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Schindler v. University of Illinois at Chicago Legal Council

August 20, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiff Robert Schindler ("Plaintiff"), pro se, filed a rather verbose 38-page complaint against defendant The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois-mistakenly named as the "University of Illinois at Chicago Legal Council"-and the University President, Joseph B. White (collectively, "defendant"), alleging various wrongs. These allegations arose primarily out of an October 2007 incident in which plaintiff, a University of Illinois student, was involved. Defendant now moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 and 12(b)(6) on the ground that the complaint does not cognizably state the multiple causes of action in a manner that gives defendant adequate notice of the claims or, alternatively, does not state a claim for which relief can be granted. For the reasons discussed below, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.


In October of 2007, plaintiff was placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct on the allegation that he had entered a woman's restroom and looked under a stall door at a young woman who was inside. Plaintiff, who is legally blind, claims that the incident was a result of inadequate signage designating the restrooms, and his attempt, once inside, to find out if he was actually inside a restroom. Nevertheless, the young woman reported the incident to University police, who apprehended plaintiff shortly thereafter.

Plaintiff alleges several events that followed this incident upon which he bases his complaint. First was defendant's demand that he appear before the Student Affairs Judicial Committee ("SAJC") for a hearing pertaining to the October restroom incident. Plaintiff claims he felt pressured to attend, lest his status at the University be threatened. He obtained an attorney to represent him at the proceeding. Both sides-that is, plaintiff and the alleged victim-were instructed to bring all relevant evidence with them to plead their respective cases. At the close of the proceeding, the SAJC found that plaintiff had been in violation of the University rules and had engaged in actions that injured the "community interest." He received a one year suspension as a punishment.

Another incident concerned an arrest for a bail bond violation. In an initial hearing for his disorderly conduct charge, the court barred him from being in the presence or vicinity of the victim. Three days later, Chicago police arrived at his house and placed him under arrest, claiming that the victim had reported a violation of that order. He was later released on bail and the violation charge was eventually dropped by the State's Attorney.

Plaintiff was represented by appointed counsel at his criminal trial for disorderly conduct. He was found guilty. After his trial, plaintiff's attorney requested leave to withdraw from the case, citing an inability to work with plaintiff due to significantly varying views on how the case should be handled. At that time, plaintiff chose to represent himself pro se, and that is also how he brings the instant action.

Based on these incidents, plaintiff alleges numerous counts for which he seeks equitable and monetary relief, and punitive damages. His complaint covers a lengthy gamut of actions by defendant that he claims violated his civil rights, his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and his rights as a citizen under the Illinois Constitution.


Standard of Review

The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to rule on its merits. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir.1990). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Travel All Over the World, Inc. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1428 (7th Cir.1996). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations,... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action will not do...." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 1965. In addition, plaintiff is a pro se litigant, the court must be mindful that his pleadings should be construed liberally, since the standard of sufficiency for a pro se litigant is not as high. Thomas v. Clark, 48 F.3d 1222 (7th Cir. 1995).

Federal Claims

Of plaintiff's 14 count complaint, only counts four and five allege federal claims. The remainder of his claims are based on state law. The feasibility of the federal claims bears directly on whether the court will exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims, and so they provide an appropriate starting point. In these counts, plaintiff alleges violations of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. His Fifth Amendment claim is not entirely clear; there are two possible interpretations that could result from the plaintiff's allegations. Neither interpretation, however, would be sufficient to defeat defendant's motion to dismiss.

The first possibility is that plaintiff is claiming that his Fifth Amendment due process right was violated by way of his "need" to give his side of the story during his criminal trial. Specifically, plaintiff claims the situation was a "she said he said case," and not testifying at his trial would not have given him a chance to tell his side of the story, which he wanted to do. He thus concludes that he was compelled to testify. This claim fails, however, because plaintiff admits in the same paragraph in which he alleges he was "compelled" to testify that he did so voluntarily. He cannot ...

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