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Cooney v. Casady

September 11, 2009

DEBORAH ORLANDO COONEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RHONDA CASADY, ANDREW SOSNOWSKI, AND LESLEY MAGNABOSCO DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff has filed, pro se, a two-count complaint against two attorneys, defendants Casady and Sosnowski, who represented the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") during plaintiff's administrative appeal of state court proceedings relating to custody of her children, and a court reporter, defendant Magnabosco, who plaintiff claims was responsible for alterations in the official transcripts of those proceedings. In the first count, plaintiff asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for due process violations. In the second count, she asserts a state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). Each defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint on various grounds. For the reasons that follow, the motions are denied.

I.

Plaintiff's claims stem from proceedings that began in 2001, when her ex-husband sought custody of the couple's two children.

At some point during the custody case, DCFS received a report of child abuse against plaintiff and began an investigation. This investigation---which plaintiff alleges was fraught with irregularities--culminated in an "indicated" finding of mental injury against plaintiff.*fn1 Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal of the indicated finding, and it is defendants' conduct during and after the administrative appeal that she challenges in the present action.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant Casady represented DCFS in the administrative appeal from its inception through January 18, 2007, when she withdrew her appearance. During that time, Casady allegedly engaged in a pattern of misconduct including dilatory discovery tactics, amending the indicated finding to include substantial risk of physical harm without disclosing her basis for the amendment, filing a false police report against plaintiff's counsel in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings, engaging in ex parte communications with the Administrative Law Judge, and, at some point after the appeal was denied, directing defendant Magnabosco to falsify evidence in the record by altering the transcripts of the administrative hearings.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant Sosnowski took over DCFS's representation after Casady withdrew. She claims that Sosnowski was "aware of Casady's wrongful conduct and of the deficiencies in the DCFS case against [plaintiff]," but intentionally "continued with the course of conduct began (sic) by Casady." Plaintiff further asserts that Sosnowski failed to disclose to plaintiff that he was Chief Deputy General Counsel for DCFS, representing instead that he was "in private practice." Sosnowski also failed to provide plaintiff with a complete and accurate set of DCFS exhibits for the administrative hearing, and, like Casady, allegedly directed defendant Magnabosco to alter the transcripts of the hearings.

Plaintiff asserts two injuries based on Casady and Sosnowski's unconstitutional conduct: 1) her administrative appeal was denied, and 2) she was listed on DCFS's central register and terminated from her employment. Plaintiff also alleges that all of the defendants' conduct was extreme and outrageous, and that they knew their actions would cause her severe emotional distress.

Plaintiff's allegations against Magnabosco---whose involvement in the alleged misconduct began after the administrative appeal was denied on March 30, 2007--are narrow but a bit confusing (as discussed in a later section). Plaintiff claims that Magnabosco, acting at the direction of Casady and Sosnowski and in concert with them to deprive plaintiff of due process and to inflict emotional distress, altered the official transcripts of the proceedings after the conclusion of those proceedings in ways that bolstered DCFS's case and covered up wrongdoing by the remaining defendants.

Plaintiff asserts two specific injuries caused by "the altered transcripts"*fn2 1) the alterations "benefited (sic) the DCFS in maintaining its indicated findings" against her, and 2) plaintiff's circuit court appeal of the administrative findings was extensively delayed.

In their various motions, defendants assert that dismissal is appropriate under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), arguing that 1) I lack jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; 2) the statute of limitations on plaintiff's claims has run; 3) defendant Casady is entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity, or, in the alternative, qualified immunity; and 4) plaintiff fails to state either a § 1983 conspiracy claim or a state law IIED claim.

II.

A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In resolving defendants' motions, I must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. McMillan v. Collection Prof'ls, Inc., 455 F.3d 754, 758 (7th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff must, nevertheless, allege sufficient factual material ...


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