Long v. Shorebank Development Corp., 98-1564

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Citation182 F.3d 548
Docket NumberNo. 98-1564,98-1564
Parties(7th Cir. 1999) Sasha Long, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Shorebank Development Corporation, f/k/a City Lands Corporation, a Delaware Corporation, South Shore Associates, an Illinois Limited Partnership, Sanford Kahn, LTD., an Illinois Corporation, Sanford Kahn, an individual, and Eileen S. Kahn, an individual, Defendants-Appellees
Decision Date25 June 1999

Page 548

182 F.3d 548 (7th Cir. 1999)
Sasha Long, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Shorebank Development Corporation, f/k/a City Lands Corporation, a Delaware Corporation, South Shore Associates, an Illinois Limited Partnership, Sanford Kahn, LTD., an Illinois Corporation, Sanford Kahn, an individual, and Eileen S. Kahn, an individual, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 98-1564
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
Argued October 30, 1998
Decided June 25, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 97 C 7289--Suzanne B. Conlon, Judge.

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Before Cummings,* Kanne, and Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judges.

Kanne, Circuit Judge.

Sasha Long filed suit for damages against defendants Shorebank Development Corporation ("Shorebank"), South Shore Associates ("South Shore"), Eileen Kahn, Sanford Kahn, and Sanford Kahn, Ltd. (collectively the "Kahns"), for unlawfully evicting her from her home in violation of various federal and state laws. Long contends that the defendants unlawfully evicted her by filing a complaint against her to collect a rental debt they knew did not exist, using fraud to keep her from going to court to contest the baseless eviction complaint, and knowingly misrepresenting to the court that she did not dispute the eviction. The Kahns filed a motion to dismiss. The district court granted this motion, concluding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precluded the court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over Long's claims with respect to the Kahns. The district court dismissed sua sponte the remaining claims against the remaining defendants, relying on the same rationale. Long now appeals this

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decision. We reverse the decision and remand the case for further proceedings.

I. History

The facts alleged in Long's complaint detail a series of events that culminated in the loss of all of Long's personal possessions, her job, and custody of her daughter. As if these indignities were not enough, Long remained homeless for a period of six months after her encounter with the defendants in this case.

Long's plight began in 1992 when she entered into a lease agreement for an apartment in Chicago with Shorebank, which operated as an agent of South Shore. The Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidized all but three dollars of Long's rent payments to Shorebank. In January 1997, Long received a notice from Shorebank alleging a small deficiency in her rent payments. Upon receiving this notice, Long immediately contacted Shorebank in an effort to demonstrate that she was current in her rent. A Shorebank employee with whom Long spoke apparently confirmed that no evidence of a delinquency with respect to her account existed and promised to conduct a rent analysis for Long in order to determine her payment status. After performing this analysis, a Shorebank employee again assured Long that she did not owe any rent for the period listed in the notice.

Despite the results of the rent analysis, Shorebank served Long with a summons and eviction complaint alleging nonpayment of rent in the amount of $54.61 for the period running from September 1996 through January 1997. Sanford Kahn, counsel for Shorebank, signed the complaint, which required Long to appear in the Municipal Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County ("Circuit Court") on the afternoon of February 21, 1997. On that date, Long arrived at the designated courtroom minutes prior to the scheduled time of her appearance without the benefit of counsel. Prior to entering the courtroom, Eileen Kahn, also counsel for Shorebank and the wife of Sanford Kahn, approached Long to discuss the case with her.

At the outset of their conversation, Eileen Kahn allegedly acknowledged the inaccuracy of the complaint lodged against Long. Kahn informed Long that Shorebank would allow her two weeks to resolve the dispute by working directly with Shorebank before it pursued any adverse action against her. To obtain the two-week period, Kahn explained to Long that she needed to sign a document prepared by Kahn that would postpone the case from proceeding in Circuit Court and would preclude Shorebank from taking any action to obtain a judgment. However, quite the opposite from Kahn's representations, the document she induced Long to sign was in fact a consent to the entry of final judgment on that day, vesting unconditional possession of Long's apartment in Shorebank. The judgment also unconditionally awarded Shorebank damages in the amount of $54.61.

Relying upon Kahn's misrepresentations and also upon Kahn's status as an attorney, Long accepted Kahn's proffer that the legal document merely postponed the hearing in the case scheduled for that day and signed the document. Kahn then instructed Long that her signature on the document eliminated any need for her to appear in court. Consequently, Long believed she could immediately begin to negotiate with Shorebank to arrive at a resolution of the dispute.

After her exchange with Long, Eileen Kahn appeared ex parte in the case against Long in Circuit Court as counsel for Shorebank. Despite the fact that Kahn knew Long contested Shorebank's complaint against her, Kahn allegedly told the Circuit Court that no dispute existed between Shorebank and Long and that Long agreed to surrender possession of the apartment and pay a money judgment to Shorebank. Accordingly, the Circuit

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Court entered judgment for possession and damages in the amount of $54.61 against Long.

Because Long had no knowledge of the ex parte proceedings before the Circuit Court, Long believed she had secured a two-week period of time within which to rectify Shorebank's error. Accordingly, Long went to Shorebank's offices armed with proof of rent payments. During a meeting with a Shorebank employee, Shorebank informed Long that her deficiency amounted to fifteen dollars. Shorebank offered to terminate the pending eviction suit if Long agreed to pay this deficiency and Shorebank's legal fees and costs for having filed the suit. In an effort to head off further legal proceedings, Long agreed to the terms offered by Shorebank and signed an installment agreement to pay Shorebank's costs and legal fees.

In April 1997, Long received a notice from the Cook County Sheriff's Department informing her of the eviction judgment that had been procured by Eileen Kahn. The notice informed her that she would be evicted the following day. Long immediately went to Shorebank to seek a delay of the eviction. Consistent with its previous displays of cavalier conduct, Shorebank refused to postpone the execution of the eviction. On April 18, 1997, deputy sheriffs executed the eviction notice and literally placed Long, her daughter, and all of their possessions onto the street. It comes as no surprise that all of Long's personal possessions were either stolen or destroyed, and Long was forced to surrender custody of her daughter because she was now homeless. To add insult to her injuries, Long's repeated attempts to resolve this matter with Shorebank resulted in excessive absences from her job and ultimately led to her being fired. Long remained homeless for six months.

After the eviction, Shorebank provided Long with a "Move-Out Analysis." In this analysis, Shorebank acknowledged that Long did not owe any rent payments for the period covered by the eviction complaint and that, ironically, Long was actually due a credit for this period.

Long filed suit in federal district court charging the defendants with violating several provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"); the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act; and the Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance; with violating her rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; and with breach of contract and common law fraud. According to her complaint, Long does not seek repossession of the apartment or a reversal of the eviction judgment. Rather, Long seeks only damages for having been rendered homeless and jobless and for the loss of custody of her daughter as a result of the wrongful and fraudulent eviction perpetrated by Shorebank and its attorneys.

The Kahns filed a motion to dismiss Long's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After considering the Kahns' motion, the district court concluded that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precluded the court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over Long's complaint. In reaching this conclusion, the district court observed that the gravamen of Long's claims against the defendants was the allegation that the Kahns and Shorebank fraudulently obtained the Circuit Court judgment. For this reason, the district court explained that the source of Long's injury was inextricably intertwined with and ultimately the result of the Circuit Court judgment. The district court determined that it would inevitably be required to determine whether the substance of this judgment was correct in order to address the merits of Long's complaint. Because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes federal courts from engaging in appellate review of state court decisions or from considering collateral attacks on state court civil judgments, the district court dismissed Long's complaint with respect to the Kahns pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of jurisdiction.

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The district court proceeded to dismiss sua sponte the remaining counts of Long's complaint against the remaining defendants based on the same reasoning.

After the district court dismissed Long's claims, Long immediately filed an identical suit for damages in an Illinois Circuit Court. In that case, the defendants also filed a motion to dismiss Long's complaint, asserting, in part, that the suit could only be brought before the...

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