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Gilbert v. Illinois State Board of Education

September 24, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss [75] and supplemental motion to dismiss [94] Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, the Defendants' supplemental motion to dismiss [94] is granted and the initial motion to dismiss [75] therefore is denied as moot.

I. Background

A. Facts

Plaintiff Robert Gilbert ("Gilbert") was employed by High School District 211 ("District 211") as a tenured teacher. Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 9. District 211 brought charges for dismissal against Gilbert to terminate his employment. Id. ¶ 11. Gilbert wished to contest the charges and requested that the Illinois State Board of Education ("ISBE") appoint a hearing officer to conduct a hearing on the charges. Id. ¶ 12. The ISBE appointed Ms. Angela Murphy, Esq. to preside over the hearing. Id. ¶ 13. At the administrative hearing, which took place over forty full and partial days, only District 211 presented evidence. Id. ¶ 16. At the close of District 211's case, in February 2001, Gilbert filed a motion with the hearing officer requesting judgment in his favor and an order dismissing the charges and reinstating his employment. Id. ¶ 17. After briefing by both sides, the hearing officer granted Gilbert's motion on two separate grounds and ordered Gilbert reinstated to employment. Id. ¶ 18.

District 211 appealed the decision of the hearing officer to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Third Am. Compl. ¶ 19.*fn1 The administrative review appeal was heard by Judge Sophia Hall. Id. ¶ 20. Judge Hall overturned one of the hearing officer's grounds for ordering reinstatement, but upheld the other. Id. ¶ 21. Accordingly, Judge Hall ordered Gilbert's employment at District 211 reinstated. Id.

District 211 appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court. Third Am. Compl. ¶ 22. On August 21, 2003, the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's decision to overturn one of the hearing officer's rationale for reinstating Gilbert, but reversed the trial court's decision as to the other ground, overturning the lower court's order of reinstatement. Id. ¶ 23.*fn2 The Appellate Court concluded by stating Gilbert's discharge was "reinstated." Id. ¶ 24. Gilbert sought rehearing and clarification in the Appellate Court, specifically asking whether he could continue the administrative hearing. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Those requests were denied. Id.¶¶ 28, 30. Gilbert then filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, which also was denied. Id. ¶ 31. Gilbert did not seek further review in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Appellate Court remanded the matter to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Third Am. Compl. ¶ 32. On remand, Gilbert asked Judge Hall to order the ISBE to re-convene for further hearing so that Gilbert could present evidence on his behalf. Id. ¶ 33. Judge Hall denied the request to remand to the ISBE for further hearing on the ground that her jurisdiction was limited by the scope of the Appellate Court's decision. Id. ¶¶ 34, 35. Judge Hall entered an order reinstating Gilbert's dismissal, but indicated that the ISBE could act if it felt that it had the authority to do so. Id.

Gilbert next requested that the ISBE reconvene his hearing. Third Am. Compl. Id. ¶ 37. In April 2005, Defendants ISBE and Jonathan Furr, who was ISBE's legal counsel, determined that, despite their concern that Gilbert had not been given his right to a fair hearing, the ISBE did not have authority to act, because neither the Appellate Court nor the Circuit Court had remanded the case to the ISBE for further proceedings. Id. ¶ 38. The record is devoid of any indication that Gilbert appealed either Judge Hall's or the ISBE's rulings on remand.

B. Procedural History of This Case

On August 16, 2005, Gilbert filed this federal action, but took a voluntary dismissal on November 14, 2005. On May 3, 2006,he moved to re-open the case and on May 23, 2006, he filed a two-count Amended Complaint. Count I alleged a deprivation of due process and sought an injunction requiring that Gilbert's dismissal hearing be reconvened; Count II sought the same injunctive relief as well as a declaration that the Illinois School Code, as applied to Gilbert, was unconstitutional. On March 30, 2007, Judge Guzman issued an order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' Joint Rule 12(b)(1) & (6) Motion to Dismiss. The Court dismissed:

(i) Count I without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (ii) all claims against the State of Illinois and ISBE without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction based on the Eleventh Amendment; (iii) Count II, in part, without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction to the extent that is seeks an injunction requiring Defendants to reconvene Gilbert's dismissal hearing; and (iv) Count II without prejudice against the judges, the ISBE members and the ISBE attorney sued in their individual capacity. The Court allowed Gilbert to proceed only on a claim for declaratory judgment against District 211 in Court II.

Gilbert sought leave to file a Second Amended Complainton April 30, 2007. On October 30, 2007, Judge Guzman entered an order denying Gilbert leave to file the Second Amended Complaint because he found that it too closely resembled the dismissed portions of the Amended Complaint. Instead, in the same order denying leave to file the Second Amended Complaint, the Court granted Gilbert leave to file a one-count Third Amended Complaint limited "solely" to a claim seeking "a declaratory judgment against the State of Illinois, the ISBE, District 211, as well as the judges, the ISBE members, and the ISBE attorney in their official capacity that the pertinent provisions of the Illinois School Code and the Illinois Administrative Code are void for vagueness."

Gilbert filed the currently operative Third Amended Complaint for Declaratory Relief and Other Relief against Defendants ISBE, Furr, Judge Hall, Justice Greiman, Justice Theis, the State of Illinois, and High School District 211 on November 8, 2007. Notwithstanding the limitations imposed by Judge Guzman, the Third Amended Complaint asks for (i) a declaratory judgment that Sections 24-12 of the Illinois School Code, its implementing regulations in the Illinois Administrative Code, and those portions of Illinois' administrative review law which have been applied to Gilbert so as to deny him an opportunity to defend against dismissal charges are unconstitutional as applied to Gilbert, and a specific finding against all Defendants that they have applied the law against Gilbert in an unconstitutional manner or that they have applied a law that is unconstitutional against him, which has resulted in him being denied his right to due process; (ii) an award of actual, ...

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