United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
John J. Otrompke, Plaintiff, Pro se, Chicago, IL.
For Lawrence Hill, President of the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, in his official capacity, Defendant: Stephen Fedo, LEAD ATTORNEY, Meredith Deddish Schacht, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, Chicago, IL.
For Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General, Defendant: Shirley Ruth Calloway, LEAD ATTORNEY, Illinois Attorney General's Office, Chicago, IL.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, United States District Judge.
On November 1, 2013, plaintiff John Joseph Otrompke (" Otrompke" ) filed a complaint (Dkt. No. 1.) against Lawrence Hill (" Hill" ), the President of the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, and Lisa Madigan (" Madigan" ), the Illinois Attorney General (collectively, " Defendants" ), alleging that certain past and present Illinois Bar Admission Rules and Illinois Supreme Court Rules violate his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. On December 31, 2013, Hill filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 10) Otrompke's claims against Hill, and on January 3, 2014, Madigan filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 13) Otrompke's claims against Madigan. On January 16, 2014, the court granted (Dkt. No. 20) Otrompke's motion to file an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 17). Otrompke filed his first amended complaint (" Amended Complaint" ) (Dkt. No. 22 (" Am. Compl." )) and Defendants have renewed their motions to dismiss (Dkt. Nos. 24, 26) all claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motions are granted.
In 2000, Otrompke graduated from DePaul University College of Law and passed the Illinois bar examination and its component parts, including the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2.) Although Otrompke completed these requirements more than thirteen years ago, he is not licensed to practice law in Illinois. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 1, 3.) In October 2003, while his application for admission to the bar was pending before the Committee on Character and Fitness for the First Judicial District of Illinois (" Committee" ), Otrompke sued the Committee, along with several members of a panel of that Committee, and the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar. Otrompke v. Chairman of Comm. on Character & Fitness,
No. 03 C 7198, 2004 WL 812993, *2 (N.D. Ill. April 14, 2004) (Kennelly, J.) (" Otrompke I " ). Otrompke claimed the defendants' failure to approve his admission to the bar and their delay in granting him a hearing violated his rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Id. at *1. The district court concluded that the Illinois Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of attorney admissions in Illinois, had the ability to hear and determine Otrompke's federal claims. Id. at *3-5. Consequently, the court determined that Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971) its progeny required the court to abstain from considering the merits of Otrompke's claims. Id. at *5. But because Otrompke also alleged a damages claim for violation of procedural due process--a claim that could not be litigated in connection with his application for admission--the court decided to stay the case rather than dismiss it. Id. at *5.
The Committee ultimately recommended that Otrompke not be certified for admission, and the Illinois Supreme Court denied his petition for review. (Am. Compl. ¶ 4.) The defendants then moved to dismiss pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, arguing the district court had no jurisdiction to review a state court judgment denying Otrompke admission to the bar. The district court granted the defendants' motion, except with respect Otrompke's procedural due process claim. Otrompke v. Chairman of Comm. on Character & Fitness, No. 03 C 7198 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 16, 2004) (Kennelly, J.) (Dkt. No. 41). In a subsequent ruling, however, the court suggested that Rooker-Feldman might not apply to Otrompke's claims in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's clarification of the doctrine in Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005). See Otrompke v. Chairman of Comm. on Character & Fitness, No. 03 C 7198, 2005 WL 1126914, *2 (N.D. Ill. May 12, 2005) (Kennelly, J.) (" Otrompke II " ) (questioning Rooker-Feldman determination made in the November 16, 2004 order).
Before issuing its opinion in Otrompke II, the court had also granted Otrompke leave to file an additional claim seeking a declaration of the unconstitutionality of Illinois Supreme Court Rules 708(b) and 710, as well as Illinois Bar Admission Rules 4.2, 4.3, 9.1, and 9.2. In Otrompke II, the court ruled that to the extent the additional claim challenged the application of the rules to Otrompke, it was barred by claim preclusion, and to the extent it challenged future application, it failed to state a claim. Otrompke II, 2005 WL 1126914, at *2-4.
In its final decision in Otrompke's original lawsuit, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment on all of Otrompke's remaining claims. The court held that even if its previous Rooker-Feldman ruling was incorrect, Otrompke's claims attacking the denial of his application for admission were nonetheless barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion because he could have and should have raised his federal constitutional challenges in the state proceeding. Otrompke v. Chairman of Comm. on Character & Fitness, No. 03 C 7198, 2005 WL 3050618, *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 7, 2005) (Kennelly, J.) (" Otrompke III " ). The court also rejected Otrompke's procedural due process claim, which it initially declined to dismiss on Rooker-Feldman grounds. The court determined that because the defendants were acting under the authority of the Illinois Supreme Court--the ultimate arbiter of attorney admissions--they were entitled to absolute immunity from suits for damages. Otrompke III, 2005 WL 3050618, at *2.
Because the district court resolved Otrompke's claims on the basis of claim preclusion and judicial immunity, the court did not revisit the application of Rooker-Feldman in light of Exxon Mobil. Id. at *2.
Otrompke did not appeal the district court's summary judgment ruling because, among other reasons, Otrompke's fiancé e at the time received a diagnosis of terminal leukemia. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 7-8.) Nor did he re-apply for admission to the bar because " it could cost thousands of dollars even to complete the bar application," and defendants would again argue " that Younger, res judicata, and Feldman preclude relief." (Dkt. No. 29 (" Pl.'s Resp." ) at 14.) Instead, ten years after filing his initial lawsuit in federal court and eight years after the district court's summary judgment ruling, Otrompke filed this lawsuit seeking (1) a declaration that the " Illinois bar admission statute(s) and rule(s) [are] unconstitutional, in violation of the Bills of Attainder clause, and the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution," (Am. Compl. at 1), and (2) an order admitting him to the Illinois Bar (Am. Compl. Prayer for Relief).
Otrompke's new allegations are set forth in three distinct sections of his Amended Complaint: (1) " New Law and Facts After 2000" ; (2) " Prior Issues Still Alive and Susceptible to Challenge" ; and (3) " New Paragraphs First Amended Complaint." (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-78.) These sections roughly track Otrompke's discernable claims, which attack the constitutionality of Illinois's Bar Admission and Illinois Supreme Court Rules before and after his application was rejected in 2004.
First, Otrompke claims a number of rules enacted or amended since his original lawsuit (the " 2014 Rules" ) violate his fundamental right to practice law, (Am. Compl. ¶ 22), and are unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, and " underbroad" ( id. ¶ ¶ 38, 80). These rules are Illinois Bar Admission Rules 6.3, 6.4, 9.1, 10.2, 13  and Illinois Supreme Court Rules 708(c) and 704(b). (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-16, 79.) Otrompke also claims two of these new rules--Bar Admission Rules 9.1 and 10.2-" imply that the Fifth ...