The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sara Darrow United States District Judge
E-FILED Wednesday, 01 May, 2013 10:48:55 AM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
The parties have resolved the dispute between them but still managed to make entering judgment a thorny issue. The Court finds itself stuck between precedent requiring it to enter judgment on the terms found in an accepted Rule 68 Offer of Judgment and precedent forbidding the Court from issuing an advisory opinion.
Defendant Warren County Housing Authority ("WCHA") served Plaintiffs with a Rule 68 Offer of Judgment, which Plaintiffs accepted. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 68(a). Normally, "Rule 68 operates automatically, requiring that the clerk 'shall enter judgment' upon the filing of an offer, notice of acceptance and proof of service.. [T]he district court has no discretion to alter or modify the parties' agreement." Webb v. James, 147 F.3d 617, 621 (7th Cir. 1998). The trick here is that in addition to asking the Court to award a monetary sum and enjoin certain behavior, a term in the Offer of Judgment asks the Court to declare certain lease provisions unconstitutional. See Notice of Acceptance at 1(a), ECF No. 12. The Court is unwilling to declare lease provisions unconstitutional simply because the parties agree upon their unconstitutionality.
The Court held a hearing to express its concerns with entering judgment pursuant to the terms of the Offer of Judgment. See 2/19/2013 Minute Entry. In response, the parties opted to each file a memorandum in support of entering judgment as is. Having considered the parties' positions, the Court will now rule on their Motion for Entry of Judgment Pursuant to Rule 68. ECF No. 14.
Plaintiffs allege that two terms found in WCHA's former lease violate the Second Amendment. I say "former" lease because WCHA represents that the disputed lease provisions have since been removed. See WCHA's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Entry of Judgment at 7, ECF No. 15 ("[A]s of December 1, 2012, Defendant WCHA eliminated the provisions that form the basis of Plaintiffs' Complaint.."); Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Support of Motion for Entry of Judgment at 6, ECF No. 16 (acknowledging that WCHA amended its lease). The disputed terms related to tenants' ability to possess and use firearms in their government-subsidized homes.
Plaintiffs' Complaint seeks the following relief: a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, "relief as provided by statute and common law," attorney's fees and costs, and other such relief that the Court deems proper. Complaint at 7-8, ECF No. 1. Before the Court took any action on the merits, Defendant WCHA offered Plaintiffs all of their requested relief, with the possible exception of the unspecified "statutory," "common law," and "other" relief. The specific terms of the Rule 68 Offer of Judgment include the following:
1. Defendant, Warren County Housing Authority ("Defendant"), offers to allow judgment to be taken against it in this action, pursuant to the following terms:
a. That this Court enter a declaratory judgment that the lease provision prohibiting lawful possession of firearms, at issue in Plaintiffs' Complaint and attached hereto as Exhibit A, is unenforceable pursuant to the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and
b. That this Court permanently enjoins and restrains Defendant from enforcing the lease provision prohibiting lawful possession of firearms, which is at issue in Plaintiffs' Complaint, and attached hereto as Exhibit A.
c. That this Court find that any order entered consistent with the offer set forth herein only pertains to the lease provision at issue in Plaintiff's Complaint and is not controlling nor dispositive as to any future lease provision that Defendant may implement concerning possession of firearms or other weapons on or about its property including individual residences.
2. In addition to the terms of judgment offered above, Defendant offers all reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred by Plaintiffs, Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., and Ronald G. Winbigler, through the date of this Offer, with said fees and costs to be determined by Order of the Court.
Notice of Acceptance at 1-2, ECF No. 12. Naturally, Plaintiffs accepted WCHA's full surrender. WCHA filed the Offer of Judgment and Plaintiffs' acceptance. ECF No. 12. Then the parties jointly moved the Court ...