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Hoffman v. Jacobi

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

October 17, 2014

DESTINY HOFFMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
JEROME JACOBI, et al., Defendants.



This cause is before the Court on Defendant Jerome Jacobi's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim [Docket No. 38], filed on June 5, 2014 pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.


The factual allegations contained in Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint are extensive, but we need not discuss them at length here; the motion to dismiss concerns only one Defendant and focuses on jurisdictional issues.

Defendant Judge Jerome F. Jacobi is an elected judge in Clark County, Indiana. At the time of the incidents alleged in the Amended Complaint, Judge Jacobi served as the presiding judge of Clark Circuit Court No. 2 and the Clark County Drug Treatment Court. Am. Compl. ¶ 27. The Clark County Drug Treatment Court was created under the auspices of a 2010 Indiana statute as a "problem solving court focused on addressing the substance abuse issues of defendants... in the criminal justice system by... bringing together substance abuse rehabilitation professional, local social programs, and intensive judicial monitoring." Ind. Code § 33-23-16-5(a)(1).

Plaintiffs allege several types of misconduct by officials of the Clark County court system and other county officials.[1] Four of these allegations relate to Judge Jacobi. First, a number of Plaintiffs who were participants in the Clark County Drug Treatment Court allege that they suffered periods of detention without hearing, notice, counsel, the consideration of bond, or the opportunity to hear evidence against them or cross-examine witnesses-all in violation of their rights to due process of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 145-154. Second, Plaintiff Jesse Hash alleges that he was incarcerated for 60 days as a pretrial detainee by order of officials of Clark Circuit Court No. 2 without any appearance before a judicial officer, without a probable cause hearing, without consideration of bail or the appointment of counsel, and without notice of the charges against him-in violation of his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at ¶¶ 155-161. Third, Plaintiff James Bennett, a convict serving a portion of his sentence on a work-release program, alleges that he was re-arrested and held for 74 days without ever having been told the reason for his detention, and in violation of his due process rights to a hearing, counsel, confrontation, and cross-examination.[2] Id. at ¶¶ 162-171. Finally, four Plaintiffs allege that they were arrested by Clark County officials who lacked lawful arrest powers, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶ 172-178. Plaintiffs sue Judge Jacobi in his official capacity, and they state with respect to each of these four claims that they are suing him "for the sole purposes of obtaining a declaration" that the actions taken under the aegis of his courts violate Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. See id. at ¶¶ 148, 157, 165, 174.[3]

On February 14, 2014, shortly before Plaintiffs initiated this action, the Indiana Judicial Center informed Judge Jacobi that it had suspended the operations of the Clark County Drug Court in light of the allegations of "unlawful conduct by drug court staff and drug court practices harmful to participants." Docket No. 39, Ex. 1. The letter went on to state that "[s]hould the allegations involving drug court practices prove to be unfounded, the Judicial Center will lift the suspension and work with you to restore drug court operations." Id. As of April 10, 2014, an electronic directory issued by the Indiana Judicial Center listed Judge Vicki Carmichael, rather than Judge Jacobi, as the presiding judge of the Clark County Drug Court; the directory did not indicate that the court was inactive or in suspended operations. Docket No. 39, Ex. 2.

Legal Analysis

Standard of Review

Defendant Jacobi seeks dismissal both on the basis of lack of jurisdiction, Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(1), and on the basis of Plaintiffs' failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). Because he seeks dismissal only on the basis of jurisdictional and justiciability issues, we weigh his motion to dismiss according the standard provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). See Discovery House, Inc. v. Consol. City of Indianapolis, 970 F.Supp. 655, 657-658 (S.D. Ind. 1997). See also Stroman Realty, Inc. v. Grillo, 438 F.Supp.2d 919, 932 (N.D. Ill. 2006); Manos v. Caira, 162 F.Supp.2d 979, 986 (N.D. Ill. 2001) ("Abstention doctrines are jurisdictional in nature.") (additional citations omitted).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure command that courts dismiss any suit over which they lack subject matter jurisdiction-whether acting on the motion of a party or sua sponte. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(1). In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), we "must accept the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor." Franzoni v. Hartmax Corp., 300 F.3d 767, 771 (7th Cir. 2002); Transit Express, Inc. v. Ettinger, 246 F.3d 1018, 1023 (7th Cir. 2001). We may, however, "properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." See Capitol Leasing Co. v. F.D.I.C., 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993); Estate of Eiteljorg ex rel. Eiteljorg v. Eiteljorg, 813 F.Supp.2d 1069, 1074 (S.D. Ind. 2011).


Defendant Judge Jacobi seeks dismissal on two grounds. First, he asserts that he no longer presides over the Clark County Drug Court, and he therefore contends that Plaintiffs' allegations against him are moot. Second, he urges that the Court abstain from considering the claims against him pursuant to the doctrine established by the United States Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and its progeny. We address first the question of subject matter jurisdiction raised by Defendant Jacobi's mootness argument, before turning to Defendant Jacobi's argument that the Court should decline to ...

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