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Goldschmidt v. Coco

June 29, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo United States District Judge


This is a declaratory judgment action brought by plaintiff Jona Goldschmidt ("Goldschmidt") against the Honorable Gloria G. Coco ("Judge Coco"), a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2007). Goldschmidt alleges that a courtroom policy of Judge Coco that prohibited note-taking and the fact that a purported violation of Judge Coco's policy caused a courtroom bailiff to seize him violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Goldschmidt seeks a declaratory judgment that her policies violate the First and Fourth Amendments. Judge Coco has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Goldschmidt's claims are moot because writing is not currently prohibited in her courtroom, and that she had no involvement in Goldschmidt's detention. Judge Coco also contends that the Eleventh Amendment bars Goldschmidt from obtaining a declaration that past actions violated the Constitution. For the following reasons, I grant Judge Coco's motion.


Summary judgment is appropriate where the record and affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ptasznik v. St. Joseph Hosp., 464 F.3d 691, 694 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). If the moving party meets this burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 694 (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Assocs., Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 110 (7th Cir. 1990)). The existence of merely a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). I must construe all facts in the light most favorable to Goldschmidt and draw all reasonable and justifiable inferences in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Goldschmidt, the following are the facts relevant to Judge Coco's motion: Goldschmidt is a college professor and an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois. Goldschmidt allows his students the option of monitoring court sessions as part of their course work. One of the courtrooms at which some students attended hearings was Judge Coco's. Judge Coco is a Supervising Associate Circuit Court Judge of the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County, assigned to the Domestic Violence Section.

Goldschmidt contends that it came to his attention from his students that Judge Coco would not allow his students to take notes while in her courtroom. On April 22, 2004, Goldschmidt and a colleague attended proceedings in Judge Coco's courtroom. At that time, Judge Coco's courtroom was located at 1340 South Michigan Avenue. When Goldschmidt went to Judge Coco's courtroom, he saw two signs posted outside. One read, "All non-party observers must identify themselves to the sheriff" and one read "No talking, reading, writing, hats, sunglasses, while court is in session." Inside Judge Coco's courtroom, Goldschmidt saw another sign which read:

There is no reading, writing, sleeping, talking or gum chewing while court is in session. No food or drinks are allowed in the courtroom. All pagers and cell phones must be turned off. Thank you. C.C. sheriffs."

Goldschmidt took a seat and Judge Coco began her opening statement. Goldschmidt began taking notes, and Judge Coco said to him, "Sir, you are not to be taking notes in this courtroom." Goldschmidt responded, "Why not?"; he contends he said this in a normal tone and did not raise his voice. Goldschmidt contends that Judge Coco then nodded her head to her bailiff, as is her common practice to enforce her courtroom rules. The bailiff then escorted Goldschmidt out of Judge Coco's courtroom. His notepad was not seized, and he had no further interaction with Judge Coco that day. Instead, after he was removed from Judge Coco's courtroom he went into the courtroom of another judge, Judge Panarese, where he was again informed by a deputy that he was not allowed to take notes. After being so informed, he voluntarily left the courtroom. At that time, he was detained by a bailiff. Goldschmidt concedes that Judge Coco did not instruct any court staff to detain or hold him in the courthouse.

Goldschmidt subsequently returned to Judge Coco's courtroom on July 21, 2005. At that time, he saw no posted rule notices, and he was informed that he could now take notes in Judge Coco's courtroom. Since the incident on April 22, 2004, he has not been prohibited from taking notes in Judge Coco's courtroom.

Judge Coco has submitted an affidavit in which she avers that she has never promulgated written rules of courtroom decorum for other judges in the Domestic Violence Section, and that "[s]igns posted inside and outside of the courtroom pertaining to courtroom decorum . . . predated my assignment there and were, I assume, posted by the Sheriff's Office." However, Goldschmidt has presented an affidavit from a court reporter who was assigned on numerous occasions to report proceedings in her courtroom on Michigan Avenue. The court reporter avers that (1) only after Judge Coco's arrival did she recall signs being posted setting forth written rules of courtroom decorum; (2) on numerous occasions she observed Judge Coco directing persons in her courtroom to abide by the rules set forth on her courtroom signs; and 3) she never saw any sheriff's employees posting signs in Judge Coco's courtroom. Goldschmidt has also presented an affidavit from a deputy clerk who at times in the past was assigned to Judge Coco's courtroom on Michigan Avenue. That clerk avers that (1) on numerous occasions she heard Judge Coco direct persons in her courtroom to abide by her decorum rules; (2) she never heard any sheriff's deputies say that the rules they announced at the opening of court were sheriff's department rules; (3) she understood the rules to be Judge Coco's rules; and (4) she never saw any sheriff employees posting signs in Judge Coco's courtroom.

On October 16, 2005, the Domestic Violence Section of the Circuit Court of Cook County moved to 555 West Harrison Street in Chicago; Judge Coco is now assigned to a courtroom at that location. Her new courtroom is larger than her old courtroom. Judge Coco has never posted signs in her new courtroom prohibiting note-taking, and she contends that there is no policy in her new courtroom prohibiting "writing during the judge's opening statement or otherwise." In addition, in an affidavit submitted as part of her motion for summary judgment Judge Coco states that she does not intend to establish or enact a future policy prohibiting note-taking in her courtroom.

Goldschmidt's original complaint alleged that Judge Coco violated his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights by prohibiting note-taking in her courtroom and by having him arrested for violating her policy prohibiting note-taking.*fn1 Judge Coco moved to dismiss the complaint, and I dismissed the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims but allowed the First Amendment claim to proceed. See Goldschmidt v. Coco, 413 F. Supp.2d 949 (N.D. Ill. 2006). Goldschmidt then filed an amended complaint, alleging the preceding claim and alleging a Fourth Amendment violation on the basis that Judge Coco supervised the bailiff in her capacity as supervising judge for the courthouse and through her responsibility for promulgating her courthouse-wide courtroom decorum policies that the bailiff accused Goldschmidt of violating when he seized him. (Id. at ¶¶ 17, 20.)

Judge Coco raises three arguments in her motion for summary judgment. First, she contends that Goldschmidt's claims are moot because she has no current prohibition on taking notes in her new courtroom. Second, she argues that summary judgment on Goldschmidt's Fourth Amendment claim is appropriate because she was not involved in his detention. Third, she contends that the Eleventh ...

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