Dibble v. Quinn

Decision Date19 May 2014
Docket NumberCause No. 13-cv-632-DRH-DGW
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Illinois
PartiesJOHN T. DIBBLE, Plaintiff, v. PATRICK J. QUINN, Governor of Illinois, MITCH WEISZ, Chairman of the Illinois Worker's Compensation Commission, MARIO BASURTO, KEVIN LAMBORN, YOLAINE DAUPHIN, NANCY LINDSAY, JAMES DEMUNNO, MOLLY MASON, DAN DONOHOO, THOMAS TYRELL, and DAVID GORE, Commissioners of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, Defendants.

HERNDON, Chief Judge:

I. Introduction

This matter is before the Court on defendants Patrick J. Quinn et al.'s motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE (Doc. 19). For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is GRANTED.

According to the complaint, plaintiff John T. Dibble (Dibble) was appointed to the position of arbitrator for the Illinois Worker's Compensation Commission (Commission) in September 1990 and re-appointed to six-year terms in 1996, 2002, and 2008 to a term that was to continue through September 2014.

The Illinois Worker's Compensation Act (Act), 820 ILCS 305/1 et seq., establishes the power to appoint arbitrators. Dibble's claims arise from H.B. 1698 which was signed into law on June 28, 2011, Public Act 97-0018 (P.A. 97-18), amending 820 ILCS 305/14.

Prior to P.A. 97-18, 820 ILCS 305/14 provided:

Each arbitrator appointed after the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1989 shall be appointed for a term of 6 years. Each arbitrator shall be appointed for a subsequent term unless the Chairman makes a recommendation to the Commission, no later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the term, not to reappoint the arbitrator. Notice of such a recommendation shall also be given to the arbitrator no later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the term. Upon such recommendation by the Chairman, the arbitrator shall be appointed for a subsequent term unless 8 of 10 members of the Commission, including the Chairman, vote not to reappoint the arbitrator.
All arbitrators shall be subject to the provisions of the Personnel Code, and the performance of all arbitrators shall be reviewed by the Chairman on an annual basis. The Chairman shall allow input from the Commissioners in all such reviews.

In pertinent part, P.A. 97-18 amended 820 ILCS 305/14 to provide that:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Section, the term of all arbitrators serving on the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly, including any arbitrators on administrative leave, shall terminate at the close of business on July 1, 2011, but the incumbents shall continue to exercise all of their duties until they are reappointed or their successors are appointed.

. . .

Each arbitrator appointed on or after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly and who has not previously served as an arbitrator for the Commission shall be required to be authorized to practice law in this State by the Supreme Court, and to maintain this authorization throughout his or her term of employment.

P.A. 97-18, a copy of which is attached to Dibble's complaint, explicitly stated that these changes "shall prevail over any conflict with the Personnel Code."

After defendant Patrick J. Quinn (Governor Quinn) signed P.A. 97-18 into law, Governor Quinn issued a press release which Dibble attaches to his complaint (Doc. 2-2). The press release attached to Dibble's complaint states in part,

Measures were also put in place to reform the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. Current arbitrators' terms will end on July 1, and strict performance evaluations will weighed[sic] in consideration for re-appointment. Arbitrators will serve three-year terms, must act in an unbiased, impartial manner, and must follow the same ethical rules that apply to judges. New arbitrators must be licensed attorneys. Additionally, all workers' compensation claims by commission appointees or employees will be heard by an independent arbitrator, and not arbitrators within the commission.

It also states, "[t]he reforms will tackle the problems of the [Commission]" (Doc. 2-2).

Dibble alleges violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights (Doc. 2). Specifically, Dibble alleges deprivation of a property interest in his continued employment as a Commission arbitrator without due process of law. He also alleges that the press release deprived him of a liberty interest without due process. Dibble requests compensatory damages and declaratory and/or injunctive relief. Dibble brings suit against Governor Quinn in his "official capacity for matters concerning injunctive and declaratory relief and [] in his individualcapacity for matters concerning the compensatory damages in this case." As for defendants Mario Basurto, Kevin Lamborn, Yolaine Dauphin, Nancy Lindsay, James DeMunno, Molly Mason, Dan Donohoo, Thomas Tyrrell, and David Gore, Dibble alleges they, "were at all relevant times Commissioners of the [] Commission." Finally, as to defendant Mitch Weisz, Dibble alleges he was, "at all relevant times the appointed Chairman of the [] Commission." Similarly to Governor Quinn, Dibble brings suit against these defendants in both their official and individual capacities.

II. Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). The Supreme Court explained in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), that Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is warranted if the complaint fails to set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."

In making this assessment, the district court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Rujawitz v. Martin, 561 F.3d 685, 688 (7th Cir. 2009); St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007).

Even though Twombly (and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)) retooled federal pleading standards, notice pleading remains all that is required in a complaint. "A plaintiff still must provide only enough detail to give thedefendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008) (citations and quotations omitted).

III. Analysis

A. Property Interest Claim

Plaintiff Dibble alleges deprivation of a protected property interest without due process of law. Specifically, Dibble asserts that he had a protected property interest in his continued employment as an arbitrator for the Commission (Doc. 2 at 3-4). In reliance on the Act and Personnel Code, with specific citation to 20 ILCS 415/8b.18, Dibble alleges that he could only be removed for cause. Thus, the enactment of P.A. 97-18 deprived him of a property interest without due process of law.

It is true that continued government employment is a cognizable property interest in appropriate circumstances. See, e.g., Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 538-39 (1985) (civil service employees who could only be dismissed for "malfeasance" had a protected property interest in continued employment); Gorman v. Robinson, 977 F.2d 350, 356-57 (7th Cir. 1992) (same where housing authority employee could only be dismissed for cause). Dibble alleges that before Public Act 97-18 was signed into law, arbitrators were appointed for six-year terms subject to the provisions of the Personnel Code. (Doc. 2 at 3). Defendants state that Dibble properly alleges a property interest inhis employment before the enactment of P.A. 97-18. The Court is in agreement.

However, defendants are correct that any property interest Dibble may have had was extinguished when P.A. 97-18 was signed into law. "Property interests are not created by the Constitution, but rather 'they are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law.'" Cole v. Milwaukee Area Technical Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Roth v. Bd. of Regents, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972)). Dibble's property interest was a creature of Illinois state law, and existed only so long as the applicable law remained unchanged. In Illinois, "[i]t is well established that civil service status is not a vested right, that having been created by the General Assembly, it is wholly within its control and subject to change by legislative action." Grobsmith v. Kempiners, 88 Ill. 2d 399, 404 (1982). Thus, there is "no constitutional impediment to the power of the General Assembly to change the duration of appointments or the method of fixing the time when presently existing terms would terminate." Id. at 405. The Illinois General Assembly exercised its power to change the duration of Dibble's appointment by passing P.A. 97-18. Per the unambiguous terms of that Act, Dibble's term as an arbitrator ended on July 1, 2011.

Dibble claims that he was not afforded due process—namely, notice and the opportunity for a hearing—before being deprived of his property interest in continued employment. But when a legislatively created property interest is altered or eliminated through a legislative act, the "legislative determinationprovides all the process that is due." Atkins v. Parker, 472 U.S. 115, 130 (1985); see also Fumarolo v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., 142 Ill. 2d 54, 107 (1990) ("the legislative process itself created all the procedural safeguards necessary to provide the plaintiffs with due process").

Dibble response concedes the "general rule" that the legislative process provides all the process that is due (Doc. 24 at 10-11). Yet he argues, apparently on two separate grounds, that this case presents an exception to the general rule. While not...

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