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Brooks-Albrechtsen v. State ex rel. Indiana Supreme Court

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 21, 2017

MARK A. BROOKS-ALBRECHTSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA ex rel. INDIANA SUPREME COURT, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON VARIOUS MOTIONS

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         This cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of this Court's entry regarding jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 39), the Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint (Dkt. No. 39)[1], and the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 43). The motions are ripe for review and the Court, being duly advised, rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On his second application to sit for the Indiana bar examination, the Indiana Board of Law Examiners determined that the Plaintiff was ineligible to sit for the examination. It also prohibited him from reapplying for bar admission until February 2018. The Plaintiff filed a petition with the Indiana Supreme Court seeking review of the Board of Law Examiner's determination, which that court determined was premature. On February 18, 2016, the Plaintiff filed suit in this Court. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's first amended complaint (Dkt. No. 15). Following that motion, the Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 23). The Court granted the Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 36), and reviewed that complaint to determine whether it had jurisdiction. In its entry regarding jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 38), the Court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction all of the Plaintiff's claims other than the Plaintiff's claims regarding the constitutionality of the Indiana bar examination and of Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 2.1, concluding that, pursuant to Younger v. Harris, it should abstain from interfering in the ongoing state proceeding regarding the Plaintiff's application to sit for the Indiana bar examination. It further dismissed all defendants other than the State. The Plaintiff first raised his bar examination claims in his second amended complaint and amended his claim regarding Admission and Discipline Rule 2.1 in that complaint. Because the Court simultaneously granted the Plaintiff leave to file his second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 36) and filed its entry regarding jurisdiction, the Defendants had not yet responded to the second amended complaint's allegations regarding the constitutionality of the bar examination and of Admission and Discipline Rule 2.1. The Court directed the State to do so.

         Shortly after the Court ordered the State to respond to those allegations, the Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's entry on jurisdiction and moved for leave to file a third amended complaint (Dkt. No. 39). With the Plaintiff's motions pending, the State filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's claims in his Second Amended Complaint challenging the constitutionality of the bar examination and Admission and Discipline Rule 2.1 (Dkt. No. 43). The Plaintiff filed a notice of partial dismissal, voluntarily dismissing his claims relating to the constitutionality of the bar examination, but reserving the opportunity to respond to the State's motion to dismiss that claim in the event that the Court reconsidered its entry on jurisdiction. See Dkt. No. 48 at 2.

         II. RECONSIDERATION OF THE COURT'S ENTRY REGARDING JURISDICTION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) governs motions for reconsideration. Relief under Rule 59(e) is an “extraordinary remed[y] reserved for the exceptional case.” Foster v. DeLuca, 545 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2008). Specifically, a motion to reconsider is appropriate when “the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension.” Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990) (quotation and citation omitted). “Reconsideration is not an appropriate forum for rehashing previously rejected arguments or arguing matters that could have been heard during the pendency of the previous motion.” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1270 (7th Cir. 1996).

         The Plaintiff advances three reasons why the Court should reconsider its determination that most of his claims are barred by Younger abstention. Each is addressed, in turn, below.

         A. Proceeding is Judicial, Not Legislative

         The Plaintiff argues that the proceeding against him before the Board of Law Examiners is legislative in nature rather than judicial, making Younger abstention inappropriate. In its entry regarding jurisdiction, the Court clearly explained that the Seventh Circuit had determined that the bar admission process is judicial in nature rather than legislative and that the Supreme Court had determined that attorney disciplinary proceedings are judicial, rather than legislative, proceedings. See Dkt. No. 38 at 10 (citing both Seventh Circuit and Supreme Court case law). The Plaintiff argues that challenges to the constitutionality of bar admission rules and procedures have been found to be legislative in nature. Dkt. No. 39 at 3. This Court does not wholly disagree with this general statement: Constitutional challenges to bar admission rules and procedures that are unrelated to a particular applicant's bar admission application or to a disciplinary proceeding may be legislative in nature. See District of Columbia Ct. of App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 479 (1983) (explaining that legislative proceedings “‘loo[k] to the future and chang[e] existing conditions by making a new rule, to be applied thereafter to all or some part of those subject to its power'”) (quoting Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co., 211 U.S. 210, 226 (1908)). However, the constitutional challenges that the Court dismissed in its entry regarding jurisdiction do not fit that bill. The dismissed claims were tied to an ongoing administrative proceeding and are judicial in nature. See, e.g., Brown v. Bowman, 668 F.3d 437, 443 (7th Cir. 2012) (bar admissions application process as judicial process); Hale v. Comm. on Character and Fitness of the State of Ill., 335 F.3d 678, 682 (7th Cir. 2003) (bar admissions process as judicial process); see also Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 433-34 (1982) (attorney disciplinary proceeding judicial in nature). The claims, therefore, are part of the type of proceeding that implicates Younger abstention.

         B. Challenges to Agency Procedures

         The Plaintiff also suggests that some of his dismissed claims should be reinstated because they are challenges to the constitutionality of the Board of Law Examiner's procedures: “‘Plaintiff's pre-deprivation hearing ordered under Admission and Discipline Rule 12, Section 5, lacked the requisite sufficient notice to conform with the due process requirements under the Fourteenth Amendment, ' ([3d. Am. Compl.] ¶ 88); and ‘Plaintiff's post-deprivation hearing notice under Admission and Discipline Rule 12, Section 9, lacked the requisite sufficient notice to conform with the due process requirements under the Fourteenth Amendment, ' (Id. ¶ 93).” Dkt. No. 39 at 8.

         As the Plaintiff notes, these allegations are found in his third amended complaint, which will be discussed below. Paragraph 88 of the third amended complaint, however, is identical to Paragraph 84 of the Plaintiff's second amended complaint. This allegation was considered by the Court in its prior entry regarding jurisdiction. The Plaintiff has provided no reason for the Court to reconsider its decision regarding claims based on this allegation. Although the allegation challenges the constitutionality of a procedure, it does so as applied to the Plaintiff: He alleges that the notice he received regarding his hearing was insufficient. He does not mount a general attack on the constitutionality of a particular rule or procedure. See, e.g., Hale, 335 F.3d at 682 (explaining that “[t]he only part of the [Feldman] case that was cognizable in the district court was the petitioners' general attack on the constitutionality of the rule requiring applicants for the bar to have graduated from an accredited law school”). The Plaintiff, therefore, would be able to bring that claim, and the as-applied claim he has related to the notice he discusses in Paragraph 93 of the third amended complaint, before the Board of Law Examiners and the Indiana Supreme Court as part of the review process provided by the state's admission and discipline rules. Those fora are fully capable of resolving such claims. See Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm., 457 U.S. at 437 (abstaining from constitutional challenges raised in state attorney discipline proceeding because “[i]t would trivialize the principles of comity and federalism if federal courts failed to take into account that an adequate state forum for all relevant issues has clearly been demonstrated to be available prior to any proceedings on the merits in federal court, ” thus reversing appellate court decision); Hale, 335 F.3d at 684 (7th Cir. 2003) (affirming district court's dismissal where plaintiff brought “as applied, ” not “facial challenge to a particular court rule”). Accordingly, these are not the type of claims relating to procedures that would fall outside of Younger abstention.

         C. ...


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