SCOTT REEDER and the ILLINOIS POLICY INSTITUTE, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
MICHAEL J. MADIGAN, et al., Defendants-Appellees
Argued November 10, 2014
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 14-CV-3041 -- Colin S. Bruce, Judge.
For SCOTT REEDER, ILLINOIS POLICY INSTITUTE, doing business as ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, Plaintiffs - Appellant: Jacob H. Huebert, Chicago, IL.
For MICHAEL J. MADIGAN, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, in his official capacity, JOHN J. CULLERTON, President of the Illinois Senate, in his official capacity, STEVE BROWN, Press Secretary to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, in his official capacity, RIKEESHA PHELON, Press Secretary to the President of the Illinois Senate, in her official capacity, Defendants - Appellees: Gary S. Caplan, Attorney, Richard S. Huszagh, Attorney, Carolyn E. Shapiro, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Civil Appeals Division, Chicago, IL.
For NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES, Amicus Curiae: Aaron Martin Panner, Attorney, KELLOGG, HUBER, HANSEN, TODD, EVANS & FIGEL, P.L.L.C., Washington, DC.
Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and ROVNER and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
Wood, Chief Judge.
In March 2013, Scott Reeder received a letter from Rikeesha Phelon, the press secretary for Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton. The letter bore bad news: it informed Reeder that his request for Senate media credentials as a writer for the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) was denied because IPI was registered as a lobbying entity in Illinois. Phelon explained that Senate rules required this decision because the rules forbid credentials for anyone associated with a lobbying entity. Undaunted, Reeder tried again in January 2014 to obtain media credentials from the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate. His status had changed, he argued, because IPI was no longer registered as a lobbyist. That change was not enough to satisfy the Senate. It took the position that IPI was still required to register as a lobbyist given its retention of a lobbying firm that employed the same staff and office space as IPI itself. It thus once again denied Reeder's application. The Illinois House responded in kind a few weeks later.
Reeder and IPI (to whom we refer collectively as Reeder) responded with this lawsuit against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, along with their press
secretaries. Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Reeder contended that the defendants had violated his First Amendment right to freedom of the press, as well as his rights to due process and equal protection. The defendants moved to dismiss Reeder's claims on the basis of absolute legislative immunity. The district court granted that motion, concluding that the denial of credentials to Reeder qualified as legislative activity and thus entitled the defendants to immunity. We agree with this conclusion and affirm the district court's judgment.
The following account of the facts, which we have taken from the complaint and its exhibits, is presented in the light most favorable to Reeder, as this case comes to us on a motion to dismiss. See CEnergy-Glenmore Wind Farm No. 1, LLC v. Town of Glenmore, 769 F.3d 485, 487 (7th Cir. 2014).
Reeder is an experienced reporter. Since 1988 he has worked for newspapers in Texas, Iowa, and Nevada. He served for ten years as statehouse bureau chief for an Illinois newspaper group. In 2009 he went to work for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he served as a reporter and editor. Finally, in 2012 Reeder began his job at the Illinois News Network (INN), which is part of IPI. At INN, Reeder says, ...