United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
September 22, 2004.
CATHERINE MAIMONIS, Plaintiff,
PHILLIP URBANSKI, LINDA YONKE, DAVID CREECH, JEFFREY HARTMAN, DIANA MUELLER, JOEL MORRIS, YORK COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL, ILLINOIS SCHOOL DISTRICT 205, and ELMHURST COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER 205, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the motions of pro se
Plaintiff Catherine Maimonis ("Catherine") to alter or amend
judgment and for leave to file an amended complaint. On July 8,
2004, we dismissed Catherine's prior complaint for reasons stated
in a memorandum opinion; familiarity with that decision and its
rationale is presumed. Because judgment was entered in
conjunction with the dismissal, Catherine must ask for relief
from the judgment before she can amend her earlier pleading. She
has done so pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. Proc. 59(e), within the
10-day time limit specified by the rule. For the reasons set
forth below, both motions are denied. LEGAL STANDARDS
Rule 59(e) relief is obtainable only in a narrow range of
situations. Publishers Res., Inc. v. Walker-Davis Publ'ns,
Inc., 762 F.2d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 1985). The rule does not
afford a party an opportunity to rehash old arguments or to
present new ones "that could and should have been presented to
the district court prior to the judgment." Moro v. Shell Oil
Co., 91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 1996). Rather, a Rule 59(e)
motion "must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or
fact or must present newly discovered evidence" in order to be
successful. Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 781 F.2d 1260,
1268 (7th Cir. 1986). Where, as here, a Rule 59(e) motion is
filed contemporaneously with a motion to amend under Fed.R. Civ.
Proc. 15(a), a court must analyze the former in light of the
merits of the latter. Paganis v. Blonstein, 3 F.3d 1067, 1073
(7th Cir. 1993).
Prior to the entry of judgment, Rule 15(a) requires a court to
give leave to amend freely where justice requires it. After
judgment is entered, by contrast, leave will not be given without
a good reason why the amendment should be allowed. Harris v.
City of Auburn, 27 F.3d 1284, 1287 (7th Cir. 1994). If a party
offers no explanation at all for the delay in presenting the new
material, that is sufficient basis for outright denial of the
motion for leave to amend. Figgie Int'l Inc. v. Miller,
966 F.2d 1178, 1181 (7th Cir. 1992). With these principles in mind,
we turn to Catherine's motions. DISCUSSION
As an initial matter, we address the presence of Catherine's
father, Dennis Maimonis ("Dennis"), in these proceedings. Dennis
has styled himself as Catherine's next friend, implying that she
is a minor and thus legally unable to represent her own interests
in the instant case. Facts divulged during the proceedings reveal
that Catherine was over the age of 18 not only at the time the
lawsuit was filed but also during the events alleged within the
various complaints. As a result, Catherine is not a minor, and
Dennis cannot appear as her next friend. See 755 ILCS 5/11-1.
Neither is Dennis an attorney, so his attempted representation of
Catherine before this court is improper. The discussion that
follows treats Catherine as the sole plaintiff.
A. Rule 59(e) Motion*fn1
Catherine's motion identifies no manifest error of law or fact
within our previous treatment of the case. The only basis we can
detect for her bringing of this motion is an understanding that
it is a predicate for her motion to amend. While this is
certainly true, that does not mean that the motion will be
granted without a sufficient legal basis. Because Catherine has not supplied such a basis, we cannot
conclude that Rule 59(e) provides an avenue to revisit our
earlier dismissal. Moreover, as discussed below, the motion to
amend is unmeritorious, so it too does not provide a reason to
amend or alter our prior judgment.
B. Rule 15(a) Motion
Even if the judgment could be reopened under Rule 59(e), leave
to amend is not warranted even before judgment is entered if
there has been undue delay in the filing of the proposed changes
or if the amendment would be futile because the new pleading
could not withstand a motion to dismiss. See Foman v. Davis,
371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S. Ct. 227, 230 (1962); Payne v.
Churchich, 161 F.3d 1030, 1036-37 (7th Cir. 1998).
To determine whether the delay in filing the amendment is
undue, we must examine the changes that Catherine wishes to make.
When a party seeks to file an amended complaint, she must
contemporaneously provide the proposed amendment. See Twohy v.
First Nat'l Bank of Chicago, 758 F.2d 1185, 1197 (7th Cir.
1985). Catherine has actually submitted two amended complaints:
one with the initial motion and one in conjunction with her
reply. However, her motion offers no rationale for the failure to
make the proposed changes prior to the entry of judgment. The
first amended complaint is accompanied by a sparse invocation of
Rules 15(a) and 59(e) and a statement that Catherine has
attempted to draft a complaint that does not suffer the infirmities that led to dismissal of its predecessor. Her reply
brief states that she misunderstood the proceedings that
transpired when she first presented her motions, but still absent
is any justification for her delay in bringing the additional
material contained in her proposed amendments to this court's
attention. Catherine seems to point to her status as a pro se
party to excuse the failure to raise these additions earlier in
the proceedings. While we must and do take into account
Catherine's lack of legal training by liberally construing her
submissions, a pro se plaintiff must supply at least
understandable allegations to underpin an assertion or claim.
See Greer v. Bd. of Ed. of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th
Cir. 2001). In other words, the required forgiveness of technical
errors by a pro se party does not equate to a pass on
substantive soundness of the heart of an argument or theory.
Catherine has provided no explanation for her delay, and we
consequently are left only with the conclusion that it is undue.
Furthermore, neither amendment cures the problems identified in
our prior opinion; the grounds for dismissal of the initial
complaint are still present. First, the allegations of the new
pleadings still establish that school officials had sufficient
grounds to establish a reasonable suspicion that Catherine was in
possession of illegal materials on school grounds. The facts
added to the amended complaints do nothing to negate the
reasonableness of the initial suspicion that led to the request
to search Catherine's purse. In addition, the allegations of the proposed
amendments establish that Catherine had two hearings on her
suspension: the first between herself and Defendant Urbanski at
the time of the search and the second with one or both of her
parents present in the office of a school official. First
Proposed Amended Complaint, ¶ 26; Second Proposed Amended
Complaint, ¶ 44. These allegations rule out the possibility of a
claim for violation of procedural due process.
The last significant difference between the amendments and the
earlier complaint is the abandonment of claims against the
individual school officials in favor of a Monell claim against
the school district. The underpinning for this new theory is an
allegation that the school engages in a custom and practice of
conducting unconstitutional searches and then deliberately
concealing any report or record of the event to stonewall any
future civil rights actions. The contents of this count (Count I)
as well as the timing of its inclusion indicate that it is made
solely in response to Defendants' argument that allegations of
isolated incidents involving government officials without
policymaking authority are insufficient to state a claim for
Monell liability. See Rodgers v. Lincoln Towing Serv.,
Inc., 771 F.2d 194, 202 (7th Cir. 1985). It strains credulity
that Catherine made a reasonable inquiry into the presence of
evidentiary support for the new allegation as required by
Fed.R.Civ. Proc. 11(b) before inserting it in her complaint. Because
none of the additional material newly included in Catherine's amendments would withstand a motion to
dismiss, allowing either to be filed would be a futile exercise.
Contrary to Catherine's clearly held belief, it is apparent to
this court that she has no cognizable federal claim arising from
the events of which she complains. We express no opinion on the
viability of the state law claims contained within the new
pleadings, but they provide no foundation to permit the filing of
an amended federal complaint. Catherine has been thrice unable to
state a cognizable federal cause of action. Accordingly, we are
convinced that she cannot do so, and we will not entertain any
future requests to amend should any arise.
Based on the foregoing analysis, Catherine's motions to alter
or amend our previous judgment and for leave to file an amended
complaint are denied.