United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
S. Shah United States District Judge.
Rahul-Ebenezer Daniels filed this suit pro se alleging that
the attorney, state-court judges, guardian ad litem, and
sheriff involved in his state-court divorce proceedings
violated state and federal civil and criminal laws, court
rules, and rules of professional conduct, and also infringed
on his constitutional rights by conspiring against him during
the divorce proceedings. The defendants move to dismiss under
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For
the reasons stated below, the motions are granted.
12(b)(1) motion challenges the federal court's
jurisdiction. On such a motion, the plaintiff bears the
burden of proving that jurisdiction is proper and must allege
facts sufficient to plausibly suggest that subject-matter
jurisdiction exists. Silha v. ACT, Inc., 807 F.3d
169, 173-74 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain factual
allegations that plausibly suggest a right to relief.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). With
a 12(b)(6) motion, a court may consider allegations in the
complaint and documents attached to the complaint.
Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir.
2013). When analyzing a motion under either a Rule 12(b)(1)
or 12(b)(6), a court must accept all factual allegations as
true and draw all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor, but need not accept legal conclusions
or conclusory allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678-79; Silha, 807 F.3d at 174.
wife, Tanuja Daniels, filed for divorce in the Circuit Court
of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit on May 6, 2015. [4-4]
¶ 1. Tanuja hired attorney Frederick John
Steffen to represent her in the divorce proceedings.
Id. ¶ 3. Daniels hired his own attorney.
Id. ¶ 6. During the proceedings, Daniels
noticed that there was no attorney certification on his
wife's dissolution of marriage petition, which he
understood to be a violation of Illinois Supreme Court Rule
137. Id. ¶ 8. He also realized there was no
affidavit of service in the summons he had received.
Id. ¶ 10. Judge Kathryn Karayannis was the
presiding judge at this time. Id. ¶ 11. In late
2015 or 2016, Daniels began to notice inconsistencies in
Steffen's signatures on various court documents.
Id. ¶ 14. Believing these violations
demonstrated a lack of respect for due process, Daniels
required his attorney to withdraw during open court.
Id. ¶ 15. Judge Joseph Grady (now presiding
over the divorce case) granted that request, and Daniels
filed an entry of appearance the same day. Id.
March 2016, Daniels filed a counterclaim raising the issue of
Steffen's signatures and the Rule 137 violation.
Id. ¶¶ 19-20. A month later, Daniels
showed Judge Grady the inconsistent signatures, but Judge
Grady accepted Steffen's in-court acknowledgment that the
signatures were his and entered an order denying
Daniels's objections to the legibility of the signatures
(although Daniels complained about their inconsistency, not
legibility). Id. ¶¶ 21-25. Daniels then
hired an expert forensic document examiner to review
Steffen's signatures, and the examiner issued a report
stating he had found evidence strongly suggesting that the
signatures were fraudulent. Id. ¶¶ 26-27.
In June, Daniels's mother received a subpoena.
Id. ¶ 29. Daniels brought the expert
examiner's findings to Judge Grady's attention and
argued that the subpoena issued to his mother had been
fraudulent. Id. ¶ 31. He also accused Steffen of
violating his notary oath and committing perjury.
Id. ¶ 32. Judge Grady said, “Mr. Daniels,
it's only a signature, ” and denied all of
Daniels's motions. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.
Daniels next filed a motion to hold Steffen in contempt of
court for issuing a fraudulent subpoena and then accused him
of violating the Illinois Notary Public Act in a 2011
(apparently unrelated) marriage settlement agreement.
Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Judge Grady acknowledged
Daniels's claim about Steffen's criminal violations,
but stated that the court did not have jurisdiction over the
matter. Id. ¶ 37. At this point, Daniels came
to believe that Judge Grady was colluding with Steffen.
Id. ¶ 40.
submitted a FOIA request to the court clerk seeking access to
Steffen's case files. Id. ¶ 43. After
reviewing those files, Daniels reported his findings to the
Illinois Attorney General, the State's Attorney, and the
Illinois Secretary of State, alleging that Steffen had
repeatedly violated the Illinois Notary Public Act.
Id. ¶¶ 47-50. Following the advice of the
State's Attorney's Office, Daniels then filed a
complaint with the Chief of Police of the Village of South
Elgin, who did nothing in response. Id. ¶¶
petition for divorce that Steffen drafted on behalf of Tanuja
Daniels cited irreconcilable differences or mental cruelty as
reasons for the divorce. Id. ¶
On Steffen's advice, Tanuja also began working with a
guardian ad litem, Lisa Nyuli, and took the couple's
children for an interview with Nyuli without telling Daniels.
Id. ¶¶ 74-75. Nyuli and Tanuja prepared a
petition to have Daniels evicted from his home. Id.
¶ 77. Tanuja, Nyuli, and Steffen met before the
eviction hearing in June 2016, and along with Judge Grady,
ganged up on Daniels and his parents during the hearing,
treating them as though they had committed a crime.
Id. ¶ 78. Judge Grady issued an eviction order
removing Daniels and his parents from their home and giving
them four days to comply. Id. ¶ 80. Daniels
objected to the order, asserting that it was based on false
allegations, interfered with his freedom to exercise his
religious beliefs, and required a full hearing. Id.
¶ 81. Judge Grady interrupted Daniels, but Daniels
continued to voice his objections. Id. ¶ 82.
Judge Grady, Steffen, and Nyuli all failed to consider
Daniels's parents role in taking care of the children.
Id. ¶ 86. Just before issuing the order, Judge
Grady turned to Steffen and said, “Mr. Steffen, shall
we cut him some slack?” and then told Daniels to
“be glad that I did not issue the Order to have you out
within 24 hours.” Id. ¶ 80. Daniels filed
a motion to reconsider the eviction order, arguing that it
would cause undue hardship on his elderly parents.
Id. ¶ 89. Daniels gave a copy of the motion to
the Sheriff's office asking that it halt the forced
removal. Id. ¶ 90.
Judge Grady refused to rescind the eviction order, Daniels
filed a motion to stop the divorce case pending an
administrative determination regarding his claims of fraud.
Id. ¶¶ 93-94. Citing a policy of only
accepting one motion per case, the sheriff's office
refused to accept this motion. Id. ¶ 95. So
instead, Daniels sent a letter to the sheriff informing him
of these events. Id. ¶ 96. Despite his
knowledge of these events, Sheriff Kramer sent an officer to
Daniels's home to ensure that he and his parents were not
there. Id. ¶ 98. Had they been there, officers
would have forcibly removed them. Id. The officer
later called Daniels and told him that he had never seen such
an extreme measure taken before a case had been fully
adjudicated. Id. ¶ 101.
filed an administrative claim to alert administrative
agencies to the violations of law he had observed.
Id. ¶ 106. Daniels informed Judge Grady and
Steffen of his administrative complaint, but neither recused
himself from the divorce proceedings. Id.
¶¶ 109, 112, 114. The Secretary of State
investigated Steffen's notarial violations. Id.
¶ 108. In February 2017, Daniels filed a motion to show
cause in his divorce proceedings, followed by a notice to
vacate and hold plaintiff in default when an answer was not
returned in a timely manner. Id. ¶¶
115-116. Judge Grady denied both. Id. ¶ 117.
The court prevented Daniels from seeing his children from
April through July 2017 and compelled him to get a mental
evaluation. Id. ¶ 122.
with many aspects of his state-court divorce proceedings,
Daniels filed this lawsuit against his wife's attorney
(Steffen), the guardian ad litem (Nyuli), the two judges who
presided over the proceeding (Judges Karayannis and Grady),
and the sheriff (Kramer). The defendants filed motions to
dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for
failure to state a claim. Defendants Steffen, Nyuli, Judge
Karayannis, and Judge Grady assert immunity from suit.
Steffen argues that to the extent there is subject-matter
jurisdiction over any of the claims, Younger
abstention is appropriate to avoid interfering with the
ongoing state-court proceedings.
invokes numerous legal principles, statutes, and
constitutional provisions. His complaint is at times
difficult to follow and uses legal labels and conclusions
that are not informative. The factual allegations against
each defendant, however, are clear. And because Daniels is
pro se, I read his complaint liberally. See Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). For relief, Daniels
asks for money damages, disciplinary action for the
defendants' official misconduct, felony and fraud charges
against Steffen, the return of his children and home, and the
restoration of honor to the judicial and legal profession.