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Straw v. Village of Streamwood

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

April 25, 2017

ANDREW U.D. STRAW, Plaintiff,


          Virginia M. Kendall United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff, Andrew Straw, sued five municipalities for failing to shovel snow off of public sidewalks claiming they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Title II, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 and Rehabilitation Act § 504, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.. The five municipalities, the Village of Bloomingdale (Count I), the Village of Glendale Heights (Count II), the Village of Streamwood (Count III), the City of Elgin (Count IV), and Kane County (Count V) all moved to dismiss. Straw wants $50, 000 in compensatory damages from each of the Defendants even though he personally never suffered any injuries because of the snow accumulation. Straw is a frequent litigator whose law license is suspended in Indiana and here until August 2017. He filed this suit, however, before that suspension and so the Court will address the pending motions to dismiss. Because Straw has no standing to bring the lawsuit, the case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction without prejudice.


         Straw, represents himself pro se[1], yet he is an attorney licensed in the State of Indiana (Compl. ¶ 1) and the Commonwealth of Virginia (Compl. ¶ 1). However, he is currently suspended from the practice of law in Indiana and this Court has also reciprocally suspended him from practicing in the Northern District of Illinois.

         Straw alleges two types of disabilities, those he suffered from being poisoned at Camp Le Jeune in North Carolina as a child and those he suffered in a car accident. Specifically, he has problems with his right hip, right femur, left leg and ankle. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Although Straw is able to walk, he insists “I must be considered as a person who uses a wheelchair because I could be in that state with a single trip and fall, and the ADA says I am in that “wheelchair-using state” as a matter of law.” (Compl. ¶ 6.)

         Straw resides in Kane County, Illinois. (Compl. ¶ 3.) During the winters of 2015 and 2016, Straw documented piles of snow on or near sidewalks and in parking lots by taking photos of what he believed to be illegal accumulation blocking access on public sidewalks. Straw attached the photos to his Complaint. Straw took photographs of snow in Streamwood and Bloomingdale on March 8, 2015, (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 14); he was in Glendale Heights on March 8, 2016, (Compl. ¶ 15); and in Elgin on December 22, 2016. (Compl. ¶ 16.). Straw was also in Kane County on January 12, 2016 and when he was visiting the Kane County Election Board office to drop off his paperwork for his “congressional campaign” there was a pile of snow in the handicap parking space of the building. (Compl. ¶ 17.) On March 30, 2017, Straw and Defendant Kane County stipulated to the dismissal of the action, with prejudice. (Dkt. 54.) As to the remaining four Defendants, Straw does not provide any context to his allegations beyond that the snow piles were present on the alleged dates.

         The photographs of the snow in these municipalities are attached to the Complaint. While the photographs taken in Bloomingdale and Elgin show snow piles on sidewalks, (Dkt. 1-15, Dkt. 1-17), the other photographs are not consistent with Straw's allegations. (Dkt. 1-15, Dkt. 1-17.) Straw photographed two different locations in Streamwood. The Streamwood photographs do not depict an obstruction on sidewalks or in handicap-accessible parking spaces. In one of the locations, Exhibit 11, the photograph is taken from across the street from a Firestone Complete Auto Care parking lot. The snow covers some land between the parking lot and the street, but this land appears to be a grassy curb and there is no sidewalk in the photograph. (Dkt. 1-11.) In Exhibit 11.1, the second Streamwood location photographed, there are no visible snow obstructions and the sidewalk and parking lot appear to have been shoveled or plowed. (Dkt. 1-12.) In the photographs taken in Glendale Heights, Exhibit 13, there is snow on the ground, but the photographs do not clearly show any sort of obstruction. (Dkt. 1-16.)

         In addition to the factual allegations in his Complaint, Straw also includes a section titled “Legal Argument For Proper Maintenance of Sidewalks, Curb Ramps, and Handicap Parking Spaces.” (Dkt. 19 at 6.) Straw includes language from a letter that he sought from the Federal Highway Administration's Office (FHWA) during an unsuccessful, similar lawsuit against the City of South Bend, Indiana. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Straw also alleges in this section of the Complaint that the snow piles violate “the Tinker rule, ” from Tinker v. Commissioner, NH Dept. of Transportation, Case No. 2009-0012 (N.H. June 11, 2009), “the Parker rule, ” from Parker, et al. v. Universidad De Puerto Rico, et al., 225 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2000), and “the Barden rule” from Barden v. City of Sacramento, et al., 292 F.3d 1073 (9th Cir. 2002). (Compl. ¶ 18.)

         In addition to compensatory damages, he asks “the Court to issue an injunction directing these five defendants to cease disability discrimination in all public services and facilities, including sidewalks and handicap parking and all other features owned or controlled by these defendants.” (Compl. ¶ 56.)

         The Court takes judicial notice of Straw's case filed in the Northern District of Indiana as well as the Declaration he filed (Dkt. 55) in this case because it forms the basis for his current suspension of his law license. See Ennenga v. Starns, 677 F.3d 766, 773-74 (7th Cir. 2012) (holding that public court documents are judicially noticeable); Henson v. CSC Credit Servs., 29 F.3d 280, 284 (7th Cir. 1994) (same, and collecting cases).

         In 2016, Straw also drove around downtown South Bend and took photographs of alleged ADA-noncompliant building parking lots and then sued the city. Straw v. City of South Bend, 2016 WL 6996047 (N.D. Ind. 2016). The district court dismissed the suit due to lack of standing because Straw had no “concrete plans to visit any of these buildings for any reasons. Without such plans, he faces no actual imminent threat of injury from the alleged ADA violations.”[2] Id. at *3. During the litigation, however, Straw's tactics were aggressive and at times unprofessional. For example, he requested that the magistrate judge and the district court judge recuse themselves based solely on their adverse rulings to him and not any actual misconduct. Id. at *1. He repeatedly sought the disqualification of the defense attorney on that case under Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, including an accusation under Rule 8.4(g) that the attorney manifested bias or prejudice premised on disability. Id. at *1. Things went from bad to worse when defense counsel had to retain his own attorney because Straw purchased an internet domain in defense counsel's name and used it to direct criticisms at defense counsel. Straw then motioned for an order to show cause for why defense counsel's attorney should not be ordered to make her appearance in Straw's case, so that Straw could then ask her to be disqualified. Id. at *2. The district court also felt it necessary to warn Straw that he would not be permitted to continue his practice of filing superfluous motions that did not comply with the rules, “[f]or instance, Straw recently filed a Notice [] naming his three public enemies (the federal government, the Indiana Supreme Court, and the City of South Bend)[.]” Id. at *5. Finding no success in Indiana, he now tries his claims in this Court.

         In this case, Straw has filed a declaration that outlines the discipline actions against him for filing ADA cases and his intention to continue his work as a disability rights advocate. Straw further explains that he has sued the district judge in the South Bend action because “the federal judge allowed that Court to injure me and exonerate its own ADA violations, ” and his appeal in that case was denied on April 3, 2017. Straw v. Jane E. Magnus Stinson, Case No. 17- 1560, Dkt. No. 11 (7th Cir. 2017, April 3, 2017). Currently, Straw's license to practice law is suspended in four different courts.


         Straw brings his claims under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Title II of the ADA provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132; See Hummel v. St. Joseph Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 817 F.3d 1010, 1016 (7th Cir. 2016). The Rehabilitation Act provides “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States … shall solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity” covered by the Act. 29 U.S.C. § ...

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