Andrew Straw v. Indiana Supreme Court, et al
Filed Nonprecedential Disposition PER CURIAM. AFFIRMED. Richard A. Posner, Circuit Judge; Michael S. Kanne, Circuit Judge and Diane S. Sykes, Circuit Judge. [6852200-1]  [17-1338]
To be cited only in accordance with Fed. R. App. P. 32.1
United States Court of Appeals
For the Seventh Circuit
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Submitted July 5, 2017*
Decided July 6, 2017
RICHARD A. POSNER, Circuit Judge
MICHAEL S. KANNE, Circuit Judge
DIANE S. SYKES, Circuit Judge
ANDREW U. D. STRAW,
INDIANA SUPREME COURT, et al.,
Appeal from the United States
District Court for the Southern District
of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
Jane E. Magnus‐Stinson,
O R D E R
Andrew Straw, a licensed attorney in Indiana, sued the Indiana Supreme Court
and several of its employees for pursuing an attorney‐disciplinary action against him in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12132, 12203. The district
court dismissed Straw’s complaint on the grounds of Younger abstention (believing the
state disciplinary proceedings were still ongoing) and, alternatively, res judicata.
* We have agreed to decide this case without oral argument because the briefs
and record adequately present the facts and legal arguments, and oral argument would
not significantly aid the court. FED. R. APP. P. 34(a)(2)(C).
See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Although Younger abstention does not apply, we
agree that res judicata bars Straw’s claims and on that basis we affirm.
Straw first filed a federal civil‐rights suit in 2015 against the Indiana Supreme
Court, its chief justice, court officials, and the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission for disability discrimination. He alleged that the defendants discriminated
against him when he applied for admission to the Indiana bar, while he worked at that
court as an analyst, and when the court initiated attorney‐disciplinary proceedings
against him. Straw explained in his complaint that he has bipolar disorder, which he was
forced to disclose on his application for admission to the Indiana bar. He also
experiences physical limitations in his legs, the result of a car accident years ago in which
he broke his legs and pelvis while traveling to his job at the Indiana Supreme Court. He
was fired from that job in 2002—shortly after returning from the accident—and moved
out of the country. But he returned to practice law in Indiana in 2010 and has filed
numerous unsuccessful lawsuits advocating for people with disabilities.
Those lawsuits spurred the Disciplinary Commission of the Indiana Supreme
Court to bring a disciplinary action against Straw in December 2016, alleging that he had
violated Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 3.1 by advancing frivolous claims and
arguments in four federal lawsuits. Straw responded that the Indiana Supreme Court
persistently discriminated against him based on his bipolar disorder and physical
disabilities and retaliated against him because of his advocacy for people with
disabilities. Straw filed several unauthorized motions to obstruct the proceedings, yet he
refused to appear at a subsequent disciplinary hearing when the commission produced
evidence to support the charges against him. The hearing officer found that Straw had
engaged in a pattern of misconduct and violated Rule 3.1, so the officer recommended to
the Supreme Court that Straw’s license be suspended.
While the recommendation was pending, Straw filed his first federal complaint,
alleging that the defendants violated the ADA by discriminating against him based on
his disabilities, and they denied him access to the courts by jeopardizing his law license
in the disciplinary action. The district court dismissed that suit because Straw had not
properly served several defendants and failed to establish any claim for relief. Straw v.
Ind. Sup. Ct., No. 1:15‐cv‐01015‐RLY‐DKL, 2016 WL 344720 (S.D. Ind. Jan. 28, 2016).
Straw then filed this federal action—raising identical claims—and moved for a
preliminary injunction to halt the disciplinary proceeding on the ground that it was
discriminatory and retaliatory. The defendants countered that the district court must
refrain from exercising jurisdiction under the Younger doctrine, which bars federal courts
from interfering in ongoing state proceedings that are “judicial in nature, involve
important state interests, provide adequate opportunity to raise federal claims, and do
not contain special circumstances that would make abstention inappropriate.” Sykes v.
Cook Cty. Cir. Ct. Prob. Div., 837 F.3d 736, 740 (7th Cir. 2016). In his two reply briefs, Straw
ignored the defendants’ argument about Younger abstention.
The district court agreed that Younger applied to Straw’s injunction request and
denied his motion. Younger abstention, the court explained, had been extended to
attorney‐discipline proceedings, see Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm’n. v. Garden State Bar
Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 434–35 (1982), and applied here because Straw did not argue that any
special circumstances made abstention inappropriate. Because Younger required the
district court to abstain from exercising federal jurisdiction, the court dismissed Straw’s
claims and ordered him to show cause why final judgment should not be entered.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a final order of discipline, finding
that Straw had engaged in professional misconduct by pursuing frivolous cases. It
suspended Straw’s law license for 180 days without automatic reinstatement. In re
Andrew U.D. Straw, 98S00‐1601‐DI‐12, Or. (Ind. Sup. Ct. Feb. 14, 2017).
In response to the show‐cause order, Straw disputed Younger’s application
because special circumstances—namely, that the defendants acted in bad faith in
initiating the disciplinary action—justified federal intervention. The defendants urged
that the disciplinary action was motivated by concern for Straw’s law practice, not bad
faith, and his claims were precluded by his prior litigation based on the same events.
The district court found that Straw’s arguments were “replays” of matters that
could have been considered in prior proceedings and concluded that he failed to explain
why final judgment should not enter for the defendants. The court entered judgment
accordingly. Straw, the court pointed out, waived his objections to Younger by not
raising them during briefing on his injunction request. And to the extent he now
opposed entry of final judgment based on the defendants’ alleged violations of the ADA,
the court determined that these claims were barred by res judicata, since he had raised
nearly identical claims in the prior federal suit that was dismissed on the merits.
Straw argues on appeal that the district court misapplied the Younger abstention
doctrine by failing to consider the special circumstances of bad faith and harassment that
warranted federal interference. See Middlesex, 457 U.S. at 435; Crenshaw v. Sup. Ct. of Ind.,
170 F.3d 725, 729 (7th Cir. 1999).
The defendants, for their part, acknowledge that the abstention doctrine no longer
applies because the state court proceeding terminated on February 14, two days before
the district court entered judgment. There no longer was an ongoing state proceeding for
the district court to disturb. See Sykes, 837 F.3d at 740–41. The defendants now propose
that the Rooker‐Feldman doctrine prevents the district court from exercising jurisdiction
over Straw’s claims. See D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983); Rooker v.
Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923).
But the Rooker‐Feldman doctrine applies to “cases brought by state‐court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state‐court judgments rendered before the district court
proceedings commenced,” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Ind. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284
(2005) (emphasis added), and is inapplicable here because Straw filed the federal action
before he received a final judgment in state court. See Parker v. Lyons, 757 F.3d 701, 705–06
(7th Cir. 2014).
The defendants, however, maintain that another basis of the district court’s ruling
bars Straw’s claims: the doctrine of res judicata. As the district court explained, Straw
had sued the Indiana Supreme Court and its employees in 2015 for disability
discrimination, and that suit was dismissed for failure to state a claim. Straw disputes
that characterization and insists that his prior federal case had been dismissed for lack of
service. Insufficient service of process indeed was one basis for the district court’s
dismissal order in 2015, but the court also dismissed Straw’s case for failure to state a
claim, see Federal Rule of Civil Procedure at 12(b)(6). Straw, 2016 WL 344720, at *4, 6–7.
The entry of judgment pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) was a final judgment for purposes of
res judicata. Tartt v. Nw. Cmty. Hosp., 453 F.3d 817, 822 (7th Cir. 2006). Straw offers no
other challenge to the district court’s conclusion that res judicata bars his suit.
Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
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