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Johnson v. Lopinot

November 4, 2010

JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VINCENT J. LOPINOT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ASSOCIATE JUDGE OF THE ST. CLAIR COUNTY ARBITRATION CENTER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Vincent Lopinot's (hereinafter "Lopinot") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 9) and Memorandum (Doc. 10) in support thereof. Plaintiff Paula Johnson (hereinafter "Johnson") filed a pro se Response (Docs. 9, 10) thereto.

For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the instant motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Consideration of Materials beyond the Complaint

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that the briefing refers to materials beyond the operative pleading. Ordinarily, when such material is presented in connection with a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (hereinafter "Rule 12(b)(6)"), the Court may not consider the material unless it converts the dismissal motion into a motion for summary judgment and gives the parties fair warning that it is doing so and an opportunity to respond. One exception to this general rule, however, is that the Court may take judicial notice of matters of public record. 4901 Corp. v. Town of Cicero, 220 F.3d 522, 527 n.4 (7th Cir. 2000); Henson v. CSC Credit Servs., 29 F.3d 280, 284 (7th Cir. 1994).

Here, all of the extraneous documentation to which the parties refer are matters of public record. Accordingly, the Court can and will refer to the pertinent exhibits attached to the Complaint (Doc. 1) and Lopinot's memorandum. Likewise, the Court will consider this motion as it was captioned, under Rule 12(b)(6).

II. Facts

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, courts must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Tricontinental Indus., Ltd. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir. 2007). The Court, accepting all of Johnson's factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, finds as follows:

On January 27, 2009, Johnson filed a four-count complaint against attorney Jeffery William Green (hereinafter "Green") that alleged legal malpractice, negligence, breach of contract, and professional misconduct.*fn1 Johnson requested several hundred thousand dollars in damages for each count in her complaint. Lopinot, an associate judge at the Arbitration Center of St. Clair County, Illinois, presided over Johnson's civil case against Green. Previously, Lopinot presided over an unrelated case of Johnson's until her motion for recusal was granted.

Despite the seemingly high stakes of Johnson's lawsuit, Green failed to appear throughout the proceedings, failed to timely file pleadings, and defaulted on several other matters. On October 1, 2009, Lopinot granted Johnson's motion for summary judgment. He also entered judgment in her favor and against Green for the several hundred thousand dollars referenced in the complaint.*fn2

Green continued to fail to appear in post-judgment proceedings. Nevertheless, Lopinot refused to sanction him and refused to accept any further testimony or documentation from Johnson, including citations to discover assets. At some point, Johnson did appear before Lopinot, and she was able to present him with proof of losses from two cases in which Green had committed malpractice. On November 20, 2009, Lopinot entered an order sua sponte and without hearing that reduced the judgment to $7,900.00. Unsatisfied with this amount, Johnson filed an appeal with the Fifth District Appellate Court of Illinois. To the best of the Court's knowledge, said appeal remains ongoing.

With her appeal pending, Johnson brought the instant suit due to her belief that Lopinot's independent reduction of the judgment ...


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