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Jones v. Newbon

June 18, 2010

LANCE S. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIE MAE NEWBON, R.J. FLECK, AMY WOLFF AND LESLIE GRAVES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on Defendant Judge Leslie Graves' Motion to Dismiss (Graves Motion) (d/e 16), Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (d/e 17), Defendant Officer R.J. Fleck's Motion to Dismiss (Fleck Motion) (d/e 19), Memorandum in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (d/e 19-1), Defendant Amy Wolff's Motion to Dismiss (Wolff Motion) (d/e 21), and Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss (d/e 22) (collectively Motions). Pro se Plaintiff Lance S. Jones has filed his Response to Defendant[']s Motion to Dismiss (Response to Graves Motion) (d/e 23) (directed at the Graves Motion). Plaintiff did not respond to the Fleck Motion or the Wolff Motion by the April 15, 2010, deadline. The Court granted Plaintiff until May 20, 2010, to respond to the Motions, but he did not do so. See Text Order of April 29, 2010. Accordingly, the Court assumes that Plaintiff has no objection to the Fleck Motion or the Wolff Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Graves Motion, Fleck Motion, and Wolff Motion are granted.

FACTS

According to the Complaint (d/e 1), at approximately 1:30 p.m. on May 23, 2009, Plaintiff was at home cleaning the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Krystal Beck, in Springfield, Illinois. Beck had been arrested the previous day for domestic battery. While Plaintiff was cleaning the apartment, Defendant Officer Fleck approached Defendant Willie Mae Newbon, Plaintiff's landlord at the time, and requested a key to Plaintiff's apartment. Newbon believed that a burglary was taking place in Plaintiff's apartment. Officer Fleck did not have Plaintiff's or Beck's consent to search the apartment, and he did not have a search or arrest warrant. Newbon provided Fleck with the key.

Fleck went to Plaintiff's apartment and entered, allegedly with his gun drawn and threatening "fatal action." Complaint, p. 6. Fleck, who had responded to the domestic disturbance at the apartment the day before, arrested Plaintiff for burglary, and conducted a search of the apartment. Fleck discovered two envelopes addressed to Plaintiff; these pieces of mail demonstrated that Plaintiff, who is a registered sex offender in the State of Illinois, had failed to notify of a change of address as required under Illinois law. Plaintiff asserts that he had only lived in the apartment for three days, and that, under Illinois law, he had five days to notify the State of his change of address.

Plaintiff was charged with unlawful failure to register as a sex offender and prosecuted by Defendant Wolff, an Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) for Sangamon County, Illinois. Plaintiff alleges that Wolff brought this charge against him despite knowing that Defendant Fleck had arrested Plaintiff in contravention of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiff's criminal case was assigned to Judge Leslie Graves, who held a preliminary hearing on June 11, 2009. Plaintiff alleges that Judge Graves "bogusly found probable cause" to detain him pending trial, and that Judge Graves knew that Defendant Fleck had violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights, and that Defendant Wolff had falsely charged Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff further claims that Judge Graves consistently ruled against him because he is a registered sex offender. Despite this allegation, Judge Graves dismissed the charge against Plaintiff on October 26, 2009, on motion of the State.

Plaintiff claims that Defendants Fleck and Wolff conjured up the criminal charge against him "on a revenge basis" because of his previous encounters with both Defendants. Id., p. 6, 7. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Fleck had threatened to "get [Plaintiff]!" after a verbal altercation between the two in November 2008. Id., p. 6. Plaintiff alleges that Wolff maliciously prosecuted him because Plaintiff "obtained a number of dismissals against her" during the past five years. Id., p. 7. Plaintiff claims that Wolff said that she "would get [Plaintiff] if its [sic] the last thing [she ever does]!" Id., p. 7.

Plaintiff brings this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking "financial compensation" from each Defendant, in addition to a public apology and promise that there will not be any "reprisals for this lawsuit" and "that the harrassment [sic] will also end as well." Complaint, p. 7-8.

ANALYSIS

Defendants Graves, Fleck, and Wolff argue that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) provides that dismissal is proper where a complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). While a complaint need not contain detailed, specific factual allegations, it must contain sufficient facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible if the plaintiff "pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). The Seventh Circuit has held that a claim is plausible on its face if it provides the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 2007).

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint. Hager v. City of West Peoria, 84 F.3d 865, 868-69 (7th Cir. 1996); Covington Court, Ltd. v. Village of Oak Brook, 77 F.3d 177, 178 (7th Cir. 1996). The Court will address each Defendant's Motion in turn.

I. GRAVES' MOTION

Judge Graves offers two arguments in support of dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint. First, she argues that she is entitled to judicial immunity. In the alternative, Judge Graves argues that she is entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff admits that Judge Graves may be entitled to judicial and qualified immunity under certain circumstances, but argues that she is not immune to his lawsuit because her actions in the underlying criminal case constituted "a personal crusade" against Plaintiff. Response to Graves Motion, p. 1.

To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that he was deprived of a federal constitutional right by an individual or individuals acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Jones v. Wilhelm, 425 F.3d 455, 465 (7th Cir. 2005). However, judges have traditionally been immunized from civil lawsuits in order to protect their independence, promote finality of judgments, and discourage collateral attacks. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 226 (1988); see Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 27 (1980) (noting that absolute judicial immunity applies in ยง 1983 cases). The doctrine of judicial immunity thus insulates judges from "vexatious actions prosecuted by disgruntled litigants." Id. A judge demonstrates that she ...


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