United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MARK HALE, TODD SHADLE, and LAURIE LOGER, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, EDWARD MURNANE, and WILLIAM G. SHEPHERD, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HERNDON, DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is defendants' motion for summary
judgment on grounds of Rooker-Feldman, res
judicata, and collateral estoppel (Docs. 646 &
669). Plaintiffs vigorously oppose the motion
(Doc. 661 & 662).Based on the applicable case law, the
extensive record before the Court and the following, the
Court denies the motion.
2012, plaintiffs Mark Hale, Todd Shadle and Carly Vickers
Morse, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly
situated, filed a two- count Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (”RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961
et seq., class action complaint against State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”),
Edward Murnane, William G. Shepherd and Citizens for Karmeier
(Doc. 2). Count One alleged violations of 18 U.S.C.
§1962(c) and Count Two alleged violations of 18 U.S.C.
§1962(d) by conspiring to violate 18 U.S.C.
§1962(c). On November 4, 2014, plaintiffs filed a first
amended complaint containing the same counts as the original
complaint (Doc. 289). In essence, plaintiffs allege that
defendants secretly recruited Judge Karmeier to run for an
open seat on the Illinois Supreme Court, where the Avery
v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
appeal against State Farm was pending; that defendants
organized and managed his campaign behind the scenes; that
defendants covertly funneled millions of dollars to support
his campaign through intermediary organizations over which
State Farm exerted considerable influence; and, after Justice
Karmeier was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court,
defendants obscured, concealed and misrepresented the degree
and nature of their support of Justice Karmeier so that
Justice Karmeier could participate in the Avery
decisions. Further, Plaintiffs maintain that defendants'
scheme deprived them of their constitutionally-guaranteed
right to be judged by a tribunal uncontaminated by politics;
that plaintiffs did not have an opportunity during the state
court process to conduct the necessary discovery to uncover
State Farm's conduct and that their motions to recuse
were summarily denied and as a result Justice Karmeier
participated in the Avery decision and broke the
“deadlock” when he voted to overturn the
attempt at brevity, the Court finds that it does not need to
set forth in this Memorandum and Order the precise nature of
the claims in this case, the lengthy procedural history of
this case and the well known facts surrounding the underlying
litigation of this case. These extensive details have been
recited in the Court's previous Orders.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that “[t]he court
shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” FED. R.
CIV. P. 56(a). Summary judgment is proper “if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)
(citation omitted). “A genuine dispute as to any
material fact exists if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Kvapil v. Chippewa Cty., 752 F.3d 708,
712 (7th Cir. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). In deciding whether a dispute exists, the Court
must “construe all facts and reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party.”
Nat'l Am. Ins. Co. v. Artisan & Truckers Cas.
Co., 796 F.3d 717, 723 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation
Rule 56, the movant has the initial burden of establishing
that a trial is not necessary. Sterk v. Redbox Automated
Retail, LLC, 770 F.3d 618, 627 (7th Cir. 2014).
“That burden may be discharged by showing ... that
there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case.” Id. (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). If the movant carries this burden,
the nonmovant “must make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case.” Id. (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). The nonmovant “must go beyond
the pleadings (e.g., produce affidavits,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on
file) to demonstrate that there is evidence upon which a jury
could properly proceed to find a verdict in [their]
favor.” Id. (alteration in original) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted). “The existence
of a mere scintilla of evidence, however, is insufficient to
fulfill this requirement.” Wheeler v. Lawson,
539 F.3d 629, 634 (7th Cir. 2008). “[S]peculation and
conjecture” also cannot defeat a motion for summary
judgment. Cooney v. Casady, 735 F.3d 514, 519 (7th
Cir. 2013). In addition, not all factual disputes will
preclude the entry of summary judgment, only those that
“could affect the outcome of the suit under governing
law.” Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837
(7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).
contend that the Court should grant summary judgment in their
favor under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the
doctrine of res judicata and collateral estoppel.
Res judicata and collateral estoppel are affirmative
defenses. By contrast, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
is not an affirmative defense; it is a limit on this
Court's subject matter jurisdiction. If the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine is applicable, the Court
lacks jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims.
“Where Rooker-Feldman applies, lower courts
have no power to address other affirmative defenses,
including res judicata.” Taylor v. Fed.
Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, 374 F.3d 529, 535 (7th Cir.
Rooker-Feldman doctrine derives from two Supreme
Court cases in which plaintiffs “litigated and lost in
state court ... [then] essentially invited federal courts of
first instance to review and reverse [the] unfavorable state
court judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic
Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283, 125 S.Ct. 1517 (2005),
discussing Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413, 44 S.Ct. 149 (1923) and D.C. Ct. of App. v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303 (1983). Because
Congress empowered only the Supreme Court to exercise
appellate authority to reverse and modify state court
judgments, see 28 U.S.C. § 1257, such suits were
declared “out of bounds, i.e., properly
dismissed for want of subject-matter jurisdiction.”
Saudi Basic Indus., 544 U.S. at 283-84, 125 S.Ct.
1517. The doctrine is a limitation on the subject matter
jurisdiction of lower federal courts that prohibits them from
exercising appellate review over state court decisions.
Arnold v. KJD Real Estate, 752 F.3d 700, 704 (7th
Cir. 2014); Kamilewicz v. Bank of Boston Corp., 92
F.3d 506, 509 (7th Cir. 1996).
is a fine distinction between the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine and res judicata. See Nesses v.
Shepard , 68 F.3d 1003, 1004 (7th Cir. 2005). The
Rook er-Feldman doctrine is narrowly confined to
“cases brought by state-court losers complaining of
injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the
district court proceedings commenced and inviting district
court review and rejection of those judgments.”
Saudi Basic Indus., 544 U.S. at 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517.
Cases requiring dismissal under Rooker-Feldman
involve plaintiffs who are “attacking the judgment
itself.” GASH Assocs. v. Vill. of Rosemont,
Ill., 995 F.2d 726, 728 (7th Cir. 1993)(The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies when the
state court's judgment is the source of the injury of
which plaintiffs complain in federal court).
Rooker-Feldman comes into play only when the federal
court assesses the propriety of a state court judgment.
Claims that directly seek to set aside a state-court judgment
are de facto appeals that trigger the doctrine.
Sykes v. Cook Cnty, Cir. Cit. Prob. Div., 837 F.3d
736, 742 (7th Cir. 2016). “But even federal claims that
were not raised in state court, or that do not on their face
require review of a state court's decision, may be
subject to Rooker-Feldman if those claims are
closely related to a state-court judgment.” Mains
v. Citibank, N.A., 852 F.3d 669, 675 (7th Cir. 2017).
“‘In other words, [for Rooker-Feldman to
apply] there must be no way for the injury complained of by a
plaintiff to be separated from a state court
judgment.'” Id. (quoting Sykes,
873 F.3d at 742). “Rooker-Feldman thus applies
where the plaintiff seeks relief that is tantamount to
vacating the state judgment.” Id. (citing
Taylor v. Fannie Mae, 374 F.3d 529, 533 (7th Cir.
2004)). “If the suit does not seek to vacate the
judgment of the state court and instead seeks damages for
independently unlawful conduct, it is not barred by
Rooker-Feldman.” Id. (citing
Johnson v. Pushpin Holdings, LLC, 748 F.3d 769, 773
(7th Cir. 2014)); Saudi Basic Indus., 544 U.S. at
293, 125 S.Ct. 1517 (citing GASH, 995 F.2d at 728)
(“If a federal plaintiff presents some independent
claim, albeit one that denies a legal conclusion that a state
court has reached, ” then Rooker-Feldman does
not bar the court's jurisdiction.).
judicata and collateral estoppel, on the other hand, are
affirmative defenses that require federal courts to give a
state court judgment the same preclusive effect it would have
in state court. Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182
F.3d 548, 560 (7th Cir. 1999). “[W]hen considering
whether a claim has preclusive effect, the Court must apply
the res judicata doctrine of the state from which
the decision occurred. Long, 182 F.3d at 560. The
distinction between the two concepts is that the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine addresses whether a federal
district court has subject matter jurisdiction over a
particular matter, while res judicata and collateral
estoppel are affirmative defenses that depend on the Full
Faith and Credit Statute. Id.; 28 U.S.C. §
defendants maintain that plaintiffs' claims should be
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction under
Rooker-Feldman as plaintiffs' asserted injuries
are not separate and independent from the decisions and
judgments of the Illinois Supreme Court in Avery.
Defendants contend that plaintiffs are attempting to use this
case to seek redress for the Illinois Supreme Court's
reversal of the $1.05 billion judgment in Avery.
Defendants state that plaintiffs' purported injuries were
directly caused by the Illinois Supreme Court's decisions
and orders in Avery, including the court's
decision reversing the $1.05 billion judgment on the merits
in Avery, but also that the court's rulings
rejecting plaintiffs' challenges to Justice
Karmeier's participation in Avery. Defendants
argue that the “‘tainting' of the tribunal by
Justice Karmeier's participation in the Avery
merits decision occurred through the Illinois Supreme
Court's denial of Plaintiffs' motions for Justice
Karmeier's recusal and Plaintiffs' petitions for
rehearing and recall of the mandate. All of these motions and
petitions were based on the supposed impropriety,
constitutional or otherwise, of Justice Karmeier's
participation and the source of the allegedly ‘tainted
tribunal' of which Plaintiffs complain in this federal
lawsuit.” Thus, according to defendants, there can be
no factual dispute that the source of plaintiffs' alleged
injuries and claims squarely fall within the ambit of
Rooker-Feldman. Additionally, defendants argue that
plaintiffs had a reasonable opportunity to litigate in the
Illinois Supreme ...