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Straw v. Indiana Supreme Court

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

December 11, 2017

ANDREW U. D. STRAW, Plaintiff,



         On February 14, 2017, the Indiana Supreme Court (“ISC”) suspended the law license of the pro se Plaintiff herein, Andrew U.D. Straw, for filing four frivolous lawsuits. See In re Andrew U.D. Straw, 68 N.E.3d 1070 (Ind. 2017). Following the suspension, the ISC listed his status as “suspended” in its Roll of Attorneys. The ISC also reported the same to the American Bar Association (“ABA”), which resulted in the loss of his membership with that organization.

         On July 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint entitled “Complaint Against Retaliation Actions of the Indiana Supreme Court Against Andrew Straw.” As its title suggests, the Complaint alleges that the ISC retaliated against Plaintiff in numerous ways because of his mental and physical disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12203 (“ADA”). In Count I, he alleges the ISC's Order of suspension is an act of retaliation because it prevents him from participating in law reform at the ABA.[1] (Filing No. 1, Compl. ¶ 35). “The [ISC] retaliation also includes every ADA case or lawsuit even remotely implicated” in the four disability-based lawsuits that were the subject of his disciplinary proceeding. (Id. ¶ 36). In Count II, Plaintiff alleges the ISC's “notation” on its Roll of Attorney's showing his status as “suspended” is in retaliation for having filed multiple ADA lawsuits, including those that were the subject of his suspension. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 40). In Count III, he alleges the ISC's attorneys have “refused to communicate with [him] for months [and] refused every overture [he] has made for settlement of the matter.” (Id. ¶ 41). This is so even though “[he] [has] had evidence to demonstrate discrimination in document format.” (Compl. ¶ 22). And in Count IV, he alleges the Court refuses “to release [its] grip on [him]” by failing to reconsider its Order of suspension and allowing him to “resign his license.” (Id. ¶¶ 23, 44).

         The ISC moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim and for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1).

         I. Background

         The disciplinary complaint which culminated in Plaintiff's suspension was filed by Brenda Rodeheffer, employed by the Indiana Supreme Court's Division of State Court Administration, on September 3, 2014. The filing of the disciplinary complaint has been the subject of two prior lawsuits, filed by Plaintiff in 2015 and 2016, in the Southern District of Indiana.

         Plaintiff's 2015 lawsuit was against the ISC, Ms. Rodeheffer, ISC employees Lilia Judson and Kevin Smith (“State Defendants”), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Straw v. Ind. Sup. Ct., No. 1:15-cv-1015-RLY-DKL. Plaintiff's allegations against the ISC begin in 2000, when he accepted a position with the ISC's Division of State Court Administration as a statistical analyst. (Compl.[2] ¶ 26 and Ex. J). He alleges that when he returned to work after taking leave from a head-on car accident in February 2001, his supervisor treated him poorly and complained that he did not walk fast enough. (Id. ¶¶ 27-29). He alleges that after he disclosed his bipolar disorder on his bar application, his supervisor began making disparaging remarks about people with bipolar disorder which he found extremely upsetting. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46).

         In 2002, Plaintiff passed the Indiana bar. (Id. ¶ 56). Due to his mental disability, however, the Indiana Board of Law Examiners informed him he would receive “Conditional Admission” if he signed a Consent Agreement. (Id. ¶ 58 and Ex. W). The Consent Agreement required Plaintiff to submit quarterly statements from his psychiatrist and therapist establishing that his bipolar disorder was being successfully managed for a minimum of two years. (Id.). Plaintiff became so distraught over this circumstance that his doctor ordered him to be off work for four weeks. (Id. ¶ 60). Plaintiff alleges that when he returned to work in July 2002, Ms. Judson fired him. (Id. ¶ 61).

         On August 15, 2014, [3] Plaintiff filed a Petition for Redress of Grievances because he felt his constitutional and human rights had been violated by the ISC over a long period of time. (Id. ¶ 74 and Ex. Z). In the Petition, Plaintiff stated that the ISC engaged in disability-based discrimination in the bar application process and during his time as an employee of STAD. (Id., Ex. Z at 1). Eventually, Mr. Smith referred the Petition to Ms. Rodeheffer, who explained the State Defendants' position that Plaintiff did not have any valid claims against them. (Id. ¶ 77 and Ex. CC).

         On September 3, 2014, Ms. Rodeheffer filed a disciplinary complaint against Plaintiff with the ISC Disciplinary Commission stating that Plaintiff's “mental health problems have become sufficiently severe that I believe he is not competent to practice law.” (Id. ¶ 80). She noted that Plaintiff had “filed multiple lawsuits in the last month that are nonsensical, ” including the lawsuit against the ABA referenced in footnote 1. (Id., Ex. E and ¶ 109).

         The court granted both the State Defendants' and the EEOC's Motions to Dismiss. Importantly, the court dismissed Plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims against the State Defendants for insufficient service of process, and for failure to state a plausible claim for relief. Straw v. Ind. Sup. Ct., No. 1:15-cv-1015-RLY-DKL, 2016 WL 344720 (S.D. Ind. Jan. 28, 2016).

         Plaintiff's 2016 lawsuit was filed against the Indiana Supreme Court, Ms. Rodeheffer, G. Michael Witte, Executive Director of the Disciplinary Commission, Loretta Rush, Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, Lilia Judson, and Hearing Officer James Robert Ahler (“State Defendants”). Straw v. Ind. Sup. Ct., 1:16-cv-3483-JMS-TAB. The Complaint alleged “identical claims” against the State Defendants as those asserted in the 2015 lawsuit. Straw v. Ind. Sup. Ct., 692 Fed.Appx. 291, 293 (2017). The district court therefore found Plaintiff's ADA retaliation claims were barred by res judicata. Straw v. Ind. Sup. Ct., 1:16-cv-3483-JMS-TAB, 2017 WL 634162, at *2 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 16, 2017). The court entered final judgment, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Straw, 692 Fed.Appx. at 294.

         II. Discussion

         A. ...

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