United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 23, 2004.
THOMAS SNYDER, Plaintiff,
ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, et al., Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MILTON SHADUR, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Thomas Snyder ("Snyder") has just filed a 10-count, 181-paragraph
Complaint against a host of defendants, asserting some claims under
several sections of Title 42*fn1 Sections 1983, 1985 and 1986
as well as some state law claims that he seeks to piggyback under
28 U.S.C. § 1367 (a). Because the number of obviously problematic
aspects of the Complaint nearly rivals the number of targeted defendants,
this memorandum opinion and order is issued sua sponte to require
Snyder's counsel to clean up his act before the action can go forward.
To begin with, although the State of Illinois and its Department of
Corrections are identified as defendants in the case caption, nothing in
the body of the Complaint suggests any predicate for a claim against
them. Both because the State of Illinois and its agencies are not
"persons" within the scope of Section 1983 (Will v. Mich. Dep't of State
Police. 491 U.S. 58,
71 (1989)) and because of the just-mentioned absence of any allegations
that would support liability on their part, both are stricken as
By the same token, Governor Rod Blagojevich ("Blagojevich"), Illinois
Department of Corrections ("DOC") Director Roger Walker, Jr. ("Walker")
and Chief of Operations Ian Oliver ("Oliver") are indicated in the case
caption as being sued in their official as well as individual
capacities. To the extent that such official-capacity claims would
duplicate claims against the governmental entity, they would be
surplusage (Kentucky v. Graham. 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985)). And Snyder
cannot of course take an end run around his already-discussed inability
to sue the State of Illinois directly by advancing purported
official-capacity claims against its representatives. Accordingly all
such references to official-capacity claims are also stricken.
Next, the Complaint can be searched in vain for any clue as to what
Snyder's position was with the DOC, as well as any clue as to the nature
and scope of his responsibilities in that position, before his
termination in 2003 (see Complaint ¶ 17). Although Snyder's claims seek
to hinge on the asserted impropriety of that termination, all that his
counsel tells us instead are things about what Snyder did not do
(Complaint ¶¶ 32, 33, 35-37 and 40).
To be sure, the federal court regime is one of notice rather
than fact pleading. But the bulk and length of the Complaint scarcely
comport with the "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief," as called for by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), and
Snyder should not really try to have it both ways by remaining silent as
to such a critical aspect of his claims. Both the defendants and this
Court are entitled to better information on that score, and the Amended
Complaint later called for by this opinion must cure that omission.
To turn from those general deficiencies to matters that impact on
individual counts of the Complaint, this. opinion will address those in
the order in which they are found in the pleading. Accordingly no
inference should be drawn from the sequence in which the various
deficiencies are addressed as to their relative importance. Neither
should it be assumed that the matters dealt with here are exhaustive
instead defendants will of course be free to target any other aspects of
the Complaint that they deem to be flawed.
First, Count III asserts that Snyder's termination violated his due
process rights, a claim advanced under Section 1983, and in that respect
Complaint ¶ 77 refers to a promise of continued employment by Governor
Blagojevich. But because any property interest in government employment
(a necessary component of a due process claim) must depend on the
authority of the promisor to create such an interest (something that is
acknowledged by Complaint f78 and see, e.g., such cases as Santella v.
City of Chicago. 936 F.2d 328, 331-33 (7th Cir. 1991)(affirming this
Court's dismissal of a claim on such lack-of-authority grounds), adhered
to in Zemke v. City of Chicago, 100 F.3d 511, 513 (7th Cir. 1996)),
Snyder's counsel cannot rely on his wholly conclusory assertion in that
respect. Instead counsel must provide the citation to the Illinois
statute (and perhaps Illinois caselaw) that defines the hiring authority
for DOC employees. This Court will then be in a better position to
determine whether Count III states a viable claim.
No such doubt exists as to Count IV, which charges a conspiracy in
asserted violation of Section 1985. There Snyder claims that his
termination stemmed from his "political affiliation with the Republican
Party and the Republican administration" (Complaint ¶¶ 28-31), which
allegedly motivated defendants Blagojevich, Walker and Oliver "to hire a
political ally of the Democratic administration" (Complaint ¶ 27). But it
has been clear for nearly two decades (see Grimes v. Smith, 776 F.2d 1359,
1363-67 (7th Cir. 1985), analyzing and relying on United Bhd. Of
Carpenters and Joiners of Am. v. Scott. 463 U.S. 825, 836-37 (1983)) that
the type of class-based animus that is required to ground a Section 1985
conspiracy action does not extend to such an asserted political
conspiracy. Count IV is accordingly stricken.
That also spells doom for Count V. There Snyder seeks to advance a
Section 1986 negligence claim that is entirely derivative of Section 1985
liability. Count V is therefore stricken as well.
Counts VI (asserted under Section 1985) and VII (a derivative claim
asserted under Sect ion 1986) are somewhat more problematic. Those counts
target not only Blagojevich and Walker but also Oliver (who is described
as "acting as the President of the Greater Illinois Chapter of National
Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice") and three other defendants
who hold positions with that same organization. But once again Snyder has
asserted no motive for his termination other than the political purpose
referred to in the earlier discussion as to Count IV. It appears that
something more is needed to determine whether Counts VI and VII are or
are not subject to being stricken on the same grounds as Counts IV and V.
This Court will await prompt further input from Snyder's counsel on that
As for Count VIII, which is a state-law-based breach of contract claim,
that poses the same question, identified above as to Count III, regarding
Blagojevich's authority or lack of authority to bind the DOC to Snyder's
continued employment, so as to create a property interest in such
employment. Hence the fate of Count VIII will also await Snyder's input
called for earlier.
Count IX is another state law claim, this one charging two
of the non-official defendants with interference with Snyder's claimed
contract. That claim would also seem to rise or fall in light of the
considerations already identified as to Counts III and VIII, Accordingly
the resolution of Count IX's fate must also await the same information.
Finally, Count X is another interference-with-contract claim against
Oliver and the three other defendants referred to in Counts VI and VII.
What has been said as to Count IX applies to this last count as well.
In summary, it is clear that Snyder's counsel must go back and try
again. Counsel is ordered to file a self-contained Amended Complaint in
this Court's chambers on or before March 8, 2004 that addresses the
numerous matters raised by this opinion. In the meantime Snyder's counsel
should take whatever steps are necessary to inform all defendants (or
their counsel, if known to him) that they need not plead to the original
defective Complaint, thus avoiding a needless waste of resources.