United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 31, 2004.
TIMOTHY WINGATE, et al., Plaintiff's, -v- JOSEPH E. BIRKETT, et al., Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID COAR, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This is a multi-defendant case originally brought by three
Plaintiff's: Timothy Wesley Wingate ("Wingate"), Mark Sato ("Sato"), and
Mark Enoch Sate ("Enoch Sato"). Wingate, Sato, and Enoch Sato filed their
Complaint in November 2002 against several Illinois municipalities and
officers of the State of Illinois. On June 5, 2003, the Court dismissed
Plaintiff Sato from the Complaint and struck all allegations therein that
were specific to him in keeping with prior litigation sanctions. See
Skolnick. Sato & Andreuccetti v. Doria, No. 94-3238, Order of
April 4, 1997 (7th Cir. 1997); Sato v. Plunkett. 94 C 60,
Order of May 2, 1994 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (Easterbrook, J.); id.,
Order of March 15, 1994 (N.D. Ill. 1994); Sato v. Kwasny,
1993 U.S. District Lexis 15693 (N.D. Ill., Nov. 5, 1993).
The case comes now before the Court on several Motions filed by the
Defendants. Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state
a claim have been filed by the Defendant City of Elgin; Defendant Village
of Hanover Park; and Defendant City of Elmhurst. Defendant City of
Elmhurst has also moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for
failure to provide effective service of process. Defendant Joseph
Birkett has filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Complaint under
Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and a Motion for Sanctions
under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff's
received permission from the Court to file a consolidated response to
these motions. The motions are all fully briefed and ripe for decision.
I. MOTIONS TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM
In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the Court "must accept all well pleaded allegations as true.
In addition, the Court must view these allegations in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff." Gomez v. Illinois State Board of
Education. 811 F.2d 1030, 1039 (7th Cir. 1987). A party's claim
should only be dismissed if it is clear that no set of facts in support
of the claim would entitle the party to relief. Ledford v.
Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Hishon v.
King & Spaulding. 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).
Plaintiffs' Complaint is inscrutable. The Complaint first alleges that
this Court is not organized under Article III of the Constitution. (Pl.
Comp, at 6-8). It asserts that the District Court "is a political and
constitutional oxymoron." (Pl, Comp, at 14). It goes on to blankly assert
violations of the following of Plaintiffs' rights: Plaintiffs' right to
freedom of speech under the First Amendment (Pl. Comp, at 9);
Plaintiffs' "innumerable rights under the 9th and 10th Amendments
dependent upon the right to travel" (id.); Plaintiffs' "4th
Amendment right of sanctity of home and/or person against unwarranted
search and/or seizure "(id.); Plaintiffs' "common law right to
pursuit of happiness free from unlawful interference" (id.);
Plaintiffs' "common law right to due process" (id.);
Plaintiffs'" right to have public servants
obey public policy constraints" (Id. at 9-10);
Plaintiffs' "right to the protections of the separation of powers
doctrine" (Id. at 10); and Plaintiffs' right to religious
liberty (id.). Few, if Any, of these allegations are
supported with any specific factual allegation in the Complaint.
The Court can find (with some difficulty) the following factual
allegations in Plaintiffs' Complaint. Wingate is a founding participant
of an organization known as the American Rights Movement, or ARM. Wingate
organized ARM in January or February 2001 "for the purpose of
articulating [Wingate's] political vies and to exercise his right of
association with like-minded persons." (Pl. Comp, at 19). Wingate,
through ARM, became involved in efforts to expose alleged political
corruption in the State's Attorneys Office in early 2002. In July 2002,
Elmhurst Police "trumped up a charge" against Wingate's daughter Anne.
(Pl. Comp, at 22).
Several years earlier, in 1996, Wingate was issued a traffic citation
for driving while his driver's license was suspended. The case number
assigned to the incident was 96 TR 148974. When Wingate refused to
identify himself to the Court, a bench warrant issued for his arrest. The
Complaint alleges that this bench warrant imposed "the artificial status
of `driver'" upon Wingate and justified "restraint of his liberty," (Pl.
Comp, at 22).
As regards Enoch Sato, the Complaint alleges that Defendants have all
been using Enoch Sato "as a means of applying extortionate leverage"
against Sato to "cease and desist in his campaign to expose the
criminality" in the State's Attorneys Office. (PL Comp, at 23). The
Defendants allegedly conspired to "inveigle Enoch Sato in the Traffic
Court Enterprise." (Id.) Defendants have also "falsely imposed
upon EnochSato the status of `driver' . . . as a means of blackmailing
his father [Sato]."(Id. at 24). Enoch Sato has apparently been
twice issued traffic
citations by agents of the City of Elgin, and his cases have been
assigned numbers 01 TR 41259 and 01 TR 7443.
The Complaint proceeds to allege that the Illinois Traffic Courts
provide support "for A specific religious sect, namely, the
Masons." (Id. at 26). From there, the Complaint descends even
deeper into a bizarre conspiracy theory that does not merit reproduction.
One general background assumption of Plaintiffs' Complaint is that the
traffic courts in Illinois operate illegally and are ultra vires. The
Illinois Motor Vehicle Code authorizes municipal corporations to adopt
and enforce any or all of the Motor Vehicle Code. 625 I.L.C.S. 5/20-204.
Consequently, the traffic courts in Elgin, Elmhurst, and Hanover Park are
all legitimate entities under state law.
This Complaint does not state a claim upon which relief could be
granted as to any of the Defendants it names. The most coherent theory
that the Court could draw from this Complaint is that Wingate and Enoch
Sato are being harrassed on the basis of the exercise of their First
Amendment rights. As to Wingate, the right would be freedom of speech in
association with his political activities in ARM. As to Enoch Sato (who
is not alleged to be a participant in ARM), it is unclear what the
unconstitutional basis for the harrassment would be.
For either Plaintiff, the Complaint does not allege any specific
relationship between their traffic arrests (or their daughter's traffic
arrests, as in Wingate's case) and Wingate's political activities in ARM.
Based on a fair and thorough reading of Plaintiffs' Complaint, it does
not state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The conclusory
allegations of conspiracy in this case are not sufficient to provide fair
notice to any of the Defendants that
have been haled into court under this Complaint. The Complaint will
be dismissed in its entirety.*fn1
II. DEFENDANT BIRKETT'S MOTION TO STRIKE
Defendant Birkett's Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Complaint under
Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is based entirely on
former Plaintiff Sato's history of frivolous litigation and disobedience
to orders of this Court. As the Court has already stricken the
allegations from the Complaint that relate to him, the question arises
whether Sato's past and present misconduct justifies striking the
Complaint in its entirety. The Court does not find that the relationship
between Sato and the other two Plaintiff's justifies striking the entire
Complaint. There has been no showing that Plaintiff's Wingate and Enoch
Sato have engaged in the same type of frivolous and vexatious litigation
that Plaintiff Sato has plagued upon this Court over the years.
Consequently, Defendant Birkett's Motion to Strike is denied.
This leaves only the matter of the Defendants' requests for sanctions.
Defendant Birkett filed a separate Motion for Sanctions, while Defendants
City of Elgin and Village of Elmhurst included their requests for
sanctions in their Motions to Dismiss. Rule 11 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes sanctions for improper
litigation practices. Rule 11(b)(1) forbids parties from presenting
motions "for any improper purpose, such as to harrass or to cause
unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation."
Rule 11(b)(2) requires parties' claims to be "warranted by existing law or
by nonfrivolous arguments for extension, modification, or reversal of
existing law." Rule 11(b)(3) requires the allegations to have
evidentiary support or be likely to have evidentiary support after
discovery. In this case, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs' Complaint
violated the requirements of Rule 11(b)(2) & (3). The claims in
Plaintiffs' Complaint, particularly as relates to the jurisdiction of
this Court and the traffic courts of Illinois, were not warranted by
existing law or a nonfrivolous argument for a change in the law; and the
allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint are so far-fetched that the
likelihood of their having evidentiary support approaches zero.
Former Plaintiff Sato has demonstrated a surprising resiliency in the
face of severe sanctions that have been meted to him in the past. Between
this Court and the Seventh Circuit, Sato has been ordered to pay
sanctions of over $10,000 before filing another case in this Court. His
participation in this frivolous action demonstrates anew his unmitigated
gall in flaunting the past sanctions of this Court. This Court orders
Plaintiff Sato to pay sanctions in the amount of $1,000.00 payable to the
Clerk of this Court for the benefit of the United States. Because past
history suggests that it is unlikely that Sato will pay this amount, it
will be added to the previous sanctions imposed, and he is barred from
filing another case until this sanction (as well as the previously
imposed amounts) is paid.
While Plaintiff's Wingate and Enoch Sato do not have the same history
and baseless litigation in this Court as Sato, they are not without
culpability in Sato's flagrant disregard of this Court's prior sanctions.
The Court hopes that an award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees
against all three Plaintiff's should be sufficient to deter Wingate and
Enoch Sato from participating in Sato's litigation abuses in the future.
For the reasons set forth in this opinion, the Plaintiffs' Complaint
is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted; Plaintiff Sato is ordered to pay a sanction of $1,000.00; and
the Plaintiff's, jointly and severally, will be required to pay the
Defendants' reasonable attorneys fees and costs associated with this
action. Defendants shall file a bill of costs and fees within 14 days of
the date of this order. Plaintiff's shall have 30 days from the date of
filing of the bill of costs and fees to file any objections thereto.