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Carroll v. Diederich

November 28, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge


Plaintiff Richard Carroll filed a pro se Complaint against a number of Illinois state and local governmental actors, alleging violations of his Constitutional rights. Several defendants filed motions to dismiss Carroll's Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, we grant defendants' motions to dismiss, in part.


On December 23, 2004, pro se Plaintiff Richard Carroll filed a lawsuit against a number of state and local governmental entities, alleging violations of his rights under the Illinois and United States constitutions.*fn1 Specifically, Carroll alleges that the Village of South Chicago Heights and its police department conducted illegal searches and seizures, violated his privacy and conspired to deny him his right to a jury trial. (Compl. ¶¶ 1-2.)*fn2 Carroll claims that a South Chicago Heights hearing officer, James Molecek, deprived him of his right to a jury trial and due process of law. (Compl. ¶ 3.) He also claims that Illinois Assistant State's Attorneys Michael Evans and Kelly Grekstas conspired to deny his rights to a jury trial and to self-representation and attempted to force him to incriminate himself by referring him for a BCX (behavioral clinical examination). (Compl. ¶ 4.) The Complaint includes an allegation that the Supreme Court of Illinois also denied his right to a jury trial.*fn3 (Compl. ¶ 5.) Carroll further alleges that the State of Illinois, as represented by Lisa Madigan, sentenced him to death by liver disease, denied his right to due process and conspired to deny his right to a jury trial. (Compl. ¶ 6.) He allegedly contracted the terminal disease while illegally incarcerated at the Markham Court jail in October 2003. Finally, Carroll claims that Judges Green-Thapedi and Panici violated his right to a jury trial. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Carroll seeks $4,000,000 and an injunction against the State of Illinois and the Village of South Chicago Heights.


The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not decide the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a motion to dismiss, we must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regul., 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000); United Transp. Union v. Gateway W. Ry. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) requires dismissal of claims over which the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the "power to decide" and must be conferred upon the federal court. In re Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co., 794 F.2d 1182, 1188 (7th Cir. 1986). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court may look beyond the complaint to other evidence submitted by the parties to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. See United Transp. Union, 78 F.3d at 1210. The plaintiff faced with a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss bears the burden of establishing that the jurisdictional requirements have been met. See Kontos v. U. S. Dept. Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576 (7th Cir. 1987).

Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is warranted only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims that would entitle him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102 (1957). However, a court need not "strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiffs which are not apparent on the face of the complaint." Coates v. Illinois State Bd. of Ed., 559 F.2d 445, 447 (7th Cir. 1977). When, as in the present case, a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, we have a special responsibility to construe the complaint liberally. See Donald v. Cook County Sheriff's Dep't, 95 F.3d 548, 555 (7th Cir. 1996).


In their motions, Defendants Evans, Grekstas, Green-Thapedi, Panici, Madigan, Twine and Welsh argue that Carroll's Complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) because he lacks standing and because they are protected by sovereign, prosecutorial, or judicial immunity. Each of these defendants also contend that Carroll fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.*fn4

As the Seventh Circuit has noted, "[s]ubject-matter jurisdiction is the first question in every case, and if the court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction it must proceed no further." Illinois v. City of Chicago, 137 F.3d 474, 478 (7th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, we will first address the several challenges raised by defendants based on Eleventh Amendment and common law immunities. We will also consider whether Carroll has standing to pursue any remaining claims and, as appropriate, whether he has stated a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

A. Eleventh Amendment Principles

Interpreting the Eleventh Amendment of the United States constitution, the Supreme Court "has consistently held that an unconsenting state is immune from suits brought in federal court by her own citizens." Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-663, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1355 (1974); see Ameritech Corp. v. McCann, 297 F.3d 582, 585-586 (7th Cir. 2002). There are two circumstances, however, under which the "state's sovereign immunity is not absolute." Ameritech Corp., 297 F.3d at 585. "[A] state may waive the protections . . . and consent to suit in federal court, or Congress may use its enforcement powers under the fourteenth amendment to abrogate the states' eleventh amendment immunity." MSA Realty Corp. v. Illinois, 990 F.2d 288, 291 (7th Cir. 1993).

"State agencies and officials sued in their official capacities are 'the state' for Eleventh Amendment purposes." Olison v. Ryan, No. 99 C 4384, 2000 WL 1263597, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 5, 2000) (citing Will v. Michigan Dep't State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 2312 (1989)). Thus, whether a state official is immune from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment depends on whether the official is sued in his or her official or individual capacity. See Kroll v. Bd. Trs. Univ. of Illinois, 934 F.2d 904, 907-08 (7th Cir. 1991); Catlett v. Peters, 32 F. Supp. 2d 1010, 1011-1012 (N.D. Ill. 1998). Unlike an official capacity suit, an individual capacity suit for damages is not barred because the plaintiff's recovery would come from the official's personal assets, rather than those of the state. Kroll, 934 F.2d at 907-908. On the other hand, an official capacity suit for injunctive relief may proceed only "in the limited circumstances identified by the Supreme Court in Ex Parte Young." Ameritech Corp., 297 F.3d at 585-586; see Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159-160, 28 S.Ct. 441, 453-454 (1908); Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Vega, 174 F.3d 870, 872 (7th Cir. 1999). Under the Ex Parte Young doctrine, a private party may sue a state official for injunctive relief if the complaint "alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective." Verizon Maryland Inc. v. Public Serv. Comm. Md., 535 U.S. 635, 645, 122 S.Ct. 1753, 1760 (2002); see Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 27, 112 S.Ct. 358, 364-365 (1991).

Given the restrictions imposed by the Eleventh Amendment, the distinction between an individual and official capacity suit is significant. See Hill v. Shelander, 924 F.2d 1370, 1372 (7th Cir. 1991). Where a Section 1983 complaint fails to indicate the defendant official's capacity, the Court must review the complaint in its entirety to determine the capacity at issue. See Miller v. Smith, 220 F.3d 491, 494 (7th Cir. 2000); Hill, 924 F.2d at 1373-1374; Boyce v. Fairman, 24 F. Supp. 2d 880, 884 (N.D. Ill. 1998). Indeed, a plaintiff's omission of the phrase "individual capacity" does not foreclose the existence of such a claim. Hill, 924 F.2d at 1373. The Seventh Circuit in Hill held that "where the complaint alleges the tortious conduct of an individual acting under color of state law, an individual capacity suit plainly lies, even if the plaintiff failed to spell out the defendant's capacity."*fn5 924 F.2d at 1374. In addition, "an official capacity suit will be presumed when the indicia of an official policy or custom are present in the complaint." Id. at 1373. When evaluating an official's capacity, a court may consider the express language of the allegations, the nature of the claims, the remedies sought, and whether the defendant raised any individual immunity defenses. See Miller, 220 F.3d at 494(concluding that individual suit existed where plaintiff did not ...

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