Appeals Court upholds dismissal of Cueto v. Justices, ARDC officer

Ann Knef May 27, 2010, 6:24am



The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld U.S. District Judge David Herndon's dismissal of a suit Amiel Cueto brought against the Illinois Supreme Court and an officer of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission (ARDC).

Cueto, who was convicted in federal court in 1997 on obstruction of justice charges and later disbarred in 2004, sued the Justices and ARDC Deputy Administrator and Chief Counsel James Grogan in federal court in 2008. Herndon dismissed the case last September.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished order issued without oral argument.

Cueto had accused the Justices of violating his civil rights by denying his petition to vacate his disbarment order and by issuing supervisory orders assigning two lawsuits filed by Cueto to judges from outside the Twentieth Judicial Circuit. He accused Grogan, who testified against Cueto at his criminal trial, of violating his civil rights by committing perjury.

The claims against the Justices were dismissed by Herndon 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.

In its May 26 decision, the Court of Appeals wrote that Cueto "pays little attention to the Rooker-Feldman issue."

"[T]he gravamen of Cueto's complaint is that the state Supreme Court's orders violated his rights, the disbarment order should be vacated, and the supervisory orders in his defamation trials should be nullified," the opinion states. "He has not asserted any injury independent of the Supreme Court of Illinois's disbarment proceedings or supervisory orders. He has therefore impermissibly attacked the state court judgments in federal court, and such attacks are barred by Rooker-Feldman."

Cueto had claimed in his suit that the loss of his law license cost him $30 million.

In his claim against Grogan, Cueto had sought $30 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages of up to $270 million.

Herndon ruled that Cueto's claim against Grogan was barred because it was filed more than two years after the statute of limitations expired.

The Court of Appeals agreed, saying Cueto's complaint against Grogan was "untimely."

"Cueto argues that the district court erred by applying a two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries... rather than a five-year 'catch-all' statute," the court wrote. "He reasons that his claim is not for a 'personal injury' because he alleges pecuniary losses rather than bodily or psychological harm. We have repeatedly stated, however, that the statute of limitations for § 1983 claims in Illinois is two years, not five."

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