578 F.3d 574 (7th Cir. 2009), 08-4286, Brooks v. Ross

Docket Nº:08-4286.
Citation:578 F.3d 574
Opinion Judge:WOOD, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Victor BROOKS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Mark ROSS, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Arvin Boddie, Attorney (argued), Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Mary Ellen Welsh, Attorney (argued), Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before FLAUM, WOOD, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:August 20, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 574

578 F.3d 574 (7th Cir. 2009)

Victor BROOKS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Mark ROSS, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 08-4286.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

August 20, 2009

Argued June 4, 2009.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Arvin Boddie, Attorney (argued), Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Mary Ellen Welsh, Attorney (argued), Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before FLAUM, WOOD, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

WOOD, Circuit Judge.

This is the second time this court has been asked to review the fall-out from Ronald Matrisciano's testimony before the Illinois Prison Review Board ("PRB") in support of inmate Harry Aleman's petition for parole. See Matrisciano v. Randle, 569 F.3d 723 (7th Cir.2009). Normally, employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") do not serve as advocates for inmates. But this is what happened in December 2002 when Matrisciano, an IDOC employee, appeared before the PRB on behalf of Aleman. The PRB voted overwhelmingly against Aleman, with PRB member Victor Brooks providing the sole vote in his favor. Because of Aleman's notoriety, however, the media took an interest in the hearing and in Matrisciano's role in it. See People v. Aleman, 313 Ill.App.3d 51, 246 Ill.Dec. 20, 729 N.E.2d 20 (2000). In the wake of that publicity, the director of the IDOC, Donald N. Snyder, demoted Matrisciano and initiated an investigation into the parole incident. About three years later, Matrisciano and Brooks were indicted for official misconduct and wire fraud in connection with the Aleman hearing. Both were acquitted.

Brooks became convinced that he was the victim of a conspiracy to prosecute him. He filed the present lawsuit in state court against Mark Ross, who had prepared a report for the Illinois State Police on the incident, and against Joseph Ponsetto, Edward Carter, Jorge L. Montes, Norman M. Sula, and Kenneth D. Tupy, all of whom played a role in the actions against Brooks. Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Brooks raised a number of constitutional and state-law claims against the defendants. Defendants removed the suit to federal court, and then filed an all-encompassing motion to dismiss, on grounds of lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, sovereign immunity, absolute immunity, public-official immunity, absolute prosecutorial immunity, testimonial immunity, failure to state a claim, and the statute of limitations. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim, and the case has now reached this court. We affirm.

I

Brooks joined the IDOC in 1977, and in 1980, he befriended Matrisciano, a fellow employee. In 1995, Governor Jim Edgar appointed Brooks to the PRB, and he was reappointed by Governor George Ryan in 2001. One of the PRB's functions is to make parole decisions for certain classes of IDOC inmates. At one such hearing in December 2002, Matrisciano appeared and presented a statement in favor of inmate Harry Aleman's parole. Matrisciano's views, however, did not carry the day; only Brooks, out of the eleven PRB members present, voted in favor of Aleman.

Matrisciano's testimony before the PRB caused some controversy. Six days later, George de Tella, Associate Director at the IDOC, demoted Matrisciano. (Our earlier case arose out of this action: Matrisciano filed a lawsuit asserting that his demotion violated his First Amendment rights, but this court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the defendants in that case. Matrisciano, supra.) Some time around January 2003, the IDOC referred its investigation of wrongdoing to the State Police, with defendant Mark Ross serving as the case agent. Over the course of his investigation, Ross interviewed various people, including Aleman, IDOC employee Nancy

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L. Miller, and PRB members Jorge L. Montes and Norman M. Sula. Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Ponsetto and Edward C. Carter III were present at the Miller interviews and assisted Ross at one of them. Ross released several investigative reports about his case, noting in a 2003 report that " Matrisciano and an unknown member of the parole board, had accepted payment to speak favorably on behalf of inmate Harry Aleman at a parole hearing for Aleman." A January 2005 report specifically named Brooks as that PRB member, but Ross's investigation concluded with a report issued in November 2005 that refrained from identifying the PRB member who had accepted bribes. On December 9, 2005, Brooks and Matrisciano were indicted by a grand jury and charged with official misconduct and wire fraud in connection with the Aleman hearing. They were both acquitted on March 19, 2007, after a bench trial.

Brooks then filed this lawsuit on March 18, 2008, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as state law. Brooks named as defendants Ross, Ponsetto, Carter, Montes, Sula, and Tupy (PRB counsel)...

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