Neuman v. State of Illinois et al
ORDER GRANTING 11 MOTION to Dismiss filed by Leslie Graves, Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General Office, State of Illinois, Karen McNaught; GRANTING 29 MOTION to Dismiss filed by Clerk Office of the Sangamon County Courthouse, Sangamon County Courthouse; GRANTING in PART and DENYING in PART 62 MOTION for Sanctions filed by Leslie Graves, Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General Office, State of Illinois, Karen McNaught; DENYING 72 MOTION to Amend/Correct complaint filed by James Neuman ; and DENYING 71 MOTION to Change Venue or removal if SDC lacks Jurisdiction filed by James Neuman. This case is dismissed as to all defendants. Plaintiff Neuman is ordered to pay a penalty of three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) to this Court and is prohibited from instigating further litigation in federal court until this penalty is paid in full. Signed by Chief Judge David R. Herndon on 7/12/11. (kls2)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
STATE OF ILLINOIS,et al.,
HERNDON, Chief Judge:
Now before this Court are the motion to dismiss (Docs. 11 & 12) by
defendants State of Illinois, Judge Leslie Graves, Illinois Attorney General Office,
Lisa Madigan, and Karen McNaught, a motion joined by defendant Terrance
Corrigan (Docs. 13& 14) and Suzanne Ushman (Docs. 36& 37); and the motion to
dismiss (Docs. 29 & 30) by defendants Sangamon County Courthouse and the
Clerk Office of the Sangamon County Courthouse, a motion joined by defendant
Ushman (Docs. 36& 37). In response to these motions to dismiss, plaintiff James
Neuman filed a memorandum in opposition (Doc. 70).
Also pending are a motion for sanctions (Docs. 62 & 63) by defendants
State of Illinois, Judge Leslie Graves, Illinois Attorney General Office, Madigan,
and McNaught; plaintiff’s motion to change venue (Doc. 71); and plaintiff’s motion
to amend the complaint (Doc. 72).
Defendants State of Illinois, Office of the
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Attorney General, Madigan, McNaught, Judge Graves, Office of the Circuit Clerk
of Sangamon County, and Sangamon County Courthouse object to the motion to
change venue (Doc. 75) and the motion to amend the complaint (Doc. 73),
objections which defendant Ushman has adopted (Docs. 76 &77).
The motions to dismiss argue improper venue; judicial immunity; failure to
state a cause of action; bars against suits against the State of Illinois, the Office of
the Attorney General, and defendants in official capacities as assistant attorneys
general or courthouse clerks; the inability to sue buildings; improper service; and
violations of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 10.
For the following reasons, defendants’ motions to dismiss are GRANTED.
This case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to all defendants.Defendants’
motion for sanctions is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and plaintiff
Neuman is ORDERED to pay a penalty of three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) to
Plaintiff Neuman is further PROHIBITED from instigating further
litigation in federal court until the penalty is paid in full. Plaintiff’s motion to
amend the complaint is DENIED. Plaintiff’s motion to change venue is DENIED as
Introduction and Background
Plaintiff Neuman filed a fifty-five page complaint against sixteen defendants
on August 9, 2010 (Doc. 1) in this matter, alleging thirty “claims for relief,”
ranging from “intentional infliction of financial loss” to “perjury” to constitutional
violations. Neuman’s complaint is essentially one long rant against every entity,
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person, and building he perceives conspired against him or treated him wrongly
in connection with state court proceedings.
The sixteen named defendants are:
the State of Illinois; the Illinois
Attorney General Office; Sangamon County Courthouse; Greene County Circuit
Courthouse; Jersey County Circuit Courthouse; Macoupin County Circuit Courthouse; Morgan County Circuit Courthouse; Scott County Circuit Courthouse;
Judge Leslie Graves, in her official and individual capacity asJudge of the
Sangamon County Courthouse; Lisa Madigan, in her official and individual
capacity as Attorney General for the State of Illinois; Terrance Corrigan and Karen
McNaught, in their official and individual capacities as Attorneys in the Illinois
Attorney General Office; the Clerk Office of the Sangamon County Courthouse;
and Suzanne Ushman, Daisy Doe, and Andy Doe, in their official and individual
capacities as Clerks of the Sangamon County Courthouse.
defendants are named in individual and official capacities, the complaint
implicates only their official capacities.
Neuman has a long history of filing frivolous lawsuits, for having them
dismissed, and for receiving sanctions because of them. See defendants’ motion
for sanctions, Doc. 63, for details.
To explain the instant litigation, it is necessary to review a suit previously
filed by Neumanin the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois, which was removed
to the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Neuman v.
State of Illinois, et al., 2008 WL 2364283 (C.D. Ill. June 6, 2008). In that case,
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Neuman alleged conspiracy to deny him of a variety of rights and violate
numerous different statutes. Id. at *1.Central to his claim was his alleged receipt
of a suspicious package in December 2005 and brake trouble with his car in
January 2006, which he attributed to the named defendants, some of whom are
State of Illinois, Illinois State Attorney General Office, and
Karen McNaught. Id. In dismissing that case with prejudice for failure to comply
with court orders, failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and
for frivolity, the Central District Court stated Neuman’s pattern of behavior was
“intended either to vent his anger and frustrations on the Court or to engage in
vexatious behavior intended to consume the resources of the parties and the
Court.” Id. at *3. During this suit, Assistant Attorney General Terence Corrigan
sent Neuman a letter informing him his suit was frivolous and supplying Neuman
with a motion to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit.
Because of that letter, Neuman filed suit in the Seventh Judicial Circuit
Court of Sangamon County, Illinois, no. 09-L-88, styled Neuman v. Illinois, et al.
The thirty-five page complaint in that case had thirty-seven causes of action and
mirrored the instant complaint in that it was a long, rambling rant about the
harms supposedly perpetuated against Neuman.
All of the defendants in that
case, with the exception of Brian Nemenoff, are also named defendants in this
case. During the course of the Sangamon County case, certain defendants filed a
motion to dismiss and a request for sanctions to prevent Neuman from further
litigation without court order. Judge Leslie Graves granted the motion to dismiss,
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granted the motion for sanctions, and asked defense counsel to submit a draft
order, which she signed.
Neuman claims no one in the Circuit Clerk’s office
mailed him a copy of the final judgment until he asked for a copy.
similarly granted the motion for sanctions, restricting Neuman’s filing of future
lawsuits in the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Illinois. This order has inspired the
instant suit, where Neuman has named every person, office, building and judge
that he associates with the Sangamon County case.
Law and Application
1. Venue is proper.
Venue for civil actions where jurisdiction is not founded solely on diversity
of citizenship may only be brought in
(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants
reside in the same state, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial
part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a
substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is
situated, or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant may be
found, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).
This case presents a unique situation where every single named defendant
is either immune from suit or lacks the capacity to be sued, discussed in more
detail later. The inevitable end result is dismissal of all the claims, no matter
which district this suit proceeds in. Of course, venue must still be proper. The
residency of the named defendants lacking the capacity to be sued—the
courthouses—will not be considered. A reasonable argument could be made that
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the residencies of the immune defendants should not be considered, either, but
that would leave zero defendants’ residencies to consider for venue purposes. In
that case, venue would be proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(3). If the residencies
of the defendants with the capacity to be sued are considered, venue is proper
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1): the State of Illinois is a “resident” of every
federal district contained in Illinois, and there is no question that the remaining
defendants are also residents of Illinois.
2. The complaint is sufficient to apprise defendants of the bases for the
claims for relief.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires, in part, “a short and plain
statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction,” “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” and states “[e]ach
allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Rule 10 requires a party to “state
its claims or defenses in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far practicable to
a single set of circumstances.”
Defendants argue Neuman’s complaint violates
Based upon Neuman’s fifty-five page rambling and repetitive complaint in
this case and similarly lengthy complaints in his Central District of Illinois and
Sangamon County lawsuits previously discussed, this Court doubts very much
that Neuman will ever file anything that is “short and plain.” The complaint is
sufficient to apprise defendants of the bases for the claims for relief, however,and
defendants have been able to respond and the issues have been sufficiently
narrowed. In the interest of not duplicating work and requiring more time and
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effort be spent on his rants, this Court has carefully sorted through the dozens of
pages of all pleadings and motions Neuman has filed and chooses to exercise its
discretion to permit the complaint to stand as-is.
3. The complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted.
To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).The
plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Id. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim
for relief is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its
judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 1950.
Pro se complaints, like the one filed by Neuman, are to be “liberally
construed” and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks
omitted). This “does not mean” a court “will fill in all of the blanks in a pro se
complaint.” Hamlin v. Vaudenberg, 95 F.3d 580, 583 (7th Cir. 1996).“[W]hen
the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement
to relief, this basic deficiency should . . . be exposed at the point of minimum
expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007) (internal quotations omitted).
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Given the named defendants and the allegations plaintiff Neuman makes, it
is appropriate to dismiss the complaint as to all defendants. Neuman’s response
to the motions to dismiss supports this conclusion; it is obvious he has filed the
instant suit in retaliation for the outcome of his state court litigation and in an
effort to harass those connected in any way to the state case for doing their job.
Neuman pleads extensive facts, but they are not sufficient to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.
Despite numbering thirty “claims for relief,” many of which are merely
headings with no supporting facts provided, the real thrust of Neuman’s
complaint is he believes he is the victim of an ever widening judicial conspiracy to
deprive him of his rights. Even with the most liberal reading of the facts and
incidents alleged, Neuman’s complaint has failed to state a claim of conspiracy or
any other cause of action. In an effort to expose this basic deficiency with the
minimum expenditure of time and money, each of his thirty counts will not be
retold here in detail, but they have been reviewed in detail. Neuman does not
explain how the routine and simple events taking place in his state court action
violate his civil rights or constitute a conspiracy, and, like his Central District of
Illinois litigation, his “recitation of numerous facts does not even create a mere
suspicion that his rights might have been violated.” Neuman v. Illinois, et al.,
2008 WL 2364283, at *3 (C.D. Ill. June 6, 2008). Accordingly, dismissal of his
complaint as to all defendants is appropriate.
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4. Courthouses cannot be sued.
Six courthouses are named as defendants in this matter:
County Courthouse, Greene County Circuit Courthouse, Jersey County Circuit
Courthouse, Macoupin County Circuit Courthouse, Morgan County Circuit
Courthouse, and Scott County Circuit Courthouse.
Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 17(b) indicates the capacity to be sued is determined “by the law of the
state where the court is located.” Illinois law therefore governs, and in order to be
a party to a civil suit in tort in Illinois, an entity must be a natural or artificial
Marcus v. Art Nissen& Son, Inc., 586 N.E.2d 694, 697 (Ill. App. Ct.
1991) (citing Bavel v. Cavaness, 299 N.E.2d 435, 438 (Ill. App. Ct. 1973)). As
such, the six courthouses named by Neuman as defendants in this matter are not
capable of being sued, and the plaintiff’s claims against them must be dismissed.
5. Judge Graves has judicial immunity.
Judge Leslie Graves of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in Sangamon
County, Illinois, is named as a defendant in her official capacity as a judge.
Judges of superior or general jurisdiction are not liable to civil actions for their
judicial acts. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). A judge can
only be subjected to liability for judicial acts if she acts in the clear absence of all
Id. at 356-57.So too in Illinois.Generes v. Foreman, 660 N.E.2d
192, 193-94 (Ill. App. Ct. 1995) (citing Stump, 435 U.S. at 355-57, 359, 362).
Here, Neuman complains of his disagreement with the actions taken and
orders issued by Judge Graves in her official role as a judge in the Sangamon
County lawsuit discussed above.
As Judge Graves was in a court of general
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jurisdiction and acted within the scope of her judicial duties, judicial immunity
protects her from suit, and Neuman’s claims against her must be dismissed.
6. The State of Illinois has sovereign immunity, as do the Attorney General,
assistant attorneys general, and circuit court clerks.
The Eleventh Amendment provides that “[t]he Judicial power of the United
States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or
prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by
Citizens of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const.amend. XI. There are three specific
exemptions to Eleventh Amendment state immunity: (1) Congress has abrogated
the state’s immunity from suit through an unequivocal expression of its intent to
do so through a valid exercise of its power; (2) a state has properly waived its
immunity and consented to suit in federal court; and (3) the plaintiff seeks
prospective equitable relief for ongoing violations of federal law under the Ex
Parte Young doctrine. Sonnleitner v. York, 304 F.3d 704, 717 (7th Cir. 2002)
(citing Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 55-56 (1996)). This third
exception only applies to state officials, not to states themselves. See Marie O. v.
Edgar, 131 F.3d 610, 615 (7th Cir. 1997) (recognizing that “suits against state
officials seeking prospective equitable relief for ongoing violations of federal law
are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment”).
The Attorney General of Illinois and her assistants, when acting in their
official capacities, are state officials. See 15 Ill. Comp. Stat. 205/0.01 et seq.;
Sears v. Illinois, 24 Ill. Ct. Cl. 452, at *4 (Ill. Ct. Cl. 1964). The clerks of the
circuit courts in Illinois are not county officials, but are nonjudicial members of
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the judicial branch of State government. Drury v. County of McLean, 89 Ill.2d
417, 420 (Ill. 1982) (relying upon article VI, section 18(b) of the Illinois State
Constitution). The Illinois Supreme Court stated that even though counties pay
the salaries and expenses of circuit court clerks, this does not make the office of
circuit court clerk a county office. Id. at 425. Similarly, the fact that a county
pays the salaries of other non-judicial employees in the judicial branch “does not
in constitutional or statutory terms make the county their employer. Rather, the
State, personified by the chief judge of each circuit, is their employer.” Orenic v.
Ill. State Labor Relations Bd., 127 Ill.2d 453, 476 (Ill. 1989). Non-elected clerks
in a circuit court clerk’s office are “other non-judicial employees in the judicial
branch,” and are accordingly state officials who qualify for sovereign immunity.
Accordingly, the Clerk Office of the Sangamon County Courthouse, Suzanne
Ushman, Daisy Doe, and Andy Doe, whether they are elected circuit court clerks
or other clerks in the Sangamon County office, are all state officials subject to
Neuman claims in his response that he is seeking prospective injunctive
relief pursuant to Ex Parte Young and that “the State of Illinois has waived its
eleventh amendment immunity to violation and charges like these.” Neuman does
not argue Congress has abrogated Illinois’ immunity.
contains no legal support for his claims that Illinois has waived its immunity, and
instead draws the Court’s attention to College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid
Postsecondary Education Expense Board, 527 U.S. 666 (1999), for the
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proposition that every reasonable presumption against a state’s waiver of
immunity should be indulged (Doc. 70 pp. 24-5).Neuman further directs the
Court to Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n.14 (1985) for the proposition
that he can bring suit against the state (Doc. 70, p. 25), when the footnote cited
specifically says “Unless a state has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity or
Congress has overridden it, however, a State cannot be sued directly in its own
name regardless of the relief sought.” Id.at 167 n.14 (emphasis added).
“The premise of our adversarial system is that appellate courts do not sit as
self-directed boards of legal inquiry and research, but essentially as arbiters of
legal questions presented and argued by the parties before them.” United States
v. Lanzotti, 205 F.3d 951, 957 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal quotations omitted). “It
is not this court’s responsibility to research and construct the parties’
Id. (internal citations omitted).
As such, this Court refuses to
undertake its own examination of Illinois and federal law to see if such a basis
exists.See Sonnleitner, 304 F.3d at 717.
The first and second exceptions to
sovereign immunitydo not apply.
As for the third exception under Ex Parte Young, it cannot apply to the
State of Illinois, but only to state officials. To that end, Neuman’s response lists
all kinds of relief he is seeking against Judge Graves, who has judicial immunity,
and against Sangamon Circuit Court, which cannot be sued, arguments which will
accordingly be disregarded.(Doc. 70 pp. 24-5.) Neuman continues in his Response
by asking for “a court reporter to be present when there is a hearing against the
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State of Illinois or any of its employees” (p. 24), which is not a request for
prospective equitable relief for ongoing violations of federal law.
similarly claims he is seeking “an order barring enforcement of the order” (p.
25)which is not further explained but is most likely a response to defendants’
statement in their motion to dismiss that plaintiff does not seek an order barring
enforcement of the state court order forbidding plaintiff from filing suit in certain
of its courts without leave (Doc. 12, pp. 13-14). The Complaint, contrarily, does
not ask for such relief. Even if it did, this Court seriously doubts the propriety of
such an order, given considerations of federalism and comity.See Ill. Sup. Ct. R.
The complaint contains no requests for prospective relief for ongoing
violations of federal law.
The third exception to sovereign immunity does not
Accordingly, the State of Illinois is immune from this suit, as are the
Attorney General, the assistant attorneys general, and the court clerks.
7. The complaint may not be amended.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides “a party may amend its
pleading only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave. The
court should freely give leave when justice so requires.”
Defendants have not
given written consent for plaintiff to amend his complaint. The facts Neuman
alleges and the actions he pursues cannot, under any theory, be transformed into
cognizable claims. Accordingly, justice does not require Neuman be permitted to
amend his complaint, and his motion to amend the complaint is DENIED.
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8. Sanctions are appropriate.
Defendants State of Illinois, Office of the Attorney General, Lisa Madigan,
Karen McNaught, and Judge Leslie Graves move for sanctions (docs. 62 & 63),
asking this Court to impose a $5,000.00 penalty upon Neuman, to be paid to the
Court, and to bar Neuman from further federal litigation till this amount is paid.
Defendants do not request attorney fees, indicating their only goal is to curtail
Neuman’s frivolous litigation.
Defendants allege Neuman’s complaint in this
matter is unwarranted and was filed as part of a continuing campaign of
harassment. These allegations are completely accurate.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b) states that “[b]y presenting to the
court a pleading, written motion, or other paper,” an unrepresented party
“certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief,”
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to
harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by
existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying,
or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically
so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable
opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and
(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence
or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a
lack of information.
Violations of Rule 11 may result in sanctions.
Fed.R. Civ. P. 11(c).Sanctions
imposed under that rule “must be limited to what suffices to deter repetition of
the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated.”
sanction may include “nonmonetary directives; an order to pay a penalty into
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court; or, if imposed on motion and warranted for effective deterrence, an order
directing payment to the movant of part or all of the reasonable attorney’s fees
and other expenses directly resulting from the violation.”Id.
“The central goal of Rule 11 is to deter abusive litigation practices.” Corley
v. Rosewood Care Ctr., Inc., of Peoria, 388 F.3d 990, 1013 (7th Cir. 2004).A
litigant’s pro se status “may be taken into account, but sanctions can be imposed
for any suit that is frivolous.”Vukadinovich v. McCarthy, 901 F.2d 1439, 1445
(7th Cir. 1990).
As Judge Easterbrook has observed, “[s]ome litigants refuse to accept
defeat. On they wade, naming the judges and lawyers in the prior case as
additional defendants in an ever-widening conspiracy.”
Sato v. Plunkett, 154
F.R.D. 189, 190 (N.D. Ill. 1994). This Court is hard-pressed to better describe
the actions of Neuman. As defendants’ motion for sanctions points out, Neuman
has instituted multiple lawsuits on both the state and federal level. His actions
have been regularly dismissed, and he has been sanctioned repeatedly.
Nevertheless,the lawsuits do not stop.
The instant litigation is just one more
example of Neuman continuing to harass various court and government officials,
wasting time and resources with frivolous and factually unsupported claims.
Accordingly, this Court GRANTS the defendants’ motion for sanctions in part but
DENIES the amount requested. Plaintiff Neuman is ORDERED to pay a penalty of
three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) to this Court, and he is PROHIBITED from
instigating further litigation in federal court until the penalty is paid in full. This
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Court further WARNS Neuman that if his campaign of harassment continues, the
sanctions next time will have to be greater in accord with Rule 11.
Summary and Conclusion
Defendants’ motions to dismiss (Docs. 11, 12, 29 & 30) are GRANTED.
This case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to all defendants.
motion for sanctions (Docs. 62 & 63) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part,
and plaintiff Neuman is ORDERED to pay a penalty of three thousand dollars
($3,000.00) to this Court.
Plaintiff Neuman is further PROHIBITED from
instigating further litigation in federal court until the penalty is paid in full.
Plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint (Doc. 72) is DENIED. Plaintiff’s motion
to change venue (Doc. 71) is DENIED as MOOT. The Clerk is directed to close
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed this 12th day of July, 2011.
David R. Herndon
United States District Court
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