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Campos v. Cook County

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 5, 2019

Michael O. Campos, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Cook County, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued May 29, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 18-cv-2305 - Charles R. Norgle, Judge.

          Before Kanne, Sykes, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.

          KANNE, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         After Michael Campos's August 2011 arrest for driving under the influence, his employer-the Cook County Sheriff's Office-began termination proceedings. The Merit Board has voted to terminate Campos's employment on two occasions. But both times the Cook County Circuit Court vacated the decision. And, to this day, the termination proceedings are ongoing. Instead of waiting for their completion, Campos filed this federal law suit alleging, among other things, that the protracted proceedings have violated his substantive due process rights. Because Campos has not met the high standard for stating a substantive due process claim, we affirm the district court's dismissal of his claims.

         I. Background

         In 1997, Michael Campos began working for the Cook County Sheriff's Office as a correctional officer. In August 2011, he was arrested for driving under the influence, striking a vehicle, and leaving the scene of an accident. Campos self-reported the incident, and the sheriff suspended him without pay on November 29, 2011, and referred him for termination. By law, the Cook County Sheriff's Merit Board has exclusive authority to terminate Sheriff's Office employees. 55 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/3-7012.

         While the Merit Board proceedings were ongoing, the Cook County Circuit Court granted Campos's motion to suppress and quashed his arrest. On October 15, 2015, the Merit Board voted to terminate Campos for violating state law. He petitioned the circuit court for review approximately one year later. On January 18, 2017, the circuit court granted Campos's petition, vacated the Merit Board's decision as too vague to allow for judicial review, and remanded for a second attempt.

         In April 2017, the Merit Board once again voted to terminate Campos. He sought judicial review. And on March 9, 2018, the circuit court vacated and remanded a second time. But this time, the court vacated the Merit Board's decision not because of some defect in the reasoning but because of a defect in the Merit Board's composition.

         The circuit court relied upon a developing line of cases involving interim appointments to the Merit Board. In Taylor v. Dart, the Illinois Appellate Court found that the Merit Board Act does not permit the sheriff to appoint Merit Board members to terms of fewer than six years. 64 N.E.3d 123, 130 (II. App. Ct. 2016) (citing 55 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/3-7002). Because one member of the Merit Board was serving an interim term when the Board voted to terminate the plaintiff, the Taylor court held that the decision was void. Id. at 132. The circuit court found that the reasoning in Taylor applied with equal force to Campos. When the Merit Board voted to terminate him, one member was serving an interim term.[1]

         At this point, it had been almost seven years since the sheriff suspended Campos without pay. Rather than wait for a third Merit Board decision, he filed suit in federal court. Cam-pos's initial complaint-filed on March 29, 2018-named eighteen defendants and advanced five claims. Besides suing Cook County, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, the sheriff, the Merit Board, and the Board's members, he also sued the law firm Steptoe and Johnson, LLP, and three of its attorneys (who represented the county in the circuit court proceedings). On May 2, 2018, the Steptoe defendants filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them. The district court scheduled a hearing on the motion for May 11, 2018.

         On May 10, Campos filed an amended complaint in which he renewed his claims against all defendants (except the Cook County State's Attorney's Office) and added a sixth claim (for First Amendment retaliation). The district court held the already-scheduled hearing the next day. When plaintiff's counsel advised the court that he had filed an amended complaint the day before, the court noted that it had not granted leave to file an amended complaint. The court referred to the Local Rules for the Northern District of Illinois and concluded that the original complaint remained the operative document. See N.D. 111. L.R. 5.3(b) ("Every motion or objection shall be accompanied by a notice of presentment specifying the date and time on which, and judge before whom, the motion or objection is to be presented."). After that finding, the court dismissed the Steptoe defendants with prejudice.

         Several months later, the remaining defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. On November 5, 2018, the court granted that motion and dismissed the ...


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