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Straw v. Sconiers

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

December 30, 2014

ANDREW U.D. STRAW, Plaintiff,


JON E. DeGUILIO, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are Defendants Brenda Sconiers, Thomas Dixon, and the St. Joseph County Superior Court's Motions to Dismiss [DE 5; DE 8; DE 10] Plaintiff Andrew U.D. Straw's complaint alleging violations of Title II and IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The motions were filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, 12(b)(5) for insufficient service, and 12(b)(6) for failing to state a claim.

Because Straw's claims are utterly frivolous, the Court dismisses the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction consistent with Rule 12(b)(1). And even if Straw had established jurisdiction, the motions would be granted on the ground that Straw has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted consistent with Rule 12(b)(6).

Standards of Review

The standards applicable to Rule 12(b)(1) and (b)(6) motions are clear. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a party to move to dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In analyzing a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). Further, "[t]he district court may 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." Id. (citations omitted). The burden of establishing proper federal subject matter jurisdiction rests on the party asserting it, which in this case is Mr. Straw. Muscarello v. Ogle Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 610 F.3d 416, 425 (7th Cir. 2010).

A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must decide whether the complaint satisfies the "notice-pleading" standard. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 934 (7th Cir. 2012). The notice-pleading standard requires that a complaint provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " sufficient to provide "fair notice" of the claim and its basis. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). In determining the sufficiency of a claim, the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, and draws all inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal citations omitted).

The Supreme Court has adopted a two-pronged approach when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). First, pleadings consisting of no more than mere conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. This includes legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, as well as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Second, if well-pleaded factual allegations are present in the complaint, courts should "assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679.

"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 misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint "must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Maddox, 655 F.3d at 718 (internal citations omitted). A plaintiff's claim, however, need only be plausible, not probable. Indep. Trust Corp., 665 F.3d at 934 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. In order to satisfy the plausibility standard, a plaintiff's complaint must "supply enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will yield evidence supporting the plaintiff's allegations." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; United Food and Commercial Workers Unions and Employers Midwest Health Benefits Fund v. Walgreen Co., 719 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 2013) ("Plausibility' is not a synonym for probability' in this context, but the plausibility standard does ask[ ] for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.'") (citations omitted). 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (internal citations omitted). Factual allegations, however, "that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability... stop[] short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. at 678.


The facts from the complaint establish that Plaintiff Andrew U.D. Straw, a licensed attorney in Indiana, proceeds in this action pro se against Defendants Brenda Sconiers (a former client of Straw's), Thomas Dixon (Sconiers' current attorney who represents her in a legal malpractice claim against Straw), and the St. Joseph County Superior Court (where the malpractice lawsuit pends, Case No. 71D07-1310-CT-000265). Straw claims that Sconiers and Dixon violated the ADA by forcing him to defend against the legal malpractice action, because Straw does not litigate-a self-imposed accommodation for his publically known bipolar disorder. As an aside, Straw makes this claim despite the fact that he is actually represented by another attorney in the malpractice action.

By way of history, the legal malpractice action was filed by Sconiers, with the assistance of her attorney Thomas Dixon, after Sconiers missed the filing deadline for suing the St. Joseph County Public Library for alleged sexual harassment. This malpractice action was filed against Straw premised on his alleged failure to timely file Sconiers' complaint against the Library; however, Straw asserts that the action is frivolous because although he represented Sconiers in pre-suit settlement discussions with the Library, Straw did not agree to represent Sconiers beyond the attempted settlement. According to Straw, he did not agree to file a lawsuit against the Library on Sconiers' behalf because he does not engage in trial work-the means by which Straw accommodates his disability. Thus, it is Straw's contention that by filing the legal malpractice action, Sconiers and Dixon have harassed Straw and discriminated and retaliated against him on the basis of his bipolar disorder, all in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et. seq.

The only claim made with respect to the St. Joseph County Superior Court, as odd as it sounds, is that because Sconiers and Dixon are "inappropriately using the state court in their [ADA] discrimination and retaliation scheme" [DE 1 at 8], and because the Court is subject to the ADA under Title II, then the Court should be mandated to dismiss Sconiers' malpractice lawsuit. Id. Straw has not alleged that the St. Joseph County Superior Court has itself engaged in any violations of the law, including the ADA. He only asserts that because the malpractice action itself is indicative of an ADA violation by Sconiers and Dixon, then their malpractice lawsuit ought to be ordered dismissed.


Before addressing the merits of Straw's claims, the Court must consider the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes the Court to dismiss any claim over which the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Generally, a court's jurisdiction in a civil case arises from a federal question, a deprivation of one's civil rights, or diversity among the parties. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Because federal courts "have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto, " the Court is "bound to evaluate [its] own jurisdiction." Fednav Int'l Ltd. v. Cont'l Ins. Co., 624 F.3d 834, 837 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal citations and citations omitted). If the Court determines at any time that it lacks subject matter ...

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