United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge.
January 3, 2017, this Court dismissed Samuel Brinson's
lawsuit without prejudice for failure to state a claim. R. 8.
The original pro se pleading, construed broadly by
the Court, alleged that Brinson was denied access to the
courts in violation of his due process rights because, though
Brinson desired to appeal an adverse circuit court decision,
a circuit court clerk refused to transmit the record of the
case to the appellate court, which resulted in the dismissal
of Brinson's appeal. See R. 1 at 3-7.
January 3rd order, this Court noted that to state a
constitutional claim for denial of access to the courts, a
plaintiff must plausibly allege “(1) a non-frivolous
underlying claim, (2) the official acts frustrating the
litigation, and (3) a remedy that may be awarded as
recompense but that is not otherwise available in a future
suit.” R. 8 at 4 (quoting Bryant v. Lake Cty.
Circuit Clerk, 2015 WL 690174, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 17,
2015) and citing Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S.
403, 415- 16 (2000)). The Court further noted that a
plaintiff must also allege that the official act that
frustrated his access to the courts proximately caused his
injury. Id. (citing Snyder v. Nolen, 380
F.3d 279, 301 (7th Cir. 2004) (noting that a plaintiff
“will have to demonstrate at some point in the
litigation that the alleged harm was caused by the action of
[the state-court clerk] rather than as a result of his own
failure to seek immediate redress . . . through a petition
for writ of mandamus”)). The Court dismissed
Brinson's complaint for failing to allege any facts
regarding the claims and remedies at issue in the underlying
lawsuit and for failing to allege facts supporting the
plausible inference that the conduct of the circuit court
clerk, and not his own dilatory conduct, proximately caused
his injury. Id. at 4-5. The dismissal was without
prejudice, and granted Brinson thirty days to amend.
Id. at 5. The day before his amended complaint was
due, Brinson sought a 60-day extension, R. 9, which was
granted, R. 10. On the date of the extended deadline, Brinson
filed another motion for extension of time, R. 14, which the
Court granted with the admonition that it was a final
thirty-day extension, R. 16.
30, 2017, Brinson filed what the Court construes to be the
amendment to the original complaint. See R. 17
(incorporating by reference the exhibits filed along with the
second motion for extension of time, R. 14). Construed
broadly, those amendments make the following clarifications:
• From September 2012 to his eviction in February 2014,
Brinson had a number of issues with his landlord.
Specifically, at times during that period, Brinson's unit
did not have heat or electricity, and had bedbugs and
roaches. See Exs. 9-11.
• On August 8, 2013, Brinson's landlord initiated
eviction proceedings against him. R. 17 at 2.
• On January 8, 2014, the landlord was ordered by the
state court judge to maintain heat and electricity in
Brinson's apartment. See Ex. 3.
• On February 4, 2014, the state court judge entered an
eviction order along with a $5, 200 judgment against Brinson
for unpaid rent. See Ex. 1, Ex. 8. Brinson sent a
letter to the circuit court that same day stating that he had
not been given an opportunity to present his case before
judgment was entered against him because the judge “cut
[him] off.” See Ex. 8 (“I was done wrong
in this case. I want this case reheard in court fairly and
vacated judgment given.”). Brinson did not receive a
response to this letter. R. 17 at 4. He reiterates the same
grievances in this lawsuit. See R. 17 at 1 (“I
was denied opportunity to testif[y] in Circuit Court of Cook
County [on] February 4, 2014, and also denied to show my
evidence.”); id. at 5 (“I was not
allowed to talk and present my evidence.”).
• Brinson filed a notice of appeal on February 4, 2014
and February 7, 2014. See Ex. 2. A file transmittal
form was completed in the civil appeals division on February
10, 2014. See id.
• Six months later, on August 14, 2014, Brinson's
appeal was dismissed for want of prosecution on the finding
of the appellate court that Brinson “has failed to file
the record on appeal within the time prescribed by Supreme
Court Rule 326.” See Ex. 6.
• Another adverse order was issued by the appellate
court against Brinson on September 24, 2014. See Ex.
• Brinson does not allege that he took any further
appeals or sought reconsideration by the appellate court of
its orders. Nor does he allege that he sought an order from
the circuit court compelling the defendant clerk to transmit
the record on appeal.
• In this lawsuit, Brinson asks this Court to dismiss
“the $5, 200 judgment, and other situations ruled
against me.” See R. 17. at 8.
these amendments do not rescue the original complaint from
dismissal. Not only do they fail to cure the previously
identified deficiencies, they bring to bear an altogether
different issue preventing Brinson's claim from
proceeding in this Court: lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction. It seems that the heart of Brinson's claim
is not a failure by the defendant clerk to transmit the
record on appeal, but rather the entry of judgment against
him in the first place. Since Brinson's state court
appeal was unsuccessful, he turns now to this Court seeking
an order vacating the state court judgment against him. The
Court lacks jurisdiction to grant this relief. Johnson v.
Orr, 551 F.3d 564, 567 (7th Cir. 2008) (“[F]ederal
courts, other than the Supreme Court, do not have
jurisdiction to review decisions of state courts in civil
cases.”) (citing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic
Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283-84 (2005)). Simply put,
federal courts are deprived of subject matter jurisdiction
“where a party, dissatisfied with a result in state
court, sues in federal court seeking to set aside the
state-court judgment and requesting a ...