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Bartl v. Cook County Clerk of Circuit Court

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

June 2, 2015

ERIC BARTL, Plaintiff,
v.
COOK COUNTY CLERK OF THE CIRCUIT COURT, ILLINOIS, SECRETARY OF STATE, and GOVERNOR of the STATE OF ILLINOIS, Defendants.

ORDER & OPINION

JOE BILLY McDADE, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Eric Bartl's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 3), Plaintiff's Motion to Request Counsel (Doc. 4), and Magistrate Judge Schanzle-Haskins' Report & Recommendation ("R&R") recommending that Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis be denied and that the action be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and (iii). (Doc. 5).

Plaintiff was notified that failure to object to Judge Schanzle-Haskins's R&R within fourteen days after service would constitute a waiver of any objections. (Doc. 5 at 4). After requesting and receiving an extension to file any objections, Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R on March 23, 2015. (Doc. 9). For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the disposition recommended by Judge Schanzle-Haskins's R&R, and modifies it as explained herein. Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed, but the Court will provide Plaintiff with leave to file an amended Complaint within twenty-one days.

LEGAL STANDARDS

When a plaintiff files an Objection to an R&R, the Court reviews de novo those portions of it to which a specific written objection has been made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). "The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), "any court of the United States may authorize the commencement... of any suit, action or proceeding... without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets..." The same section instructs that courts "shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal... fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." Id. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Dismissals pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) are treated in the same manner as dismissals under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011). Therefore, the court must take "all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and view[] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Id. A plaintiff's complaint must contain sufficient detail to give notice of the claim, and the allegations must "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires enough facts "to present a story that holds together, " but does not require a determination of probability. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed and "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erikson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)(per curiam).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This case emerges in the aftermath of an unsuccessful lawsuit that Plaintiff filed against the Chicago Carriage Cab Company for false imprisonment, assault, malicious prosecution, and gross negligence in the Circuit Court of Cook County's Law Division. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 13). Plaintiff alleges that the state court system engaged in a conspiracy designed to deny him access to justice, and in part attributes this conspiracy to certain judges' hostility toward him because of his Christian faith. ( Id. at ¶ 14).

Plaintiff alleges that the Illinois state court, and the various judges who heard his case, failed to sanction the defendant's fraudulent behavior ( id. at ¶¶19-23), allowed him too little time to respond to a motion for summary judgment and prepare for trial ( id. at ¶¶ 25, 27), discriminated against him by granting the defendant either summary judgment or directed verdicts on certain claims ( id. at ¶ 26), refused to admit his exhibits or allow him to present exhibits to the jury during deliberation ( id. at ¶ 28), gave improper jury instructions ( id. at ¶¶ 29-31), and improperly limited the allowed length of his post-trial motion ( id. at 33).

He alleges that the employees in the office of the Circuit Court Clerk also discriminated against him. For example, he alleges that employees failed to timely file amended complaints ( id. at ¶¶ 35, 57) and improperly dated one of his amended complaints ( id. at ¶ 35), reluctantly granted him access to publicly available files to which he had previously had unfettered access ( id. at ¶ 36), withheld available files by pretending that they were not available ( id. at ¶¶ 38-44), failed to complete orders that he had placed ( id. at ¶ 47), lied to him about the availability of certain files that were off site ( id. at ¶¶ 48-52, 54-56), lied to him about the status of the arbitration panel's pre-trial ruling in his favor ( id. at ¶ 58), and refused to process a change of address form. ( Id. at ¶¶ 59-62).

Plaintiff further alleges that the Illinois Secretary of State discriminated against him. Plaintiff's tort case related to actions taken against him by a cab driver named Adewonuola Lala. ( Id. at ¶ 64). He alleges that an individual who appeared in court and claimed to be Adewonoula Lala was not that cab driver. ( Id. at ¶ 68). In an effort to prove that the gentleman claiming to be Adewonoula Lala was a different person than his cab driver, Plaintiff issued a subpoena to the Secretary of State requesting a color copy of the photograph on Adewonoula Lala's drivers' license. ( Id. at 71). The Secretary of State refused to comply with the subpoena without a judge's order, but responded after the judge issued the subpoena on June 27, 2013. ( Id. at ¶ 75). Plaintiff alleges that the photograph that the Secretary of State produced "was not a copy of the original driver's license but simply a picture printed out of a computer which the Secretary of State's office claimed to be from the original driver's license of Lala. But it had a different face than the copy of the original driver's license. It had the face of the imposter." ( Id. at ¶ 76).

Ultimately, a jury found against him on the claims that survived summary judgment and directed verdict. After the verdict, Plaintiff alleges that the Illinois Appellate Court Clerk attempted to hinder him from filing an appeal. For example, employees would not allow him to file an appeal unless he had direct change, and also refused to provide him with an appeal number and information about the appellate judge to whom the case was assigned. ( Id. at ¶¶ 88, 90). He alleges that the employees provided him with shifting explanations for why they could not give him the information that he requested. ( See id. at ¶¶ 93-94). Plaintiff settled his case for "a nominal settlement offer" rather than pursuing an appeal. ( Id. at ¶ 98).

In this lawsuit, Plaintiff has sued the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County in her official capacity, the Secretary of State in his official capacity, and the Governor of the State of Illinois, in his official capacity. ( Id. at ¶¶ 9-11). He has alleged that all of the judges that conspired against him are employees or agents of the State of Illinois. ( Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff has brought fourteen counts against these defendants. Counts one through four are brought against all defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and allege that defendants violated his First Amendment rights, denied him due process, and denied him of his right to trial by jury. He alleges that Defendant violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 (Count V), engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 (Count VI), engaged in a conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of his right to equal protection under law (Count VII), and failed to take steps to prevent the violations of his constitutional and statutory rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1986. (Count VIII). Plaintiff has also alleged a number of violations of Illinois law. These ...


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