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Jackson v. Village of Western Springs

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 3, 2014

STEPHEN JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF WESTERN SPRINGS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

Defendants in this case have moved to dismiss Plaintiff Stephen Jackson's Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [ECF Nos. 36, 38, 39]. For the reasons stated herein, the Motions are granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Stephen Jackson ("Jackson") is a real estate professional and citizen of the Village of Western Springs, Illinois. He brings this civil rights suit against the Village and more than twenty other Defendants that include Village officials, private attorneys and their respective law firms, and other real estate professionals. According to the Complaint, Jackson bought property in the Village in 2000. Since then, another property near Jackson's has been rezoned six times, which has resulted in various businesses and buildings occupying the nearby property.

The 100-page, 447-paragraph Complaint is hard to follow, but it appears that all of Jackson's claims are related to these zoning decisions and the Defendants' activities surrounding the decisions. Jackson alleges that the zoning decisions were made improperly and in a way that violated his First Amendment rights of free speech, free association, and freedom to petition the government for redress, along with his due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. In addition to these federal claims, Jackson also brings various state-law claims. First, Jackson alleges that the zoning decisions violated his rights to equal protection and due process under the Illinois Constitution. Second, he alleges that various Defendants have violated Illinois' open meeting and freedom of information statutes. Finally, Jackson brings Illinois common-law claims for conspiracy, nuisance, negligence, and intentional and negligent infliction of severe emotional distress.

Twelve Defendants represented by one attorney move to dismiss Jackson's Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). (ECF No. 36.) Defendant Howard has separate counsel, as do Defendants Edgerton and VanZandt, and all three have joined in the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF Nos. 38 and 39.) Defendants argue that Jackson has no standing because his federal claims are not ripe and that, because dismissal of those claims is proper, the Court should decline supplemental jurisdiction over Jackson's remaining state-law claims.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"When ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under [Rule] 12(b)(1), the district court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Rueth v. E.P.A., 13 F.3d 227, 229 (7th Cir. 1993). The Court is not, however, strictly bound by the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint. Instead, the Court "may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Ezekiel v. Michel, 66 F.3d 894, 897 (7th Cir. 1995).

III. ANALYSIS

As a preliminary matter, the Court first addresses Jackson's assertion in his response that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction in this case on diversity grounds under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332. The Complaint contains no allegations of diversity jurisdiction, and even if it did, there is no diversity in this case because Jackson has alleged that both he and a good number of Defendants are Illinois citizens. And, whether jurisdiction is based on diversity or the presence of a federal question, Jackson must still satisfy Article III's standing requirements.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution requires a case or controversy before the exercise of federal judicial power. Sprint Spectrum L.P. v. City of Carmel, 361 F.3d 998, 1002 (7th Cir. 2004). The ripeness doctrine is an important element of the case or controversy requirement, and part of the doctrine's rationale is "to protect the agencies from judicial interference until an administrative decision has been formalized and its effects felt in a concrete way by the challenging parties." Id.

In the land-use context, the Supreme Court has "articulated a special ripeness doctrine" that is slightly different from the traditional "ripeness requirements drawn from Article III." Forseth v. Vill. of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 368 & n.7 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Williamson Cnty. Reg'l Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172, 193-94 (1985)). This special ripeness doctrine precludes "federal courts from adjudicating land disputes until: (1) the regulatory agency has had an opportunity to make a considered definitive decision, and (2) the property owner exhausts available state remedies for compensation." Id. The doctrine's applicability does not differ depending on how a landowner titles his claims. "Labels do not matter. A person contending that state or local regulation of the use of land has gone overboard must repair to state court.'" Id. (quoting River Park, Inc. v. City of Highland Park, 23 F.3d 164, 167 (7th Cir. 1994)).

Because the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over only those claims that are ripe, the Court must first decide whether Jackson's federal claims are subject to Williamson's ripeness requirements. There is no dispute that Jackson has not yet exhausted his state remedies; the parties only dispute whether Williamson applies to Jackson's claims. Thus, for ...


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