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

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

November 17, 2017

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

          SECOND ENTRY ON VARIOUS MOTIONS

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE

         Pursuant to this Court's Order, the Court held a hearing on October 26, 2017, to aid in determining whether to grant the Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. Specifically, the Court sought to hear evidence on whether the bad faith exception to the Younger abstention doctrine applies to the Plaintiff's claims relating to his bar admission application.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court recounts below the background information included in its September 21, 2017, Entry on Various Motions (Dkt. No. 55):

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.

Dkt. No. 55 at 1-2.

         On September 21, 2017, the Court granted the Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration to the extent that it would hold a hearing on the issue of bad faith. It ordered the parties to appear before it to help the Court determine whether the bad faith exception to Younger abstention applied to the Plaintiff's claims related to his bar examination application. And, because it was unclear whether bad faith had occurred in the state proceeding, and thus unclear whether the Plaintiff's third amended complaint would be futile, the Court granted the Plaintiff's motion for leave to file his third amended complaint. It further denied as moot the State's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 43).

         Pursuant to this Court's Order, the Court held a hearing on October 26, 2017. The Plaintiff and State appeared, and the Court heard evidence on whether the bad faith exception to the Younger abstention doctrine applies to the Plaintiff's claims relating to his bar admission application.

         II. BAD FAITH ISSUE

         When a federal court determines that a pending state proceeding is conducted in bad faith, extraordinary circumstances exist that allow a possible exception to Younger abstention. FreeEats.com v. Indiana, 502 F.3d 590, 596 (7th Cir. 2007). In such circumstances the court may exercise jurisdiction. Id. The Plaintiff contends that the state proceeding was conducted in bad faith and thus warrants this Court's jurisdiction. He argues as follows:

The Board [of Law Examiners] currently holds [him] in limbo for the duration of his suspension by failing to issue a final action, precluding judicial review by the Indiana Supreme Court. Or, if the Board did hold a final hearing in [his] absence, this too holds [him] in limbo for the duration of his suspension by failing to provide [him] with the Board's notice of final action in sufficient time to allow [him] to seek judicial review by the Indiana Supreme Court within the 20 days allotted under Admission and Discipline Rule 14, Section 2.

Dkt. No. 39 at 6.

         A. The June 30, 2016 Hearing and the Board of Law Examiners' Decision

         The Board of Law Examiners (“the Board”) scheduled a hearing that was to be held on June 30, 2016. The Board's counsel, Libby Milliken, contacted the Plaintiff on June 29, 2016, to determine whether he “intend[ed] on withdrawing his request for a hearing.” Dkt. No. 39 at 5. The Plaintiff responded to the inquiry, stating, in part, that he believed that the “hearing cannot save the Board's constitutional violations” and said that the hearing would be “a complete waste of time for me and those expected to attend.” Id. at 5-6. He also stated that “any action taken by the Board would be futile and meaningless.” Id. at 6. He did not attend a hearing and stated that he did not know whether the Board of Law Examiners proceeded with the hearing. Id. He also explained that he “ha[d] not received ‘specific findings of fact, conclusion and recommendations' as required by Admission and Discipline Rule 12, Section 9.” Id.

         In fact, the Board did hold a hearing on June 30, 2016. A panel of three Board members participated in the hearing (“Hearing Panel”). The State of Indiana presented evidence; as promised, the Plaintiff did not attend.

         On July 14, 2016, the Hearing Panel presented to the Board findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a decision for the Board's consideration. The ...


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