EAST ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge David Herndon has dismissed Amiel Cueto’s claim that the Illinois Supreme Court violated his constitutional rights by refusing to reinstate his law license.
Herndon ruled on Sept. 3 that he lacked jurisdiction over a suit Cueto filed against the Justices and that a related claim against ARDC official James Grogan was barred by the statute of limitations.
“Case law clearly demonstrates that lower federal courts do not have jurisdiction to review attacks on state attorney disciplinary proceedings,” Herndon wrote.
Two days earlier he had dismissed a companion suit against Grogan, St. Clair County state’s attorney Robert Haida, and state liquor control agent Bonds Robinson.
In both suits Cueto claimed he had been framed on federal charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States, and that the wrongful convictions had led to his disbarment.
In 1997, Grogan and Haida testified against Cueto at trial on charges of obstructing justice and conspiring to defraud the United States.
Jurors convicted Cueto, who served a prison sentence.
The Supreme Court suspended his license in 1998 and disbarred him in 2004.
Last year Cueto petitioned the Supreme Court to vacate the disbarment, and the Justices denied the petition.
In November, Cueto filed a civil racketeering complaint against Grogan, Haida and Robinson in federal court.
He accused them of bribery, extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and tampering with and retaliating against a witness or victim.
Herndon dismissed that lawsuit with prejudice on Sept. 1, holding that Cueto’s racketeering cause of action was barred by the statute of limitations.
The lawsuit dismissed by Herndon on Sept. 3 had been filed against the Justices and Grogan last December. Cueto accused the Justices of violating his civil rights by denying his petition to vacate the order disbarring him and by issuing supervisory orders assigning two lawsuits filed by Cueto to judges from outside the Twentieth Judicial Circuit. He accused Grogan of violating his civil rights by committing perjury at Cueto’s criminal trial.
In both lawsuits Cueto claimed that the loss of his license cost him $30 million.
Cueto sought a judgment against the Justices declaring and holding, among other things, that his disbarment violated the Fourteenth Amendment and should be vacated, and that the supervisory orders violated his rights to due process and equal protection.
Cueto also sought $30 million in compensatory damages from Grogan plus punitive damages of up to $270 million.
Herndon dismissed the entire complaint.
The claims against the Justices were dismissed pursuant to the Rooker/Feldman doctrine, which recognizes that federal district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to hear claims based on injuries claimed from state court rulings.
The Rooker/Feldman doctrine barred Cueto’s claims against the Justices because “Cueto is clearly requesting this Court to reverse the decisions made by the Illinois Supreme Court in his state court cases and in his Illinois Attorney Disciplinary Proceeding,” Herndon wrote.
Cueto’s claim against Grogan was dismissed because it was filed more than two years after the statute of limitations expired.