Williams, Jr. v. Trump et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order: The Court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss 13 and directs the Clerk to enter judgment dismissing the case with prejudice. Signed by the Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly on 10/16/2020. Mailed notice. (mma, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
ANDY HOPE WILLIAMS JR.; a/k/a
PROPHET; a/k/a AMBASSADOR; a/k/a
MINISTER; a/k/a EX-OFFENDER; a/k/a
DESCENDENT a/k/a HOOD CANDIDATE,
DONALD J. TRUMP, in his official capacity )
as President of the United States; J.B.
PRITZKER in his official capacity as
Governor of Illinois,
Case No. 20 C 2495
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge:
Plaintiff Andy Hope Williams Jr., an Illinois citizen, has sued the Governor of
Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, alleging that the public health measures the Governor adopted to
curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) violated his constitutional rights,
among other claims. Williams asserts claims against the Governor in his official
capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that the Governor violated his
constitutional rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution (counts 1 and 2), the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)
(counts 3, 4, and 5), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the American
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a declaration made by member states
of the Organization of American States (Indigenous Peoples Declaration) (count 5).
The defendant has moved under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1)
to dismiss all of Williams's claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the
defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims.
In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges the following facts, which, at this stage, the
Court accepts as true. O'Boyle v. Real Time Resolutions, Inc., 910 F.3d 338, 342 (7th
Williams is seeking the nomination of the Libertarian Party for President. As a
member of the Libertarian Party, he was scheduled to participate in debates in various
states to obtain the party's nomination. On March 20, 2020, the Governor, by an
executive order (EO 2020-10), directed Illinois citizens to stay at home to curb the
spread of COVID-19, practice "social distancing," and ordered non-essential businesses
and operations to cease. On April 1, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 202018 (EO 2020-18), which extended the previous order to April 30, 2020. On May 5, 2020
the Governor announced the "Restore Illinois Plan," which included a restoration of
social activities in five phases, to limit COVID-19's spread. On May 29, 2020 the
Governor issued Executive Order 38 (EO 2020-38) which initiated Phase 3 of Restore
Illinois. Phase 3 restored some activities that had been paused as COVID-19 spread
Williams alleges that the public health measures adopted by the Governor have
prevented him from completing activities necessary to obtain the Libertarian Party's
nomination for President. These activities include gathering 5,000 of the 25,000
signatures needed to obtain ballot access in Illinois. Williams contends that this
constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of association under the First Amendment.
Williams also alleges that the Governor's stay-at-home order violated various
other constitutional rights. He asserts that the Governor violated his right to free
exercise of religion under the First Amendment because of the restrictions the order
imposed on religious gatherings and houses of worship. He also alleges that the stayat-home orders violated his rights under the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause and the
Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Finally, Williams asserts claims for
violation of various federal statutes—including RFRA and the APA—as well as the
Indigenous Peoples Declaration, and he seeks a writ of mandamus.
The Governor has moved to dismiss the claims against him under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and under Rule 12(b)(6)
for failure to state a claim. "A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) tests the
jurisdictional sufficiency of the complaint, accepting as true all well-pleaded factual
allegations and drawing reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs." Bultasa
Buddhist Temple of Chi. v. Nielsen, 878 F.3d 570, 573 (7th Cir. 2017). "As the party
invoking federal jurisdiction, a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing [that] the
elements" for jurisdiction are met. Silha v. ACT, Inc., 807 F.3d 169, 173-74 (7th Cir.
2015). "In evaluating a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the court must first
determine whether a factual or facial challenge has been raised." Id. at 173. "A factual
challenge contends that there is in fact no subject matter jurisdiction, even if the
pleadings are formally sufficient." Id. (internal citations omitted). "In contrast, a facial
challenge argues that the plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a basis for subject matter
jurisdiction." Id. In this case, the defendant's Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss counts 1,
3, 4, and 5 is best understood as a facial challenge because the Governor contends that
Williams's complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to establish subject matter
To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a
plaintiff's complaint must allege facts sufficient "to state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inferences that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Sloan v.
Am. Brain Tumor Ass'n, 901 F.3d 891, 894 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). At this stage, the law does not impose a highly exacting
standard on the plaintiffs, however: "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a
'probability requirement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A plaintiff's burden on a motion to
dismiss is limited to alleging "enough details about the subject-matter of the case to
present a story that holds together." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th
Cir. 2010). But in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court is "not obliged to accept as
true legal conclusions or unsupported conclusions of fact." St. John's United Church of
Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 66, 633 (7th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks
In count 1 of his complaint, Williams contends that the Governor violated his First
Amendment rights. He alleges that the Governor violated his right to freedom of
association because the stay-at-home order prevented him from completing activities
necessary to secure the Illinois Libertarian Party's nomination for President. Williams
also contends that stay-at-home order, which imposes limitations on religious
gatherings and houses of worship, violated his right to free exercise of religion. The
Governor has moved to dismiss Williams's First Amendment claims because they are
moot, or alternatively, because Williams fails to state a plausible claim.
Freedom of association claim
Ballot access laws may "place burdens on two different, although overlapping,
kinds of rights—the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political
beliefs, and the right of qualified voters, regardless of their political persuasion, to cast
their votes effectively." Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 30 (1968).
Williams concedes, however, that his claim has been rendered moot by a
decision issued by another judge of this Court. Williams's Resp. (dkt. no. 19) at 3. In
April 2020, Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer granted a preliminary injunction that
relaxed ballot-access measures. See Libertarian Party of Illinois v. J.B. Pritzker, No. 20
C 2112, --- F. Supp. 3d ---, 2020 WL 1951687 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 23, 2020). Under the order,
electronic signatures are permitted. See id. at *4. The order also extended the petition
deadline and reduced the numerical signature requirement to 10 percent. See id.
The Court concludes that the ballot access measures Williams challenges in his
complaint no longer exist. And Williams does not allege that the modified ballot access
restrictions violate his First Amendment right to freedom of association. For these
reasons, the Court concludes that given the relaxation of the ballot-access measures
initially impacted by the Governor's stay-at-home order, Williams's claim, that he cannot
obtain 5,000 of the 25,000 signatures required to obtain ballot access, has been
rendered moot by Judge Pallmeyer's ruling allowing for electronic signatures and a
reduction of the numerical signature requirement by 90 percent. See Compl. ¶ 57.
Accordingly, "there is no longer an ongoing controversy," and "the source of the
plaintiff's prospective injury has been removed." See Ozinga v. Prince, 855 F.3d 730,
734 (7th Cir. 2017); see also Speech First, Inc. v. Killeen, 968 F.3d 628, 645 (7th Cir.
2020), as amended on denial of reh'g and reh'g en banc (7th Cir. Sept. 4, 2020).
Free exercise claim
In count 1 of his complaint, Williams also alleges that the Governor violated his
right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment because the stay-at-home
order prevents him from "freely exercis[ing] his religion/spirituality." Compl. ¶ 83.
The Governor argues that Williams's free exercise claim is moot because EO
2020-38, issued on May 29, 2020 and superseding all previous COVID-19 executive
stay-at-home orders, "removed all mandatory restrictions on gatherings for the free
exercise of religion." Def. Governor's Mem. (dkt. no. 14) at 2. Further, the Governor
argues that EO 2020-38, expressly "does not limit the free exercise of religion." See
updated May 29, 2020). Accordingly, the Governor contends, Williams is now permitted
to freely engage in religious activities without restrictions posed by the Governor's
The Governor's argument, that Williams's claim is moot, is incorrect. In a similar
case challenging the Governor's stay-at-home orders, the Seventh Circuit explained that
the application of the voluntary cessation doctrine thwarts the defendant's mootness
argument. See Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church v. Pritzker, 962 F.3d 341, 345 (7th
Cir. 2020). "Voluntary cessation of the contested conduct makes litigation moot only if it
is 'absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be
expected to recur.'" Id. (quoting Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental
Services (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 189 (2000)). "Otherwise the defendant could
resume the challenged conduct as soon as the suit was dismissed." Id. The Seventh
Circuit further explained that the "list of criteria" for restoring tighter restrictions to
reduce the spread of COVID-19 "shows that it is not absolutely clear that the terms of
Executive Order 2020-32 will never be restored." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
For these reasons, "[it] follows that the dispute is not moot" and the Court "must address
the merits" of Williams's challenge to the stay-at-home order "even though it is no longer
in effect." See id.
The order Williams primarily challenges in his complaint is EO 2020-10, issued
by the Governor on March 20, 2020. He also challenges EO 2020-18, an extension of
the March 20 order, which the Governor issued on April 1, 2020 and extended through
April 30, 2020. 1 See https://www2.illinois.gov/Pages/ExecutiveOrders/ExecutiveOrder2020-10.aspx (last updated March, 20 2020); see
updated April 1, 2020). Neither of these orders are in effect because EO-38
The Governor argues that the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are reasonable
For simplicity's sake, the Court will refer to the challenged order as EO 2020-10
throughout, without mention of EO 2020-18, because EO 2020-18 merely extends EO
public health regulations and do not violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise
Clause. To support this argument, the Governor cites Jacobson v. Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), in which the Supreme Court "recognized that a
community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens
the safety of its members." Id. at 27. The Governor contends that under Jacobson and
other applicable case law, the stay-at-home orders do not violate the Free Exercise
Clause because the "State must be able to take swift and decisive action" to "combat a
virulently infectious disease in an emergency pandemic," which includes restrictions on
large gatherings. Def. Governor's Mem. at 7. The Governor argues that large public
gatherings facilitate the spread of COVID-19. He cites a number of instances of mass
infection that have been traced back to large gatherings, including in-person religious
services, during which congregants may stand in close quarters, speak aloud, and sing.
For these reasons, the Governor contends, Jacobson as well as recent rulings by other
judges of this Court—Judge Lee's recent ruling in a similar case, Cassell v. Snyders,
No. 20 C 50153, --- F. Supp. 3d ---, 2020 WL 2112374 (N.D. Ill. May 3, 2020), and
Judge Gettleman's ruling in Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, No. 20 C 2783, 2020
WL 2468194 (N.D. Ill. May 13, 2020), aff'd, 962 F.3d 341 (7th Cir. 2020)—refute
Williams's free exercise claims. The Court agrees.
The Supreme Court in Jacobson announced that states may "enact quarantine
laws and health laws of every description." Id. Two other judges of this Court, in similar
cases challenging the Governor's stay-at-home orders, ruled that the COVID-19
pandemic is the type of public health crisis contemplated by the Supreme Court in
As Judge Lee explained in a similar lawsuit challenging EO 2020-18 under the
First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, "the traditional tiers of constitutional scrutiny
do not apply" when Jacobson is implicated. Cassell, 2020 WL 2112374, at *6.
"Jacobson preserves the authority of the judiciary to strike down laws that use public
health emergencies as a pretext for infringing individual liberties," but under these
"narrow circumstances, courts only overturn rules that lack a 'real or substantial relation
to [public health]' or that amount to 'plain, palpable invasion[s] of rights.'" Id. at *6-7
(quoting Jacobson, 197 U.S. at 31).
Judge Gettleman, in a similar action involving a free exercise challenge to the
Governor's stay-at-home orders, held that Jacobson "is implicated by the current health
crisis," EO 2020-32 "advances the State's interest in protecting its citizens from the
pandemic," and therefore the plaintiffs had a "less than negligible chance" of clearing
Jacobson's "emergency crisis standard." Elim, 2020 WL 2468194, at *3, aff'd, 962 F.3d
341 (7th Cir. 2020). The Seventh Circuit indicated that it agreed with Judge Gettleman's
Jacobson analysis, holding that Jacobson "sustains a public-health order against a
constitutional challenge" and that EO 2020-32, issued on April 30, 2020, "responds to
an extraordinary public health emergency." Elim, 962 F.3d at 344-47 (quoting Elim
Romanian Pentecostal Church v. Pritzker, No. 20-1811, 2020 WL 2517093, at *1 (7th
Cir. May 16, 2020) (denying emergency motion to enjoin the Governor's stay-at-home
order pending appeal)).
The Court agrees with the Governor's argument that under Jacobson, the stayat-home orders, including EO 2020-10, which Williams challenges, advanced the State's
interest in curbing the spread of COVID-19 to protect Illinois citizens. The Governor
issued EO 2020-10 to preserve public health and safety throughout the state of Illinois,
nine days after the World Health Organization characterized the COVID-19 outbreak as
a pandemic. In EO 2020-16, issued less than two weeks after EO 2020-10, the
Governor explained that COVID-19 cases in Illinois were increasing exponentially and
across more locations in Illinois, with the possibility of exhausting the state's healthcare
resources. See https://www2.illinois.gov/Pages/Executive-Orders/ExecutiveOrder202018.aspx (last updated April 1, 2020). As of March 20, 2020, more than 10,000 people
had died of COVID-19 around the world. Chicago Tribune Staff, Coronavirus in Illinois
updates: Here's what happened March 20 with COVID-19 in the Chicago area, Chicago
Tribune (March 20, 2020, 8:05 PM), https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ctcoronavirus-pandemic-chicago-illinois-news-20200320-fdctizo64fdqpeoldclt45ei74story.html. These dire circumstances warranted the "unprecedented limitations"
enacted by the Governor. See Libertarian Party of Illinois v. J.B. Pritzker, No. 20 C
2112, --- F. Supp. 3d. ---, 2020 WL 1951687, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 23, 2020).
Moreover, even if Jacobson did not apply, the Court agrees with the Governor's
argument that Williams has not stated a plausible free exercise claim because the stayat-home order, namely EO 2020-10, was neutral and generally applicable. In
Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S.
872 (1990), the Supreme Court held that a neutral law of general applicability does not
violate the Free Exercise Clause even if it has an incidental effect of burdening a
particular religious practice. See id. at 879 ("the right of free exercise does not relieve
an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general
applicability"). Accordingly, a "neutral law of general applicability is constitutional if it is
supported by a rational basis." Ill. Bible Colleges Ass'n v. Anderson, 870 F.3d 631, 639
(7th Cir. 2017).
To determine if a law is neutral, the Court must first "examine the object of the
law." St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 631 (7th Cir.
2007). A law is not neutral if its object is "to infringe upon or restrict practices because
of their religious motivation." Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah,
508 U.S. 520, 531 (1993).
In this case, Williams has failed to plead facts tending to show that EO 2020-10
targets religion. As the Governor argues, the stay-at-home orders are neutral and
generally applicable because "they apply broadly to public gatherings, both religious
and secular." Def. Governor's Mem. at 11. Williams's response to the Governor's
motion, that "there is no solid evidence that there was a public health crisis" that
necessitated a stay-at-home order, lacks merit. As the Governor contends, as of June
12, 2020, over 6,000 people in Illinois died of COVID-19. Since then, over 3,000 other
people in this state have lost their lives to the virus. Williams failed to respond to any of
the Governor's other arguments pertaining to his free exercise claim. Williams's Resp.
The Court agrees with the Governor's contention that EO 2020-10 is
constitutional under Employment Division v. Smith. Moreover, the Seventh Circuit held
as much in an order it issued on May 16, 2020 regarding EO 2020-32, which is similar
to EO 2020-10 in that the ban on large public gatherings (gatherings of more than 10
people) applies broadly to religious and non-religious activities alike. See Elim, 2020
WL 2517093, at *1 ("[EO-32]'s temporary numerical restrictions on public gatherings
apply not only to worship services but also to the most comparable types of secular
gatherings, such as concerts, lectures, theatrical performances, or choir practices, in
which groups of people gather together for extended periods. . .").
In sum, the object of EO 2020-10 was to preserve public health and safety
throughout Illinois. Any burden it may have imposed on religion was only "incidental."
See Smith, 494 U.S. at 879. Williams has not alleged a plausible basis for a contention
that the Governor's issuance of stay-at-home orders in response to a public health
emergency was a pretext for the infringement of his First Amendment rights. See
Jacobson, 197 U.S. at 28-29 (explaining that laws enacted "under the guise of exerting
a police power" are invalid when they "violate rights secured by the Constitution"). As
such, the Court concludes, under traditional First Amendment analysis, that EO 2020-10
was supported by a rational basis—slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois—and did
not violate the Free Exercise Clause.
For these reasons, the Court dismisses Williams's First Amendment claim (count
Due process claims
In count 2 of the complaint, Williams alleges procedural and substantive due
process claims against the Governor under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. 2
The Governor has moved to dismiss these claims on the grounds that Williams fails to
allege specific factual allegations.
In count 4, Williams makes conclusory allegations invoking the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Compl. ¶¶ 104-07. But he has failed to
plead even minimal facts to suggest a cognizable equal protection allegation. See Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678.
Williams asserts violations of his procedural and substantive due process rights
under the both Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, but the factual contents of his
complaint appear to be based on the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause. Compl. ¶ 90
("As part of the Plaintiff's protected constitutional right to pursue happiness . . . private
property [cannot] be taken for public use, without just compensation by restricting the
use of that property without just compensation"); U.S. Const. amend. V; see Palazzolo
v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606, 617 (2011) ("The Takings Clause … prohibits the
government from taking private property for public use without just compensation").
But Williams has failed to sufficiently allege that the government took his private
property for public use. See Palazzolo, 533 U.S. at 617. Rather, he makes vague and
conclusory statements regarding the stay-at-home order's impact on his use and
enjoyment of unspecified property. See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 91 ("The Order requiring
Plaintiff to stay in his home has deprived him of his liberty to pursue his desire to
become the 46th President of the United States and interferes with and substantially
disturbs Plaintiff's use and enjoyment of his property. . ."). As the Governor correctly
contends, the plaintiff's factual allegations under the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause
are insufficient. To survive a motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff must provide more than
"labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Williams has not done so.
Williams's complaint also appears to allege a Fourteenth Amendment substantive
due process claim, but he fails to include sufficient factual allegations to make out the
elements of such a claim. In count 2 of the complaint, Williams's only reference to due
process is the following sentence: "Plaintiff respects the language in the [stay-at-home]
order, but states it should be a choice, and not an order which violates due process of
law." Compl. ¶ 93. Williams's allegations are insufficient to make out a plausible
substantive due process claim. See Campos v. Cook County, 932 F.3d 972, 975 (7th
Cir. 2019) (explaining that "a plaintiff must allege that the government violated a
fundamental right or liberty" and "that violation must have been arbitrary and irrational").
Moreover, as the Governor argues, even if Williams intended to assert a
substantive due process claim based on the alleged infringements of his rights of
association and to free exercise of his religion—the assertions on which he bases his
First Amendment claims—a substantive due process claim cannot be asserted in these
circumstances. "Where a particular Amendment provides an explicit textual source of
constitutional protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that
Amendment, not the more generalized notion of 'substantive due process,' must be the
guide for analyzing these claims." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 273 (1994); see also
Wilks v. Rose, 715 F. App'x 545, 548 (7th Cir. 2018) (citing Albright and explaining that
the plaintiff's substantive due process claim "amounts to little more than a futile
repackaging of [his] First Amendment claim").
For these reasons, the Court dismisses Williams's Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendment claims (count 2).
In counts 3, 4, and 5, Williams alleges that EO 2020-10 violates the federal
RFRA statute, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1. 3 In count 4, he alleges that EO 2020-10
improperly restricts "expressive religious/spiritual activity." Compl. ¶ 105. The
Governor argues that Williams fails to state a plausible claim under RFRA because it
does not apply to the states.
The Court agrees. In City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 511 (1997), the
Supreme Court held that Congress exceeded its legislative authority under section 5 of
the Fourteenth Amendment when it applied RFRA to the states. The Court therefore
held that RFRA was unconstitutional as applied to state laws. See id. In Illinois
Republican Party v. Pritzker, No. 20-2175, 2020 WL 5246656 (7th Cir. Sept 3, 2020),
the Seventh Circuit reiterated that "RFRA could not be applied to the states." Id. at *5.
Williams's RFRA claims, in which he challenges actions taken by the governor of a
state, is therefore beyond the coverage of RFRA.
Accordingly, the Court dismisses Williams's RFRA claims (counts 3, 4, and 5).
In count 5, Williams, alleges that the Governor, in issuing EO 2020-10, violated
the APA and the Indigenous Peoples Declaration. The Governor argues that the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over these claims. The Court agrees.
First, Williams's apparent claim that EO 2020-10 amounts to invalid agency
action is not a cognizable claim under the APA. 5 U.S.C. § 706(a)(A)-(C). The APA
does not authorize claims against non-federal entities. Id. § 701(b)(1)(A) ("'agency'
Williams does not identify a specific provision of RFRA in his complaint or his
memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss.
means each authority of the Government of the United States"); see Karst Env'tl Educ.
& Prot., Inc. v. E.P.A., 475 F.3d 1291, 1298 (D.C. Cir. 2007) ("By its own terms, the APA
does not apply to state agencies"). Williams also forfeited his APA claim by failing to
respond to the Governor's arguments in support of dismissing it. See Alioto v. Town of
Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 719 (7th Cir. 2011) ("[Plaintiff] forfeited his opportunity to oppose
the defendants' motion to dismiss by failing to respond to the arguments in support of
Indigenous Peoples Declaration
Williams alleges that the Governor violated the American Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a declaration adopted by the Organization of American
States. As the Governor contends, however, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over this claim. 4 This declaration is not a treaty in force, and it does not confer a private
right of action in U.S. courts. See Van Hope-el v. U.S. Dep't of State, No. 18 C 0441,
2019 WL 295774, at *3 n.2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 22, 2019) ("there is no private right of action
under declarations such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples and the American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples"); see also
Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692, 734 (2004) (holding that the United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights does not "create obligations enforceable in the federal
courts"); see also Calderon v. Reno, 39 F. Supp. 2d 943, 956 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (explaining
that U.S. treaties not implemented by legislation "do not provide the basis for a private
lawsuit unless they are intended to be self-executing").
Williams also contends that the Court has jurisdiction over this claim under the
Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491, and the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346. Williams's
Resp. at 5. Williams's argument lacks merit. The Tucker Act confers exclusive
jurisdiction for certain types of claims on the United States Court of Federal Claims, not
the federal district courts. Moreover, claims arising under the Tucker Act must be
asserted against the United States. In this case, Williams's claims are asserted against
the Governor of Illinois. Accordingly, this Court does not have jurisdiction under the
Tucker Act. Also, although the Little Tucker Act confers original jurisdiction on the
district courts, concurrent with the United States Court of Federal Claims, claims arising
under the Little Tucker Act must be asserted against the United States. See United
States v. Bormes, 568 U.S. 6, 7 (2012). In this case, the United States is not a
defendant, and therefore the Little Tucker Act does not confer jurisdiction on this Court
For these reasons, the Court dismisses Williams's claims under the APA and
Indigenous Peoples Declaration (count 5).
Writ of mandamus
Williams also seeks a writ of mandamus under 28 U.S.C. § 1361, which states
that "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of
mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof
to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff." This statute does not confer jurisdiction to issue
a writ of mandamus to an officer of state (as opposed to federal) government. Pacheco
v. Lappin, 167 F. App'x 562, 563 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that § 1361 is a federal
mandamus statute). Although Williams's complaint includes claims against the
President of the United States, which could theoretically provide a basis to issue a writ
of mandamus, the only official whose conduct Williams challenges in the complaint is
the Governor of Illinois. Counts 1 through 5 of Williams's complaint contain no factual
allegations regarding the President's conduct and he only asserts these claims against
the Governor. Accordingly, there is no basis for a claim against the President.
Moreover, although counts 6 and 7 of Williams's complaint are directed against
the President, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over these claims.
"Federal courts are of limited jurisdiction and may only exercise jurisdiction where it is
specifically authorized by federal statute." Evers v. Astrue, 536 F.3d 651, 657 (7th Cir.
2008). The promissory estoppel and breach of fiduciary duty claims that Williams
asserts against the President do not independently confer federal-question jurisdiction.
Moreover, the Court concludes that the Governor is entitled to dismissal of counts 1
through 5, so there is no basis for supplemental jurisdiction over Williams's claims
against the President, either. For these reasons, the Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction under § 1361 and therefore dismisses this claim.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss
[dkt. no. 13] and directs the Clerk to enter judgment dismissing the case with prejudice.
Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) establishes a "presumption in favor of
giving plaintiffs at least one opportunity to amend," district courts have broad discretion
to "deny leave to amend when such amendment would be futile." Loja v. Main Street
Acquisition Corp., 906 F.3d 680, 684-85 (7th Cir. 2018) (internal citations omitted). In
this case, Williams's response to the Governor's motion to dismiss indicates that he is
"hoping that discovery will turn up . . . a basis for" his claims. See Gavin v. AT&T Corp.,
543 F. Supp. 2d 885, 900 (N.D. Ill. 2008); see Williams's Resp. at 4 ("The Defendant
has provided no solid evidence that there was a public health crisis that required a
'shelter in place' to stop the spread of a virus … these are merely allegations and prior
to making a ruling, Plaintiff should be allowed limited discovery"). In his response brief,
Williams also failed to respond to many of the Governor's substantive arguments in
support of dismissing his claims and instead incorporated contentions and speculations
that are unrelated to issues before the Court. See, e.g., Williams's Resp. at 9 ("It is
worth nothing that Gov. J.B. Pritzker could be financially benefiting from the coronavirus
pandemic following reports that his family's investment firm has a stake in two
companies doing tests for the contagion"). At this stage, Williams has not "offer[ed] any
meaningful indication of how [he] would plead differently" if given the opportunity to
amend his complaint. See Independent Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665
F.3d 930, 943 (7th Cir. 2012). The Court therefore concludes that amendment in this
case would be futile.
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY
United States District Judge
Date: October 16, 2020
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?