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Shelton v. Madigan

October 29, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow


On August 7, 2006, plaintiffs Linda Shelton ("Shelton") and Vernon Glass ("Glass") (together, "plaintiffs"), filed a 14-count complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 et seq., seeking damages, injunctive and declaratory reliefagainst Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of Illinois, the Illinois Attorney General's Office, and two assistant attorneys general, as well as the Illinois State Police, its Director, Larry Trent, and three of its investigators (collectively, "defendants").*fn1

Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment and damages against all defendants for allegedly depriving plaintiffs of their constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments based on their acts taken in furtherance of a prosecution of plaintiffs for Medicaid fraud in the courts of Illinois. Defendants have moved to dismiss all of plaintiffs' claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Based on the jurisdictional considerations discussed below, as well as the defendant's failure to state a claim against certain defendants, defendants' motion to dismiss [#29] is granted.


When considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. McMillan v. Collection Professionals Inc., 455 F.3d 754, 758 (7th Cir. 2006). The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits. Weiler v. Household Finance Corp., 101 F.3d 519, 524 n.1 (7th Cir.1996) (citations omitted).

In ruling on defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff's pro se complaint will be liberally construed and held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed. 2d 652 (1972) (per curiam); accord McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). A pro se complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears "beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Haines, 404 U.S. at 520--21.


According to the complaint, plaintiffs were indicted by a Cook County grand jury for vendor fraud and theft and are currently facing criminal charges in the Cook County Circuit Court under Case No. 04 CR 17571. Assistant Attorney General John Fearon appeared before the grand jury, and Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Pantley is presiding over the criminal case. Plaintiffs allege that the indictment and pending criminal charges against them are null and void for a number of reasons, for example, that (1) the grand jury that issued the indictment was never legally impaneled; (2) the Attorney General's Office lacks authority to prosecute the plaintiffs without the authorization of the Cook County State's Attorney, and no such authorization was granted; and (3) the Circuit Court of Cook County has no jurisdiction to hear the case. Plaintiffs also protest several rulings by Judge Pantley, including an order holding Shelton in criminal contempt, as well as a number of orders that Shelton undergo a mental fitness exam.

The complaint alleges seven counts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count I alleges that one or more defendants failed to intervene to stop a deprivation of constitutional rights, and aided and abetted the deprivation of constitutional rights, allowing the prosecution to go forward despite having knowledge that it was baseless. Count II alleges indictment, arrest, and prosecution without probable cause. Counts III, IV, V, VI, and VII assert claims for unlawful arrest, seizure, and imprisonment. Count VIII alleges conspiracy to deprive the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights by prosecuting the plaintiffs for vendor fraud without constitutional or statutory authority to do so. Count IX is a "Monell claim" against the Illinois State Police and the Attorney General's Office, alleging that both agencies were on notice that the prosecution of plaintiffs and similarly situated individuals for vendor fraud is unconstitutional. Because Monell claims can only be asserted against local government units and not against state agencies, plaintiffs' Monell claims must be dismissed and will not be considered further in the discussion below.*fn2 Plaintiffs also allege several supplemental state law claims, for malicious prosecution (Count X), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count XI), and civil conspiracy (Count XII), and respondeat superior against the two departments of the State of Illinois (Counts XIII and XIV).


I. Younger Bars to Plaintiffs' Claims for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief

Defendants contend that the principles announced by the Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed. 2d 669 (1971), and elaborated in its subsequent decisions, see, e.g., Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S.Ct. 764, 27 L.Ed. 2d 688 (1971), prevent this court from granting injunctive or declaratory relief against any of the defendants. The complaint does not explicitly seek injunctive relief (in some instances it seeks only declaratory relief),*fn3 but plaintiffs assert in their response that they seek "any relief that is equitable and just, including injunctive relief . . . . although this phrase was inadvertently left out of some of the counts." Pls.' Resp. at 49. Plainly, one thrust of the complaint is to stop the state court prosecution from going forward. See, e.g.,Compl. at 4--5 (alleging that the criminal cases against the plaintiffs "are a disgrace on the courts"); id. at 10 (arguing that the prosecutions are "fraudulent, in violation of Federal Code, illegal, and null and void"); id. at 11 (alleging that "[t]he indictments are fatally flawed"). Therefore, the court will address whether injunctive and declaratory relief is barred by the Younger doctrine.

The Younger doctrine generally requires federal courts to abstain from exercising jurisdiction, even if all jurisdictional requirements are met, if doing so is necessary to avoid interfering with pending state criminal prosecutions. See generally Younger, 401 U.S. 37. In Younger, the Court stressed that "[f]ederal injunctions against state criminal statutes, either in their entirety or with respect to their separate and distinct prohibitions, are not to be granted as a matter of course, even if such statutes are unconstitutional." Id. at 46. As the Court explained in Younger, this policy stems from the doctrines of equity and comity.*fn4 See id. at 43--44. In Samuels, the Court extended Younger to declaratory judgments, holding that federal courts may not provide declaratory relief to a plaintiff who is subject to a pending criminal prosecution in state court. 401 U.S. at 71--73. As the Court notedin Samuels, "ordinarily a declaratory judgment will result in precisely the same interference with and disruption of state proceedings that the longstanding policy limiting injunctions was designed to avoid." Id. at 72.*fn5

Plaintiffs cite Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908), for the proposition that state officers may be sued in an official capacity for injunctive relief and argue that because "the Eleventh Amendment does allow prospective relief in the form of an injunction . . . . an injunction preventing further fraudulent criminal proceedings that violate the Federal Medicaid Code would be appropriate." Pls.' Resp. at 49 (emphasis added). Although plaintiffs are correct that, under certain circumstances, Ex parte Young permits prospective injunctive relief against state officials, that case represents a limited exception to the Eleventh Amendment and the abstention doctrines subsequently articulated by the Court in Younger and Samuels. The prospective relief requested by the plaintiffs is an injunction against a pending state criminal prosecution-the very sort of interference by federal courts that Younger expressly forbids. See Palmer v. City of Chicago, 755 F.2d 560, 573--74 (7th Cir. 1985) (quoting Younger, 401 U.S. at 403) (noting the "'longstanding ...

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