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Gonzalez v. Madigan

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 23, 2019




         Jason Gonzales unsuccessfully challenged Michael J. Madigan, representative of Illinois's 22nd district and the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, in the 2016 Democratic primary election. Gonzales has sued Madigan and a number of other individuals and organizations, alleging that they conspired to place two "sham" candidates with Hispanic surnames on the ballot in an effort to dilute Gonzales's electoral support. The defendants have moved for summary judgment.


          The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted. Since 1971, Michael J. Madigan has represented Illinois's 22nd district on Chicago's southwest side. He is the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. Madigan has served as the House speaker for thirty-three of the past thirty-five years.

         The legislative district Madigan represents geographically overlaps with parts of Chicago's 13th Aldermanic Ward, which is represented by Madigan's political ally Marty Quinn. Alderman Quinn served as Madigan's campaign manager in 2016. In addition, Madigan serves as a 13th Ward committeeman-and, as such, manages political- and election-related activities in the ward-and as the chairman of the 13th Ward Democratic Organization, a private political organization.

         A. 2016 Democratic primary election

         Gonzales challenged Madigan in the 2016 Democratic primary. In addition to Gonzales and Madigan, two other candidates' names appeared on the primary ballot: Joe Barboza and Graciela Rodriguez. Gonzales contends that Madigan, acting through associated individuals and entities, caused Barboza and Rodriguez to enter the race as "sham" candidates whose purpose was to dilute Gonzales's support among Hispanic voters. Madigan denies any involvement in efforts to recruit Barboza or Rodriguez to run in the primary.

         In support of his contention that Barboza and Rodriguez were sham candidates, Gonzales points to evidence that individuals associated with Madigan encouraged them to run-even though Madigan was in the race. For example, Kevin Quinn, the brother of Alderman Marty Quinn, testified that Alderman Quinn authorized him to instruct a third Democratic official to contact Barboza about entering the race. Similarly, Rodriguez testified that she discussed the possibility of running with Jennifer Solski, Alderman Quinn's assistant. Gonzales also contends that Barboza and Rodriguez never actively campaigned. For example, Barboza and Rodriguez spent little or no money on the election and held no rallies.

         Gonzales also cites Barboza's and Rodriguez's nominating petitions as evidence that their candidacies were a sham. Under Illinois law, prospective candidates hoping to appear on the primary ballot must obtain signatures on nominating petitions. Volunteers or employees of the 13th Ward Democratic Organization-including so-called "precinct captains"-circulated Madigan's petitions. They also circulated petitions for Rodriguez and Barboza-to run against Madigan, the chairman of the Organization. Although Rodriguez and Barboza both testified that they did not know many of the people who circulated petitions on their behalf, it is undisputed some of their circulators, including Michael Kuba, Joseph Nasella, and Eugene Pagois, were also involved with the 13th Ward Democratic Organization. And it is undisputed that former Madigan staffer Shaw Decremer delivered Barboza and Rodriguez's nominating petitions from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, where they were filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

         During the campaign, Gonzales told multiple news outlets (including the Chicago Sun-Times, WTTW, NBC Chicago, and the Wall Street Journal) that he believed Barboza and Rodriguez were sham candidates who were on the ballot at Madigan's behest. Madigan, for his part, testified that he believed that the then-governor of Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner, was financially supporting Gonzales's campaign.

         The primary election was held on March 15, 2016. Out of a total of 26, 320 votes, Madigan earned 17, 155, or about 65.2%. Gonzales received 7, 124 votes (about 27%), Rodriguez 1, 523 (5.8%), and Barboza 518 (2%).

         B. Procedural history

         In August 2016, Gonzales filed the present lawsuit against a number of individuals and organizations, including Madigan, Barboza, and Rodriguez, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as various provisions of Illinois law. The defendants successfully moved to dismiss the federal claims, but the Court granted Gonzales leave to amend the complaint with respect to all but one of the defendants. See Gonzales v. Madigan (First Motion to Dismiss Ruling), No. 16 C 7915, 2017 WL 977007, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 14, 2017).

         Gonzales amended his complaint. The Court initially dismissed the amended complaint with prejudice, reasoning that "Gonzales cannot make allegations plausibly supporting a contention that one or more of the defendants acted under color of state law." Gonzales v. Madigan (Second Motion to Dismiss Ruling), No. 16 C 7915, 2017 WL 2653079, at *7 (N.D. Ill. June 20, 2017). On Gonzales's motion, however, the Court vacated that judgment because it determined that it had applied the "color of state law" requirement too narrowly. The Court then dismissed some but not all of Gonzales's federal claims on different grounds and again granted leave to amend the complaint. See Gonzales v. Madigan (Ruling Vacating Judgment), No. 16 C 7915, 2017 WL 3978703, at *5, *11 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 11, 2017).

         Gonzales filed a second amended complaint. The defendants moved to dismiss Gonzales's state law claims. The Court granted the motion with respect to Gonzales's common-law tort claims in which he alleged defamation and false light but denied it with respect to his state statutory claims. See Gonzales v. Madigan (Third Motion to Dismiss Ruling), No. 16 C 7915, 2018 WL 1377910, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 17, 2018). As a result of that ruling, the remaining defendants are Madigan, Friends of Michael J. Madigan (a Madigan-controlled political action committee), the 13th Ward Democratic Organization, Decremer, Barboza, and Rodriguez.[1] In his remaining claims, Gonzales alleges that each of the defendants violated the Equal Protection Clause and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 (counts 3, 9, 15, 23, 27, 33, and 35); engaged in a conspiracy under section 1983 (count 37); conspired to prevent voting under 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/29-18 (count 38); violated Illinois's statutory analogue to section 1983, 10 Ill. ...

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