Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 18, 2015

7th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Dismissal of Dues Process and Ethics Claims Arising Over Approvals for Retail Center

In February 2000, Stephen Jackson purchased a recently built home in the Village. At that time, the property located directly across the street was zoned for “mixed residential” use, and Jackson believed that a townhome development with 16 units would be built there. However, in March 2001, the Board of Trustees for the Village approved a conditional-use permit for a retail center on the property across the street. Jackson attended public meetings and hired counsel to oppose the commercial development, but claims the public meetings were “simply intended to provide the illusion of public process” to conceal lucrative insider dealing between Village officials and the developers. Jackson later learned that about nine months after he purchased his property, the developers had received “preliminary approval” from the Village to build the retail center. Jackson then brought this action, challenging the Village’s decisions made over the 14–year period, against the Village and more than 20 other defendants. The district court dismissed the federal claims on the pleadings and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims.

In his due process claim, Jackson asserted that the Village disregarded local procedures and engaged in delay tactics. However, because Jackson did not appeal the Board’s decisions to the zoning board of appeals, and then to the state courts on administrative review, or pursue other remedies that Illinois has provided for property owners challenging excessive zoning regulation, the court upheld the district court’s finding that Jackson’s claim of a violation of procedural due process was unripe and subject to dismissal. Moreover, the court found Jackson pleaded himself out of court because his complaint reveals an obvious rational basis for the Village’s actions, since his complaint acknowledged that the developers and Village officials were negotiating plans to build a commercial center even before he bought his house.

Finally the court addressed Jackson’s First Amendment claim, which alleged that several Village officials were represented by the law firm that employs the Village attorney, and this “conflict of interest,” led to political corruption “such that the Plaintiff never stood a chance of receiving legitimate consideration” when attempting to petition the Village. This argument also failed, however, because he did not allege that state actors actually interfered with his access to the courts to state a claim for relief under the First Amendment. Accordingly, the dismissal of Jackson’s claims was affirmed.

Jackson v Village of Western Springs, 2015 WL 2262703 (7th Cir. unprec. 5/15/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2015/D05-15/C:14-3641:J:PerCuriam:aut:T:npDp:N:1552491:S:0


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