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Santana v. Cook County Board of Review

August 18, 2009

VICTOR SANTANA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Counsel for Victor Santana ("Santana") has just delivered to this Court's chambers a copy of Santana's Complaint against the County of Cook, its Board of Review ("Board"), three Board Commissioners, Board's Chief Deputy Commissioner and two First Assistant Board Commissioners. This memorandum order is issued sua sponte because the Complaint flouts some fundamental principles of federal pleading.

For more than seven decades the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rules") have prescribed a notice pleading regimen, rather than the fact pleading practice that prevails in the Illinois state courts. Rule 8(a) uses the term "short and plain statement" not once but twice in speaking of a plaintiff's pleading:

(a) A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain:

(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;

(2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and

(3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.

Moreover, consistently with the conceptual distinction between the fundamental federal concept of a "claim" and the state courts' "cause of action" concept (see NAACP v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 978 F.2d 287, 291-93 (7th Cir. 1992)), Rule 10(b) prescribes the use of separate counts only in these terms:

If doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence--and each defense other than a denial--must be stated in a separate count or defense.*fn1 In this case Santana's counsel has occupied more than 60 pages, comprising no fewer than 269 paragraphs divided into 19 so-called "counts," in setting out Santana's grievances. Neither the defense counsel nor this Court may fairly be required to cope with such an obviously noncompliant pleading. Moreover, even on Santana's own terms many of the purported counts are problematic. Without seeking to be exhaustive, this Court has noted at least these matters (it should be understood that what follows do not reflect this Court's ultimate rulings on the subjects discussed hereafter--except as to the clearly improper Count III--but are rather its threshold impressions as to the various counts):

1. It appears that Santana's grievances stem from his having been barred "from the private office area" of the Board (Complaint ¶13) and, because he is apparently not a lawyer, from being permitted to represent taxpayers before the Board as specified in its Rule 1, quoted in Complaint ¶72:

Individual taxpayers may retain an attorney or represent themselves before the Board. Other taxpayers, including corporations, must be represented by an attorney. A person who is not an attorney may not represent a taxpayer before the Board.

In candor, this Court needs an explanation as to Santana's (or anyone else's) asserted property or liberty interest (a) in being admitted to the private office area at the Board (Complaint ¶13) or (b) in the claimed right, as a non-lawyer, to represent taxpayers before the Board (even though non-lawyer Board personnel may be permitted to assist taxpayers in dealing with their questions).

2. In light of the foregoing, any claim of deprivation of liberty or property without due process (Count I, ¶¶83-92) would appear to be questionable at best.

3. Santana's reputational claims (Count II, ¶¶93-111; Count XI, ¶¶190-196; Count XII, ¶¶197-205; and Count XIX, ¶¶262-69), even apart from their ringing changes on the same ...


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