Kelly J. Cosgriff and Anita Cosgriff, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
County of Winnebago, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
September 27, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Western Division. No. 16 C 50037 -
Frederick J. Kapala, Judge.
WOOD, Chief Judge, and Flaum and Kanne, Circuit Judges.
dog bit a Roscoe Township employee on Kelly and Anita
Cosgriff s property. After the employee and the township sued
the Cosgriffs, the Cosgriffs started a petition campaign
encouraging taxpayers to notify the township that its
employees should not trespass on private property.
Cosgriffs' next property assessment set by the township
was significantly higher than their last. The Cosgriffs
challenged the increased assessment through a hearing before
the Winnebago County Board of Review, the Illinois county in
which Roscoe Township is located. The Board ruled in favor of
the Cosgriffs and substantially reduced the new assessment.
Cosgriffs then sued Winnebago County and numerous individual
defendants in federal district court. The Cosgriffs
principally allege that the defendants acted
unconstitutionally when they increased the Cosgriffs'
property assessment because the Cosgriffs spoke out against
township employees trespassing on private property.
district court dismissed the Cosgriffs' § 1983
claims, reasoning that comity principles barred federal
courts from hearing these federal claims. The court also
relinquished supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining
state-law claims. The Cosgriffs appealed the dismissal of
their federal claims. We affirm.
the facts from the complaint and presume them to be true for
this appeal. See Bible v. United Student Aid Funds, Inc.,
799 F.3d 633, 639 (7th Cir. 2015).
and Anita Cosgriff reside in South Beloit, Illinois, which is
part of Roscoe Township in Winnebago County. In 2013, they
installed a $50, 000 pool at their home. When two township
employees came to the home in April 2014 to reassess its
property value after the addition of the pool, one of the
Cosgriffs' dogs bit one of the employees. That employee
and Roscoe Township sued the Cosgriffs, so the Cosgriffs
posted a "No Trespass" sign on their property. They
also started a petition drive on the website
"change.org" that encouraged other Roscoe
Township taxpayers to notify the Roscoe Township Assessor and
its employees not to trespass on their own property.
Cosgriff contacted the Winnebago County Supervisor of
Assessments, Thomas Walsh, several times to learn about the
property assessment process. Thereafter, Walsh sought the
advice of Assistant State's Attorney David Kurlinkus. The
Cosgriffs allege that the two men then implemented a strategy
to impede the Cosgriffs. In part, Kurlinkus "ghost
wrote" a letter in July 2014 from Walsh to Kelly
Cosgriff, stating that Kelly needed to direct his inquiries
to the Roscoe Township Assessor instead.
on August 7th, 2014, Walsh issued a "PTAX-228 Notice of
Property Assessment" to the Cosgriffs for their home.
This new assessment reflected a valuation that was 47.14%
higher than the previous year, an increase in fair market
value from $357, 000 to $525, 000 even though the Cosgriffs
added only a $50, 000 pool. It was the highest increase in
Roscoe Township in 2014, a year when 99.17% of properties saw
their assessed values reduced from the previous year.
August 8th, Kelly Cosgriff emailed Walsh complaining about
this assessment. Walsh forwarded the message to David
Kurlinkus, who then forwarded it to his son (Josef Kurlinkus,
the Roscoe ...