Smith and executed by Defendant Willie Pearl Parker giving George Butler power of attorney. Plaintiffs claim that a few years later Ms. Parker decided to give a decrepit six flat apartment building located at 1516-18 East Marquette Road in Chicago, Illinois to George Butler. As George Butler could not secure loans to improve the property, Ms. Parker executed a quit claim deed in favor of Jerome Butler (George's son), transferring the property to him. Mr. Smith, an attorney, represented Ms. Parker in these transactions along with Attorney Robert C. Morton (not a party to this action). Ms. Parker continued to live in the property without paying rent. Jerome Butler secured various loans to improve the property. He has since defaulted on these loans which he blames on the ensuing actions taken by Ms. Parker, Mr. Smith, the City of Chicago, various police officers, and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

On May 23, 2001, Ms. Parker signed a criminal complaint for theft by deception against George Butler stemming from the above facts.*fn4 Plaintiffs were subsequently arrested, and are currently being prosecuted by the State's Attorney's Office. Ms. Parker also brought a civil action against Plaintiffs in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Plaintiffs claim that this civil action has been voluntarily dismissed by Ms. Parker.

In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, denial of due process, false arrest, denial of a right to a speedy trial, and malicious prosecution. The motion for a preliminary injunction seeks to reestablish the "status quo that existed prior to the inception of the [Defendants'] actions." (Pls. Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at p. 39.) The Plaintiffs ask the Court to halt and reverse the hardships that they have endured over the past few years. (Id.) Defendants respond that the Court should abstain from acting in this matter due to the Younger doctrine. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Alternatively, they argue that a preliminary injunction is not warranted in this case.

II. Discussion

A. The Younger Abstention Doctrine

Under the Younger abstention doctrine, federal courts are required 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).*fn5 All of these elements have been met in this case. The criminal action against Plaintiffs is ongoing and clearly judicial in nature. The State of Illinois has an important state interest in enforcing its laws and protecting the elderly.*fn6 Plaintiffs have not alleged that the state court will not protect their constitutional rights; although they may have lost their motion for a speedy trial, their right to appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court and Supreme Court is intact. See id. at 713 (subsequent judicial review is a sufficient opportunity to raise constitutional challenges).

None of the exceptions to the Younger doctrine are present in this case. Along with the "extraordinary circumstances" mentioned above, a federal court may intervene in a state court proceeding only if the state prosecution is conducted in bad faith, or there is "`an extraordinarily pressing need for immediate equitable relief,'" or the challenged statute provision is "`flagrantly and patently'" unconstitutional. Jacobson v. Village of Northbrook Mun. Corp., 824 F.2d 567, 569-70 (7th Cir. 1987) (quoting Kugler v. Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 124-25 (1975) and Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 423 (1979), respectively). A showing of a bad faith prosecution demonstrates irreparable injury to satisfy the comity restraints in Younger. Collins v. County of Kendall, 807 F.2d 95, 98 (7th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted). Although Plaintiffs assert that the State's Attorney's Office has maliciously prosecuted them, their allegations are vague and conclusory. They have not alleged any specific facts to support an inference of bad faith. See Pincham v. Illinois Judicial Inquiry Bd, 872 F.2d 1341, 1349 (7th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted). Nor do any of the facts they discuss show that the state criminal proceedings were brought against them to retaliate for, or deter their exercise of constitutionally protected rights. See id. at 1349-50.

Furthermore, Plaintiffs have not shown an extraordinarily pressing need for immediate equitable relief. For obvious reasons, they are not happy about the situation they find themselves in. Specifically, they complain that the state court proceedings have caused irreparable harm in the form of monetary loss, including loss of a job and foreclosure of the six flat, and harm to their personal reputations. Unfortunately for Plaintiffs, however, these injuries are "solely [those] incidental to every criminal proceeding brought lawfully and in good faith . . . and therefore . . . [they are] not entitled to equitable relief even if such statutes are unconstitutional." Younger, 401 U.S. at 49 (internal quotations omitted). Lastly, Plaintiffs do not allege that the statute under which they are being prosecuted is "flagrantly and patently" unconstitutional, and we decline to reach such a conclusion.

Accordingly, we find that the Court should abstain from ruling on the motion for preliminary injunction.

B. Preliminary Injunction

Even if the Court were not to abstain, we would not grant the Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The majority of Plaintiffs' motion was simply copied from their amended complaint and the Court finds that Plaintiffs have not met their burden of persuasion. See Boucher v. School Bd. of the School Dist. of Greenfield, 134 F.3d 821, 823 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (movant bears the burden of persuasion by a "clear showing")). Plaintiffs have failed to show that they have no adequate remedy at law or will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted, that they have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, or that the harm to the Defendants is outweighed by the harm to the Plaintiffs. See Roland Mach. Co. v. Dresser Indus., 749 F.2d 380, 386-87 (7th Cir. 1984) (discussing preliminary injunction elements).

On the contrary, as discussed above, the only irreparable harm that Plaintiffs point to is harm that is incidental to every criminal proceeding. See Younger, 401 U.S. at 46 ("the cost, anxiety, and inconvenience of having to defend against a single criminal prosecution, could not by themselves be considered `irreparable' in the special legal sense of that term"). They have not alleged that they have no remedy at law, and in fact Plaintiffs can present their federal defenses directly in the state court system. See Zapata v. Hartigan, 749 F. Supp. 864, 868 (N.D. Ill. 1990) (finding that plaintiff who was being prosecuted in state court had an adequate remedy at law through the state appellate courts). Furthermore, they have not explained how, based on the facts that they set forth, they have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, besides their bare assertions that they are innocent. Additionally, the harm to the state's interest in enforcing its public policy and penal laws is not outweighed by any harm that Plaintiffs have suffered. In fact, an unwarranted federal intrusion into the state's actions would "harm the public interest and notions of `comity' and `Our Federalism.'" See id. at 869 (citing Younger, 401 U.S. at 44-45).

III. Conclusion

The Court concludes that we should abstain from ruling on Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction under the Younger doctrine. Additionally, Plaintiffs' motion fails on substantive grounds. For the foregoing reasons, the Court recommends that Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction be denied, and Defendantst motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' motion for injunctive relief be granted.

Written objections to any finding of fact, conclusion of law, or the recommendation for disposition of this matter must be filed with the Honorable Ronald A. Guzman within ten (10) days after service of this Report and Recommendation. See Fed. R Civ. P. 72(b). Failure to object will constitute a waiver of objections on appeal.


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