United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge.
a decade ago, Plaintiff Harry Barnett took it upon himself to
begin protesting what he considered illegal business
practices at Budd Engineering. He did so in the form of an
“exposé” website and picketing outside of
Budd Engineering’s registered place of business-which
just so happened to be the residence of Rita and Burton
Siegal, the corporation’s co-founders and corporate
officers. After several years of protest, the Siegals
successfully obtained a civil stalking no contact order
against Barnett. With the instant Amended Complaint, Barnett
seeks to challenge the now expired protection order.
Defendants have moved to dismissed on a litany of grounds,
but here the Court need only address the threshold
jurisdictional concerns. Barnett’s federal action is a
thinly veiled attempt to relitigate state court proceedings.
This is plainly barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine and the Court is without jurisdiction to hear his
claims. Therefore, Defendants’ Motions are granted, and
Barnett’s Amended Complaint is dismissed without
Court accepts the Amended Complaint’s well-pleaded
facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in
Barnett’s favor. Hecker v. Deere & Co.,
556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009).
in October 2010, Harry Barnett began protesting outside the
home of Rita and Burton Siegal, which also acted as the
corporate headquarters of Budd Engineering. (Dkt. 9,
¶¶ 4-5). Barnett’s protest lasted until
approximately September 2016, but in total occurred on just
75 days of that seven year span. (Id. at ¶ 9).
The protest was focused on what Barnett considered to be Budd
Engineering’s “illegal” business practices
and false claims made on Burton Siegal’s website.
(Id. at ¶ 13).
his protests, Barnett claims to have been “accosted,
verbally taunted, physically attacked, injured, and
challenged to multiple fights by Burton [Siegal].”
(Id. at ¶ 32). On one occasion, Barnett called
the Skokie Police, who subsequently charged Burton with
disorderly conduct. (Id. at ¶ 37). In June
2013, Barnett obtained an emergency protection order against
the Burtons, which was later terminated after a hearing.
(Id. at ¶ 51). Then, in September 2016, the
Burtons obtained a two-year stalking no contact order against
Barnett. (Id. at ¶ 72). Barnett appealed,
challenging the entry of the protective order along with the
constitutionality of the underlying statute. (Dkt. 16-1). The
Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the Circuit Court’s
decision on August 3, 2018. (Id.). The Supreme Court
of Illinois later denied Barnett’s Petition for Leave
to Appeal. Siegal v. Barnett, 111 N.E.3d 947 (Ill.
proceeded to file this federal action on February 25, 2019.
(Dkt. 1). His 38 page, 13 Count Amended Complaint brings
claims against nine Defendants including, former Attorney
General of Illinois Lisa Madigan, former Governor Bruce
Rauner, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Governor J.B. Pritzker,
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, Rita Siegal, Burton
Siegal, Larry Siegal, and Cristofer Lord, the Siegal’s
attorney in the state court proceedings. Barnett’s
Complaint makes factual and legal challenges to the state
court protection order proceedings and also attempts to
challenge the constitutionality of the civil stalking
reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff must carry
his burden of establishing that jurisdiction is proper.
Ctr. for Dermatology & Skin Cancer, Ltd. v.
Burwell, 770 F.3d 586, 588-89 (7th Cir. 2014).
“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.
They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute, … which is not to be expanded by judicial
decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.,
511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). To determine whether jurisdiction
exists, the court turns to the complaint along with evidence
outside of the pleadings. Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears,
Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 444 (7th Cir. 2009). A
court lacking subject-matter jurisdiction must dismiss the
action without proceeding to the merits. Intec USA, LLC
v. Engle, 467 F.3d 1038, 1041 (7th Cir. 2006).
addressing the merits, the Court must, as always, address the
threshold question of whether jurisdiction is proper in this
Court. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine cautions that
only the Supreme Court of the United States has the authority
to review state-court decisions. See Rooker v. Fidelity
Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); District of Columbia
Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).
Rooker-Feldman denies federal district courts
jurisdiction over “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.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus.
Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). “The doctrine
applies not only to claims that were actually raised before
the state court, but also to claims that are inextricably
intertwined with the state court determinations.”
Kelley v. Med-1 Solutions, LLC, 548 F.3d 600, 603
(7th Cir. 2008). In short, the dispositive question under a
Rooker-Feldman analysis is “whether the
federal plaintiff seeks the alteration of a state
court’s judgment.” Milchtein v.
Chisholm, 880 F.3d 895, 897-98 (7th Cir. 2018).
Rooker-Feldman here does not require a parsing of
the Amended Complaint. Rather, Barnett makes his intentions
abundantly clear-he is attempting to unsettle state court
proceedings. “Barnett seeks of this Court to vacate the
stalking orders, compensatory damages, punitive damages,
reimbursement of all legal fees and expenses, and all other
relief and damages this Court sees fit.” (Dkt. 9,
¶ 117). In avoidance of doubt, Barnett goes on to state
this no less than thirteen more times throughout the Amended
Complaint. Even in response to Defendant Lord’s Motion
to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Barnett
claims he “is due that the order is vacated, at a
minimum, and if this Court sees fit, a new trial. Barnett is
asserting that the order must be vacated in its entirety, due
to the prejudice suffered by Barnett inherent in the
Court’s reliance on the unconstitutional
language.” (Dkt. 52, pg. 6).
the most generous interpretation of Barnett’s Complaint
leaves no room for dispute that he ultimately challenges and
seeks to reverse the state court proceedings, the entry of
the protection order, and the constitutionality of the civil
stalking statute-each of which was addressed in state court.
This obvious attempt to attack a state court judgment is
plainly barred by Rooker-Feldman. Each of
Barnett’s claims would require this Court to review
issues already decided by the Illinois state courts. The
Court does not have any authority to undertake such a review.
Nora v. Residential Funding Co., LLC, 543
F.App'x 601, 602 (7th Cir. 2013). Barnett’s
explicit goal is to vacate the state court judgment against
him; however, that is precisely what Rooker-Feldman
prohibits this Court from doing. See Moore v. Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A., 908 F.3d 1050, 1062 (7th Cir. 2018)
(“To find in favor of [plaintiff], we would be required
to contradict directly the state court’s decisions by
finding that [defendant] was not entitled to the final
judgment … This we simply cannot do.”);
Mains v. Citibank, N.A., 852 F.3d 669, 677 (7th Cir.
2017); Carpenter v. PNC Bank, Nat.
Ass’n, 633 F. App’x 346, 347–48 (7th
Cir. 2016); Riddle v. Deutsche Bank Nat. Tr. Co.,
599 F. App’x 598, 600 (7th Cir. 2015) (holding that
plaintiff’s attempt to frame the injury as a
deprivation of due process did not overcome the ultimate
attempt to undo the state court judgment); Calhoun v.
CitiMortgage, Inc., 580 F. App’x 484, 486 (7th
Cir. 2014) (“To the extent that [plaintiff] wants his
loan to be modified or the foreclosure overturned,
Rooker-Feldman bars his claims because he is
attacking the state foreclosure judgment.”);
Crawford v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 647 F.3d
642, 646–47 (7th Cir. 2011). There simply is “no
way for the injury complained of by [Barnett] to be separated
from [the] state court judgment.” Sykes v. Cook
Cty. Circuit Court Prob. Div., 837 F.3d 736, 742 (7th
Cir. 2016). Allowing Barnett’s claims to go forward
would be nothing more than a relitigation of settled state
court matters. Milchtein, 880 F.3d at 897-98.
Addressing the merits of the Complaint would require either a
detailed review of the Circuit Court’s decision to
enter the protective order or an assessment of the
constitutionality of the civil stalking statute. Both were
previously raised in the state court proceedings and Barnett
cannot use federal court as his second bite at the apple.
attempt to avoid the Rooker-Feldman bar,
Barnett argues that there is a fraud exception to the
doctrine. (Dkt. 49, pg. 6). This is patently not the case and
therefore does nothing to save his claims. See Bond v.
Perley, 705 F. App’x 464, 465 (7th Cir. 2017),
reh’g denied (Jan. 22, 2018) (citing Iqbal
v. Patel, 780 F.3d 728, 729 (7th Cir. 2015));
Podemski v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 714
F. App’x 580, ...