Brinson v. Cook County Appeal et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order: Accordingly the complaint is dismissed. Because the Court has already permitted amendment, and because further amendment would be futile, the dismissal is now with prejudice. Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel 11 , and motion to make a correction 18 are denied as moot. Civil case terminated. The 6/19/2017 notice motion date is stricken. Signed by the Honorable Thomas M. Durkin on 6/15/2017:Mailed notice(srn, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
COOK COUNTY APPEAL CLERK OFFICE,
and PATRICIA O’BRIEN, SUPERVISOR
No. 16 C 9182
Judge Thomas M. Durkin
On January 3, 2017, this Court dismissed Samuel Brinson’s lawsuit without
prejudice for failure to state a claim. R. 8. The original pro se pleading, construed
broadly by the Court, alleged that Brinson was denied access to the courts in
violation of his due process rights because, though Brinson desired to appeal an
adverse circuit court decision, a circuit court clerk refused to transmit the record of
the case to the appellate court, which resulted in the dismissal of Brinson’s appeal.
See R. 1 at 3-7.
In its January 3rd order, this Court noted that to state a constitutional claim
for denial of access to the courts, a plaintiff must plausibly allege “(1) a nonfrivolous underlying claim, (2) the official acts frustrating the litigation, and (3) a
remedy that may be awarded as recompense but that is not otherwise available in a
future suit.” R. 8 at 4 (quoting Bryant v. Lake Cty. Circuit Clerk, 2015 WL 690174,
at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 17, 2015) and citing Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415-
16 (2000)). The Court further noted that a plaintiff must also allege that the official
act that frustrated his access to the courts proximately caused his injury. Id. (citing
Snyder v. Nolen, 380 F.3d 279, 301 (7th Cir. 2004) (noting that a plaintiff “will have
to demonstrate at some point in the litigation that the alleged harm was caused by
the action of [the state-court clerk] rather than as a result of his own failure to seek
immediate redress . . . through a petition for writ of mandamus”)). The Court
dismissed Brinson’s complaint for failing to allege any facts regarding the claims
and remedies at issue in the underlying lawsuit and for failing to allege facts
supporting the plausible inference that the conduct of the circuit court clerk, and
not his own dilatory conduct, proximately caused his injury. Id. at 4-5. The
dismissal was without prejudice, and granted Brinson thirty days to amend. Id. at
5. The day before his amended complaint was due, Brinson sought a 60-day
extension, R. 9, which was granted, R. 10. On the date of the extended deadline,
Brinson filed another motion for extension of time, R. 14, which the Court granted
with the admonition that it was a final thirty-day extension, R. 16.
On May 30, 2017, Brinson filed what the Court construes to be the
amendment to the original complaint. See R. 17 (incorporating by reference the
exhibits filed along with the second motion for extension of time, R. 14). Construed
broadly, those amendments make the following clarifications:
From September 2012 to his eviction in February 2014, Brinson
had a number of issues with his landlord. Specifically, at times
during that period, Brinson’s unit did not have heat or electricity,
and had bedbugs and roaches. See Exs. 9-11.
On August 8, 2013, Brinson’s
proceedings against him. R. 17 at 2.
On January 8, 2014, the landlord was ordered by the state court
judge to maintain heat and electricity in Brinson’s apartment. See
On February 4, 2014, the state court judge entered an eviction
order along with a $5,200 judgment against Brinson for unpaid
rent. See Ex. 1, Ex. 8. Brinson sent a letter to the circuit court that
same day stating that he had not been given an opportunity to
present his case before judgment was entered against him because
the judge “cut [him] off.” See Ex. 8 (“I was done wrong in this case. I
want this case reheard in court fairly and vacated judgment
given.”). Brinson did not receive a response to this letter. R. 17 at 4.
He reiterates the same grievances in this lawsuit. See R. 17 at 1 (“I
was denied opportunity to testif[y] in Circuit Court of Cook County
[on] February 4, 2014, and also denied to show my evidence.”); id.
at 5 (“I was not allowed to talk and present my evidence.”).
Brinson filed a notice of appeal on February 4, 2014 and February
7, 2014. See Ex. 2. A file transmittal form was completed in the civil
appeals division on February 10, 2014. See id.
Six months later, on August 14, 2014, Brinson’s appeal was
dismissed for want of prosecution on the finding of the appellate
court that Brinson “has failed to file the record on appeal within the
time prescribed by Supreme Court Rule 326.” See Ex. 6.
Another adverse order was issued by the appellate court against
Brinson on September 24, 2014. See Ex. 7.
Brinson does not allege that he took any further appeals or sought
reconsideration by the appellate court of its orders. Nor does he
allege that he sought an order from the circuit court compelling the
defendant clerk to transmit the record on appeal.
In this lawsuit, Brinson asks this Court to dismiss “the $5,200
judgment, and other situations ruled against me.” See R. 17. at 8.
Unfortunately, these amendments do not rescue the original complaint from
dismissal. Not only do they fail to cure the previously identified deficiencies, they
bring to bear an altogether different issue preventing Brinson’s claim from
proceeding in this Court: lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. It seems that the heart
of Brinson’s claim is not a failure by the defendant clerk to transmit the record on
appeal, but rather the entry of judgment against him in the first place. Since
Brinson’s state court appeal was unsuccessful, he turns now to this Court seeking
an order vacating the state court judgment against him. The Court lacks
jurisdiction to grant this relief. Johnson v. Orr, 551 F.3d 564, 567 (7th Cir. 2008)
(“[F]ederal courts, other than the Supreme Court, do not have jurisdiction to review
decisions of state courts in civil cases.”) (citing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic
Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283-84 (2005)). Simply put, federal courts are deprived
of subject matter jurisdiction “where a party, dissatisfied with a result in state
court, sues in federal court seeking to set aside the state-court judgment and
requesting a remedy for an injury caused by that judgment.” Id. at 568 (citation
omitted). That is precisely what Brinson has done here. “[L]itigant[s] may not
attempt to circumvent” this rule “simply by casting the complaint in the form of a
civil rights action.” Id. (citation omitted).
Accordingly the complaint is dismissed. Because the Court has already
permitted amendment, and because further amendment would be futile, the
dismissal is now with prejudice.1
Brinson also filed a motion to make a correction to a sentence on pages 6-7 of his
amended complaint. R. 18. This correction does not change the Court’s holding that
it lack subject matter jurisdiction over Brinson’s claim. Thus, Brinson’s motion to
correct a sentence in his amended complaint is denied as moot.
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin
United States District Judge
Dated: June 15, 2017
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