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Fuiten v. Creditor Services Bureau of Springfield

June 7, 2006

WILLIAM MICHAEL FUITEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CREDITOR SERVICES BUREAU OF SPRINGFIELD, INC., CRAIG LEWIS, AND WILLIAM F. LEWIS DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Creditor Services Bureau of Springfield, Inc. (CSB), Craig Lewis and William F. Lewis' Motion to Dismiss (d/e 10). The Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion is DENIED with respect to Count 1 and ALLOWED with respect to Counts 2 and 3.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff William Fuiten has filed a three-count Complaint (d/e 1), alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (Count 1), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., the Illinois Collection Agency Act (ICAA)(Count 2), 225 ILCS 425/1 et. seq., and the Illinois Notary Public Act (INPA) (Count 3), 5 ILCS 312/1-101 et seq. The allegations set forth in the Complaint are as follows. Plaintiff Fuiten is an individual licensed to practice law in Illinois and resides in Springfield, Illinois. Defendant CSB, a corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois, is engaged in the business of collecting debts from consumers on behalf of third party creditors. Craig Lewis, the principle of CSB, is an individual residing in or about Springfield, Illinois. Craig Lewis regularly engages in collection activities from consumers on behalf of third party creditors. William Lewis resides in or about Springfield, Illinois. He is licensed as a notary public with the State of Illinois. He notarizes documents related to debt collection transactions undertaken by CSB and Craig Lewis.

The Complaint alleges that, until September 2004, Fuiten worked as an attorney for CSB, assisting with collection matters. According to the Complaint, in late September 2004, Fuiten discovered that CSB and Craig Lewis had forged his signature on at least 29 legal documents, including complaints, filed on behalf of third party creditors against defendants who were consumer debtors, in the Circuit Court of Illinois. Fuiten alleges that upon discovering this, he immediately withdrew the aforementioned documents from the Circuit Court and also withdrew his representation of CSB, Craig Lewis, and all third party creditors involved.

Plaintiff Fuiten alleges that, because of the Defendants' actions, he has not only suffered emotional distress and nervous stress, but also faces potential suits from consumer debtors. Plaintiff seeks an award of actual and statutory damages, plus attorney's fees and costs.

ANALYSIS

The Defendants move to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) for lack of Article III standing and for failure to satisfy prudential limitations on standing with respect to the FDCPA claim. Specifically, the Defendants assert that the case or controversy requirement is not met in the present case because Plaintiff Fuiten lacks standing. The Defendants further assert that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Fuiten is not within the zone of interests protected by the statute in question, FDCPA. As to the INPA and ICAA claims, the Defendants contend that, because this Court lacks jurisdiction under Plaintiff's only federal claim, the supplemental state law claims should also be dismissed. The Defendants further contend that the ICAA claim should be dismissed based on the fact that there is no liability under the statute as it does not apply to attorneys.

A. FDCPA

Under Article III of the United States Constitution, a party seeking to invoke federal court jurisdiction must present an actual case or controversy, a requirement that is referred to as the concept of justiciability. See Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 95 (1968). "Implicit in that limitation is the requirement that the party invoking the court's jurisdiction have standing." Kyles v. J.K. Guardian Security Services, Inc., 222 F.3d 289, 293 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing cases). The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that a plaintiff has "a 'personal stake in the outcome' in order to 'assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues' necessary for the proper resolution of constitutional questions." City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101 (1983). A plaintiff seeking to invoke the power of the federal court bears the burden of demonstrating standing by establishing: (1) an "injury in fact--an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical;" (2) a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained; and (3) that a favorable decision likely will redress the injury. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

In addition to Article III limitations on standing, a party seeking to invoke federal court jurisdiction must also satisfy judicially-imposed prudential limitations. Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 739 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975)). The prudential limitation at issue in this case is a requirement that a plaintiff's claim or interest must fall within the zone of interests protected by the statute that he or she invokes. Kyles, 222 F.3d at 294. Courts impose these prudential limitations in order to restrict federal court access to only those who are best suited to bring a particular claim and "to avoid deciding questions of broad social import where no individual rights would be vindicated. . . ." Id. (citing cases). In cases where: federal statutory rights are at issue [as in this case], however, Congress has considerable authority to shape the assessment of standing. First, although it may not lower the threshold for standing below the minimum requirements imposed by the Constitution, Congress can extend standing to the outermost limits of Article III. For example, it may permit an individual who suffers an injury-in-fact to bring suit for a statutory violation even if one normally would not think of that person as an intended beneficiary of the statute; or it can permit someone to seek relief based on the legal rights of individuals other than himself. When Congress confers such a broad right to sue, the judiciary may not close the doors to the courthouse by invoking prudential considerations.

Id. at 294 (internal citations omitted)

A statute in point is § 810(a) of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. In Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., the Supreme Court held that Congress intended to extend standing to the full extent allowed under Article III when it enacted § 810(a) of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which authorizes any person injured by discriminatory housing practice to file a complaint with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Trafficante, 409 U.S. 205(1972); see Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 165-66 (1997). Accordingly, the Supreme Court held that the statute accorded standing to two tenants of an apartment complex who complained that, because their landlord discriminated against nonwhites on account of race, they "lost the social benefits of living in an integrated community, missed business and professional advantages that would have accrued from living with members of minority groups, and suffered from being 'stigmatized' as residents of a 'white ghetto.'" Trafficante, 409 U.S. at 205. The Supreme Court reasoned that "[it] can give vitality to § 810(a) only by a generous construction which gives standing to sue to all in the same housing unit who are injured by racial discrimination in the management of those facilities within the coverage of the statute." Id. at 212.

The Defendants assert that the case or controversy requirement is not met in the present case because Plaintiff Fuiten lacks standing. The Defendants further assert that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Fuiten is not within the zone of interests protected by the statute in question, FDCPA. If a defendant asserts that subject matter jurisdiction is not evident on the face of the complaint, a motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(1) is analyzed as any other motion to dismiss, by assuming for purposes of the motion that the allegations in the complaint are true. However, if the complaint is formally sufficient but the defendant contends that there is "in fact no subject matter jurisdiction, the movant may use affidavits and other material to support the motion. The burden of proof on a 12(b)(1) issue is on the party asserting ...


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