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Brent Allan Winters, et al v. Delores Jordan

June 17, 2011

BRENT ALLAN WINTERS, ET AL., PLAINTIFF,
v.
DELORES JORDAN, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Presently before the court*fn1 are the following three motions: (1) plaintiffs' motion for default judgment (Dkt. No. 189); (2) a motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 186) filed by defendants Jan Paul Miller, Bernard Coleman, Sue Roderick, Kathi Jo McBride, Stephen Tinsley, Kevin Martens, Phillip Johnson, Hilda Molnar, Robert Anderson, Donald Staggs, James Pogue, Patrick Chelsey, and Hilary Frooman, all of whom are or were federal prosecutors or internal revenue agents involved in the criminal investigation and prosecution of plaintiff Brent Winters in the Central District of Illinois*fn2 (collectively, "Federal Defendants"); and (3) a motion to dismiss filed by defendant John Taylor, who served as appointed federal defense counsel for one of Brent

Winters's co-defendants in the criminal prosecution in Illinois. (Dkt. No. 199). The court heard this matter on its law and motion on February 17, 2011. Although all of the defendants concerned appeared through their respective counsel at the hearing, plaintiffs did not appear and had signaled in prior filings that they did not intend to appear at the hearing. For the reasons stated below, the undersigned recommends that: (1) plaintiffs' motion for default judgment be denied; (2) the Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted on the grounds that this court lacks personal jurisdiction over those defendants; and (3) Taylor's motion to dismiss be granted on the grounds that this court lacks personal jurisdiction over Taylor. The undersigned further recommends that the Federal Defendants and Taylor be dismissed from this action.

I. BACKGROUND*fn3

Plaintiffs allege eight claims for relief against Taylor. Claims 13, 14, 15, 18, 31, 36, and 38 are plaintiffs' generic claims that are alleged against "all defendants."*fn4 None of these claims allege any specific facts about Taylor. Plaintiffs' only claim specifically alleged against Taylor is claim 23, which relates to the federal prosecution of plaintiff Brent Winters and two co-defendants, Kenton Tylman and Debra Hills, in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. Taylor is, and was at the relevant time, an Assistant Federal Public Defender who was appointed to represent Tylman in a tax fraud prosecution in the Illinois federal court. (See Third Am. Compl. at 22; Taylor Decl. ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 199, Doc. No. 199-2.) Plaintiffs contend that Taylor conspired with the prosecutor in the tax fraud case to prevent Tylman and Brent Winters from exercising their rights to a speedy trial under the U.S. Constitution and the Speedy Trial Act. (Third Am. Compl. at 22.) Plaintiff Brent Winters was ultimately convicted of tax fraud in that prosecution and appealed that conviction on grounds including those related to speedy trial concerns. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Brent Winters's conviction over allegations that Taylor violated Tylman's and Brent Winters's rights to a speedy trial. See generally Hills, 618 F.3d 619.

Relevant to Taylor's arguments in favor of dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, Taylor filed a declaration describing his contacts with the state of California. Taylor declares that he has lived nearly his entire life in Illinois, but lived in Indiana for six years in the 1950s. (Taylor Decl. ¶ 2.) He further declares that he has spent his entire career as an attorney in Illinois and that his representation of Tylman in the Central District of Illinois arose out of activities taking place solely in Illinois. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Taylor declares that he has visited California twice on personal vacations. (Id. ¶ 5.) His first visit to California occurred in 1971 and consisted of a road trip along the California coast. (Id.) His second visit occurred "over ten years ago," when Taylor and his family spent one week visiting the San Francisco Bay area. (Id.)

Plaintiffs allege numerous claims against the Federal Defendants and Taylor in the Third Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs' claims against the various Federal Defendants implicate the claims for relief numbered 4, 13, 14, 15, 18, 21, 23, 27, 31, 36, and 38. Relevant to the Federal Defendants' arguments in favor of dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint does not allege that any of the Federal Defendants, other than Assistant United States Attorney Patrick J. Chelsey, had any contacts with California. Chelsey was a federal prosecutor who was involved in the criminal prosecution of Brent Winters. As to Chelsey, plaintiffs allege that on February 22, 2008, Chelsey sent a letter to attorney Valerie Logsdon (also a named defendant in this action) "confirming previous phone conversation and offering any aid to help evict the Winters" from the home that the Winters were occupying in Nevada City, California.*fn5 (Third Am. Compl. ¶ 33, at p. 6.) Plaintiffs allege that Logsdon subsequently "entered" this letter into an unlawful detainer action involving plaintiffs. (Id.)

Because plaintiffs are proceeding pro se, service in this case has been effectuated through the United States Marshal. The Federal Defendants were served with the Third Amended Complaint by the U.S. Marshal at various points during the Summer and Fall of 2010. (See Dkt. Nos. 134, 136, 137, 139, 157, 159, 172, 182, 191, 195.) Defendant John Taylor was served on June 28, 2010. (Dkt. No. 142.)

On August 11, 2010, the Federal Defendants and Taylor, through Assistant United States Attorney J. Earlene Gordon, filed an ex parte motion for a 60-day extension of time to respond to the Third Amended Complaint on the grounds that these defendants, all of whom are former or current federal employees, were then seeking representation by the United States Attorney's Office. (Dkt. No. 151.) The court granted the extension and ordered that responses to the Third Amended Complaint be filed no later than October 15, 2010. (Order, Aug. 12, 2010, Dkt. No. 152.)

On October 14, 2010, defendant John Taylor requested, through AUSA Gordon, another extension, until November 15, 2010, to file a response to the Third Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 184.) Taylor did so on the ground that the United States Attorney's Office declined the representation of Taylor, and Taylor would have to find private counsel. The court granted the extension. (Order, Oct. 15, 2010, Dkt. No. 190.)

Also on October 14, 2010-one day before the Federal Defendants' deadline to respond to the Third Amended Complaint-plaintiffs filed a motion for default judgment against the Federal Defendants and Taylor, among other defendants. (Mot. for Default J., Dkt. No. 189.) Plaintiffs did not seek a clerk's entry of default prior to moving for default judgment.

On October 15, 2010, the Federal Defendants filed a timely motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims against them for lack of personal jurisdiction, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim. On November 4, 2010, John Taylor filed a timely motion to dismiss on substantially similar grounds as the Federal Defendants.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment

In relevant part, plaintiffs move this court for a default judgment against the Federal Defendants and Taylor.*fn6 The undersigned recommends that the court deny plaintiffs' motion.

1. Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment Is Procedurally Improper Plaintiffs' motion for default judgment is procedurally improper because plaintiffs did not seek a clerk's entry of default prior to filing their motion for default judgment. ...


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