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PETERSON v. U.S.

August 28, 2003

PAUL G. PETERSON PLAINTIFF, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, ATTORNEY REGISTRATION AND DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION, ILLINOIS SUPREME, MARY ROBINSON, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ARDC, TRACY KEPLER AND ROSALYN KAPLAN, EMPLOYEES OF OF THE ARDC. DEFENDANTS


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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Paul G. Peterson ("Peterson") has sued the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ("ARDC"), the United States Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA"), the Illinois Supreme Court, and three employees of the ARDC, Mary Robinson, Tracy Kepler, and Rosalyn Kaplan alleging a variety of claims under the constitution, the American With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, the Age Discrimination Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Before the Court are Defendants, the Illinois Supreme Court and the ARDC's, motions to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).*fn1 Also pending is non-party Jane Gajewski's ("Gajewski") motion to consolidate her case with Peterson's, her emergency motion for appointment of counsel, or in the alternative, her motion to [ Page 2]

have Peterson be allowed to practice law in federal court, Gajewski is a plaintiff in a case pending before another judge in this district against an unrelated defendant.

For the reasons set forth below, the Illinois Supreme Court's motion to dismiss is granted, the Illinois ARDC's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and Gajewski's motion to consolidate or in the alternative for Peterson to be allowed to practice law is denied with prejudice.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On November 1, 2001, the ARDC filed a two-count complaint against Plaintiff, Paul Peterson ("Peterson"). On April 22 and 23, 2002, a disciplinary hearing was held on the charges against Peterson, whose license was suspended on October 17, 2001 on an interim basis pursuant to the proceedings. Three weeks after Peterson filed his complaint, on September 11, 2002, the ARDC Hearing Board filed a Report and Recommendation recommending that Peterson be suspended from the practice of law for 30 months and until further order of the court. On December 27, 2002, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered Peterson suspended from the practice of law until further order. On August 22, 2002, Peterson filed an eight-count complaint against Defendants.

Count I seeks a declaration as to the validity of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb. Count II seeks a finding by this court that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. § 801 is unconstitutional. Count III seeks a ruling that certain rules of the Illinois Supreme Court and the ARDC are unconstitutional, and Count IV alleges that certain employees of the Supreme Court and the ARDC violated the United States Mail Fraud Act under 18 U.S.C. § 1341. Count V requests a finding that Plaintiffs First Amendment and Due Process [ Page 3]

rights have been violated and Count VI states alleges violations under the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. Count VII alleges a claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Count VIII requests a finding that Plaintiffs rights under the Age Discrimination Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 have been violated.

The primary relief sought by Peterson in his complaint is an order from this court directing the Illinois Supreme Court and the ARDC to lift his suspension. In addition, Peterson seeks an order directing the ARDC to hire Peterson, an injunction against all Defendants as to any further unethical activity, an apology, and compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000.

DISCUSSION

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) challenges the court's subject matter jurisdiction, hi determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, the court must accept all well pleaded facts alleged in the complaint, and it draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiffs favor. Sapperstein v. Hager, 188 F.3d 852, 855 (7th Cir. 1999). The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Triad Associates, Inc. v. Chicago Housing Authority, 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). Dismissal is warranted only if "it appears beyond a 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 US. 41, 45-46 (1957).

Defendants assert that this court does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action and should abstain under Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Association, 457 U.S. 423 (1982), Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43 (1971), Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923) and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, [ Page 4]

460 U.S. 462 (1983). In addition, defendants argue to the extent Peterson seeks monetary damages or supplemental relief from defendants, his claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Because both Defendants raise the same arguments we address them simultaneously.

I. Abstention Under Younger and Middlesex

In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the United States Supreme Court held that there is a strong federal policy against a federal court's interference with pending state court proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. The basic principle of the Younger abstention doctrine is that a federal court should not interfere with pending state judicial proceedings, allowing few exceptions. Barichello v. McDonald, 98 F.3d 948, 954 (7th Cir. 1996). Abstention is appropriate unless state law clearly bars allowance of constitutional claims. Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 425-26 (1979).

In Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar Association, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982), the Supreme Court established an analysis for determining whether or not the Younger doctrine required a district court to abstain from attorney disciplinary proceedings. The policies underlying Younger are applicable to noncriminal judicial proceedings when important state interests are involved. Moore v. Simms, 422 U.S. 415 (1979). The district court must abstain from interference in an attorney disciplinary proceeding if: (1) the disciplinary proceedings are ongoing state judicial proceedings; (2) the proceedings implicate an important state interest; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges in the state proceedings. Id In Storment v. O'Mattey, 938 F.2d 86, 89 (7th Cir. 1991), the court concluded that Illinois disciplinary proceedings were judicial in nature and involved an important state interest, satisfying the first two prongs of the Middlesex, test. Thus, the only issue to be [ Page 5]

addressed is whether Peterson has had an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges to his disciplinary proceedings. We find that ...


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