United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 15, 2004.
DANIEL BENDER and COVENANT MINISTRY, Plaintiffs,
JOHN G. RADOSEVICH, PEGGY J. WICKLINE, WILLIAM G. SCHWARTZ, ROBERT BURNS, STEVE ODUM, MATTHEW WICKLINE, EDWARD J. HELLER, RICHARD L. BLAKE, and LARRY W. REINHARDT, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pro se plaintiffs Daniel Bender and Covenant Ministry by Rev.
James R. McCulloch sue defendants John G. Radosevich, Peggy J.
Wickline, William G. Schwartz, Robert Burns, Steve Odum, Matthew
Wickline, Edward J. Heller, Richard L. Blake, and Larry W.
Reinhardt for conspiracy to deprive Plaintiffs of their
constitutional rights and for interference with their lawful
exercise of property rights. Defendant John G. Schwartz is a
judge of the Circuit Court in the First Judicial Circuit of
Jackson County, Illinois. Defendant Larry W. Reinhardt is
apparently Recorder and Clerk of Jackson County.*fn1
Jurisdiction is claimed under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1367,
1331, 1343, 2201, 2202, and 1651. Although a motion to transfer
has been filed on behalf of one defendant, the docket of this
court does not reflect service on any of the defendants.
Plaintiffs brought a forcible entry and detainer action in the
Jackson County Circuit Court (the "Forcible Action") in which
they sought to establish their rights to ownership and possession
of two parcels of real estate commonly known as 618 and 620
Graham Avenue in Carbondale, Illinois (the "Graham Avenue
Properties"). Judge Schwartz presided over the Forcible Action.
On August 11, 2004, he dismissed the action for plaintiffs'
failure to present evidence and entered an order enjoining
plaintiffs and parties acting with them from entering the subject
premises and from interfering with, or attempting to obtain rents
from, the parties in actual possession of the real estate, as
well as from seeking to file any documents that would cloud title
to the premises.
While the plaintiffs lace their complaint liberally with
references to the Constitution and the federal statutes mentioned
above, the gravamen of their action is that they want this court
to declare the judgment, the preliminary injunction, and other
rulings entered in the Forcible Action void. Plaintiffs allege,
among other things, that the state court acted improperly by
holding the trial in the Forcible Action after the statutory
period for such trial had expired, by not giving plaintiffs an opportunity to be heard
at the trial, by denying another lay minister of the Covenant
Ministry the right to intervene in the proceedings and striking
his notice of appeal, by granting the right to intervene to Mr.
Wickline, and by depriving plaintiffs of property rights, all
pursuant to a conspiracy, the details of which are not stated,
and by entering a preliminary injunction against them.
The relief plaintiffs request includes a permanent injunction
restraining defendants from interfering with plaintiffs'
possessory interests in the Graham Avenue Properties; an
injunction against defendants Burns and Odum from (1) enforcing
any order relating to the August 11, 2004 judgment in the
Forcible Action (including a preliminary injunction entered
against Mr. Bender and others), (2) restraining defendants from
removing plaintiffs or their personal property from the Graham
Avenue properties, and (3) restraining defendants from arresting
plaintiffs for violating any order or judgment entered in said
action; a declaratory judgment that the August 11, 2004 judgment
is void; a declaratory judgment that the practices of defendants
have violated plaintiffs' constitutional rights; trial by jury;
and compensatory and punitive damages.
On August 27, 2004 I entered an order requiring plaintiffs to
file a memorandum showing why the court had jurisdiction of the
asserted claims, or to file an amended complaint that would
satisfy jurisdictional requirements. On September 13, 2004 Judge Schwartz
filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 1404 for a change of venue to
the Southern District of Illinois. On September 27, 2004, I set a
briefing schedule requiring plaintiffs to respond to the transfer
motion by October 15, 2004. On September 30, 2004, I entered an
order granting Mr. Bender an extension of time until October 12,
2004 to respond to my order of August 27, 2004. To date, neither
plaintiff has responded to my August 27, 2004 order or to Judge
Schwartz's transfer motion.
This court does not have the authority to grant plaintiffs the
relief they seek. Schmitt v. Schmitt, 324 F.3d 484 (7th Cir.
2003), which arose out of a divorce case, explains why. The
plaintiff in Schmitt asked the district court to overturn
rulings of both an Illinois trial court and the Illinois
Appellate Court on due process grounds. He claimed that he had
not been properly served with process. The district court
dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, and the Seventh
Circuit affirmed the dismissal on the basis of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine which holds that,
. . . [i]f a federal plaintiff claims injury at the
hands of a state court, due to its decision in a
civil case, federal district courts have no
jurisdiction to hear the case; and the only appeal is
to the [United States] Supreme Court after a final
judgment by the highest state court.
Schmitt, 324 F.3d at 486, quoting from Garry v. Geils,
82 F.3d 1362, 1366 (7th Cir. 1996). As in Schmitt, supra, none of
the very limited exceptions to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is applicable
to the case at bar.
The complaint is dismissed for want of jurisdiction.