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MITCHELL v. RYAN

December 2, 2004.

SAMUEL V. MITCHELL and JOHN E. TENNIAL, Plaintiffs,
v.
JAMES E. RYAN, THE ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL, and THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GEORGE MAROVICH, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Samuel V. Mitchell ("Mitchell") and John E. Tennial ("Tennial") filed a two-count amended complaint against defendants James E. Ryan ("Ryan") (the former Illinois Attorney General) in his personal capacity and against the Office of the Attorney General.*fn1 Both plaintiffs filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting that the defendants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Defendants move pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for an order dismissing plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion. The Court dismisses with prejudice plaintiffs' claims against the Office of the Attorney General and denies the remainder of defendants' motion. I. Background

For purposes of this motion to dismiss, the Court takes as true the allegations in the amended complaint. The Court also considers the decision of the Appellate Court of Illinois referenced in plaintiffs' amended complaint and attached to defendants' motion to dismiss. The decision may be considered by the Court without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment because the document is referenced in the amended complaint, is relevant to plaintiffs' claims and does not require discovery to authenticate or disambiguate. Tierney v. Vahle, 304 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 2002).

  Both plaintiffs were once employed by the Office of the Attorney General as investigators. In order to serve as a law enforcement officer (which an investigator is considered to be) in the Office of the Attorney General, one must either (a) be certified by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (the "Board") as having met the training requirements or (b) have obtained from the Board a waiver of the training requirements due to prior law enforcement experience. In February 1989, the Board certified plaintiffs Mitchell and Tennial as law enforcement officers. Also in February 1989, the Office of the Attorney General hired Mitchell and Tennial as investigators.

  According to the sparse allegations in the amended complaint, in October 1995, Ryan and the Office of the Attorney General "sought to discharge" plaintiffs without just cause. Specifically, Ryan and the Office of the Attorney General "sought to have the Board determine that the certifications/waivers granted to" plaintiffs and four other investigators were void. On December 12, 1995, the Board determined that the certifications/waivers granted to the plaintiffs and to the four other investigators were void ab. initio. Without a waiver or a certification, the plaintiffs could be not employed by the Office of the Attorney General. The plaintiffs and the other four investigators filed a grievance. Ultimately, an arbitrator ordered the plaintiffs reinstated. The Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the arbitrator's decision.

  The decision of the appellate court makes clear that the arbitrator ordered the Office of the Attorney General not only to reinstate the plaintiffs but also to request waivers on behalf of the other four investigators. The Appellate Court of Illinois concluded that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by reinstating plaintiffs but that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority in requiring the employer to request waivers for the other four investigators. Thus, the decision of the Appellate Court of Illinois required the Office of the Attorney General to request waivers on behalf of the other four investigators but was silent with respect to requesting waivers on behalf of the plaintiffs.

  According to the allegations in the amended complaint, in March 2000 — after the Appellate Court of Illinois issued its opinion — Ryan and the Office of the Attorney General filed requests for waivers on behalf of the other four investigators but did not file requests for waivers on behalf of plaintiffs. Plaintiffs assert that they were similarly situated to the other four investigators. Plaintiffs assert that Ryan and the Office of the Attorney General submitted requests for waivers on behalf of only those individuals they believed would not be eligible for the waivers. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants failed to request waivers for plaintiffs with "malicious intent to injure" plaintiffs "and/or to punish [them] for the exercise of constitutional rights." Plaintiffs further allege that defendants' failure to request waivers on their behalf is a violation of their right to equal protection of the law and that defendants should have been aware of their rights based on prior court decisions.

  As a remedy for the alleged equal protection violation, plaintiffs pray for, among other things, damages to compensate them for economic loss and pain and suffering and "prospective equitable relief from the ongoing violation whereby no request for waiver has been submitted on [their] behalf."

  II. Standard on a motion to dismiss

  The Court may dismiss claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure where the plaintiffs fail "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Defendants also assert that the Court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims. In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs' favor. McCullah v. Gadert, 344 F.3d 655, 657 (7th Cir. 2003). On a motion to dismiss, the "issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Cole v. U.S. Capital, Inc., ___ F.3d ___ (slip. op. at 7) (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

  III. Discussion

  A. Defendants' Rule 12(b)(1) motion.

  Defendants make a number of arguments in an attempt to dismiss plaintiffs' claims. The Court first considers defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) challenge to the Court's jurisdiction. Plaintiffs argue that the Court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The essence of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is that the lower federal courts do not have the authority to review the judgments of the state courts even when a federal question is presented. The only federal court possessing such authority is the Supreme Court of the United States.

 Centres, Inc. v. Town of Brookfield, 148 F.3d 699, 701 (7th Cir. 1998). A district court lacks jurisdiction over a claim if "the injury alleged by the federal plaintiff resulted from the state court judgment itself." Id. at 702. If, on the other hand, "the alleged injury is distinct from the state court judgment and not inextricably intertwined with it, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply, although the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion may be applicable." Id. The Seventh Circuit has suggested a guideline:
If the federal plaintiff was the plaintiff in state court, he must contend with res judicata; if the federal plaintiff was the defendant in state court, he must contend with the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Centres, Inc., 148 F.3d at 702. The theory behind the Seventh Circuit's guideline (which does not apply uniformly, as the plaintiffs in both the Rooker and the Feldman cases were plaintiffs in the state court proceedings) is that if ...

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