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Shekar v. Donnelly

June 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, District Judge


On November 30, 2005, plaintiff Garan Shekar, ("Shekar"), filed a pro se complaint against defendant Judge Thomas More Donnelly ("Judge Donnelly"). (Dkt. No. 1). On April 20, 2006, Shekar filed two pending motions, a motion for sanctions against Clerk Michael W. Dobbins, ("Clerk Dobbins"), (Dkt. No. 12), and a motion seeking to vacate this court's April 3, 2006 order and to recuse this court as a matter of right. (Dkt. No. 16). For the reasons set forth below, this court grants Shekar's motion for recusal.


A. Shekar's Complaint

Shekar's complaint of November 30, 2005 seeks a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Judge Donnelly and sets forth the following information. (Dkt. No. 1). Judge Donnelly is an Associate Judge in the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Shekar states in his complaint that he is a graduate professional electronic engineer who owns and operates a small engineering firm. (Dkt. No. 1 at pg. 2). Shekar retained attorney Joel Handler ("Handler"), in a breach of contract matter. (Id.) Although Shekar advanced money to Handler to be held in an escrow account, the parties' agreement was that Handler would only be paid on the contingency basis if Handler won the case. (Id.) Handler not only did not win the case, but also allegedly stole Skekar's escrow funds by illegally converting them into attorney's fees. (Id.)

Shekar reported Handler's alleged criminal misconduct to the Lake County State's Attorney Mike Waller because Handler is a resident of Highland Park, Illinois. State's Attorney Waller performed a three week investigation and concluded that criminal felony charges against Handler were warranted. (Id. at pgs. 2-3). State's Attorney Waller did not press charges, however, due to jurisdictional concerns and instead referred the matter to the Cook County State's Attorney. (Id. at pg. 3). A Chicago Police Commander informed Shekar that the Cook County State's Attorney Financial Crime Bureau had approved the bringing of charges against Handler. (Id.) The Chicago Police Commander also provided Shekar with the police report number HJ 585925. (Id.)

Handler became aware of Shekar's communications with law enforcement and attempted to find a way out from the forthcoming criminal charges. (Id.) Handler raced to the Circuit Court of Cook County and filed what Shekar characterizes as a "frivolous, baseless law suit" in the First Municipal District of Circuit Court of Cook County ("the Cook County lawsuit"). (Id.) The suit sought $8,059.00 in costs and expenses allegedly incurred by Handler for the underlying breach of contract case. Shekar's complaint, however, alleges that these costs and expenses were already paid and regardless Handler had no right to convert the escrow funds into attorney's fees. Handler was able to quickly obtain a default judgment, presented that default judgment to the prosecutors and police and in turn no charges were ever filed against Handler.

(Id. at pg. 4)

According to Shekar, Handler obstructed justice and engaged in a criminal conspiracy that utilized the default judgment from the Cook County lawsuit to improperly manipulated law enforcement and the prosecutors into not pressing what were otherwise valid charges relating to the alleged theft of Shekar's escrow funds. Shekar alleges in his complaint that he was not initially aware of the Cook County lawsuit because he was never served with a summons in the case. (Id.) Once he gained knowledge of the case, Shekar filed a special and limited appearance and the court vacated the default judgment but this was after Handler had already fraudulently convinced law enforcement not to proceed with pressing the charges. (Id.)

The Cook County case was on appeal on "jurisdictional issues for lack of service and no service of summons" throughout 2004. (Id.) However, in January 2005, while the case was still on appeal, Handler was again able to obtain a second judgment by defrauding the court. (Id.) This second fraudulent judgment was obtained without Shekar's general appearance in the case or any proceeding on the merits. (Id.) Judge Donnelly is assigned to conduct post-judgment proceeding to collect "this fraudulent and unconstitutional judgment."*fn1 (Id.) Shekar concludes the factual overview section of his complaint by stating that he "is a victim of travesty of justice, deliberate injustice knowingly committed by [Judge] Donnelly and the State Court and such gross injustice was committed with wanton, malice and fraud, all of which will pierce the judicial immunity veil and hold the defendant accountable as any other citizen who violated the law of the land." (Id.)

He expands on his factual allegations in the six counts of his complaint where he alleges that: (1) Judge Donnelly is taking these actions against Shekar in retaliation for a complaint Shekar filed against Judge Donnelly with the Judicial Inquiry Board, (Id. at pg. 5), (2) Judge Donnelly forced a trial on the post-judgment issues within a seven day period despite the fact that the case had been on appeal for more than a year, (Id.), (3) Judge Donnelly knowingly allowed a perjured affidavit from a special process server named Jonathan Griffin ("Griffin"), who was working for Handler and falsely impersonated a sheriff's officer when he tried to serve Shekar with a post-judgment citation to discover assets, (Id. at pg. 6), (4) Shekar characterizes Judge Donnelly's actions in this case as a "judicial dictatorship and judicial tyranny," (Id. at pg. 9), (5) Judge Donnelly has inappropriately denied 15 motions that he filed in his state court case, (Id. at pg. 10), and (6) Judge Donnelly has "acted in a manner [of] conduct unbecoming of a constitutional officer by acting as a party to a litigant rather than a neutral judicial officer. (Id. at pg. 13).

Shekar's complaint alleges six counts: Count One alleges a constitutional violation of Due Process and Violation of the First Amendment, Count Two alleges conspiracy to obstruct justice; accessory and accomplice to fraud on court, Count Three alleges violation of Equal Protection of law, Count Four alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, Count Five argues that veil of judicial immunity should be pierced and punitive damages should be awarded in this case, Count VI seeks the "extra ordinary" remedy of enjoining the state court process and dismissing the judgment as unconstitutional and invalid. He demands monetary damages in excess of two million dollars and an injunctive order from this court stopping the state court proceedings and dismissing the judgment in state court as unconstitutional.

B. Proceedings Before This Court Prior to the Pending Motions for Recusal and Sanctions

Shekar filed his complaint before this court on November 30, 2005 but there was no proof in the record of either payment of the $250 filing fee*fn2 nor a petition to proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP"). This court issued an order on December 15, 2005 instructing Shekar to pay the filing fee, file a petition to proceed IFP or file proof of prior payment by December 28, 2005. (Dkt. No. 4). This court also warned Shekar that failure to pay the ...

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