Akbar v. Harris
Plaintiff: Jamal A. Akbar
Defendant: Sherelene Harris
Case Number: 1:2024cv01272
Filed: February 13, 2024
Court: US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Presiding Judge: Steven C Seeger
Nature of Suit: Contract: Other
Cause of Action: 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331 Federal Question
Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff
Docket Report

This docket was last retrieved on April 9, 2024. A more recent docket listing may be available from PACER.

Date Filed Document Text
April 9, 2024 Filing 7 MINUTE entry before the Honorable Steven C. Seeger: Plaintiff Jamal Akbar's application to proceed in forma pauperis (Dckt. No. #3 ) is hereby denied. For starters, the Court has some questions about the accuracy of Akbar's form. His form states that he is unemployed. Id. at 1. It states that he has no income and has not received unemployment, public assistance, or welfare. Id. The form lists $942 from "any other source" as his only source of money within the past twelve months. Id. Akbar also wrote that he has no savings. Id. at 2. However, Akbar attached to his application a letter from the Social Security Administration, dated November 26, 2023. See id. at 3-4. The SSA informed him that it planned to increase his Supplemental Security Income payments from $394 to $406 a month beginning in January 2024. Id. at 3. The letter also includes a header titled, "Your Income Other Than Your SSI." Id. at 4. Akbar apparently earned $557 in monthly income other than SSI. Id. So, Akbar's IFP application and the letter from the Social Security Administration tell competing stores about his financial status. The IFP form says that Akbar only received $942 over the past 12 months. Id. at 2. The letter from the SSA states that Akbar received $951 a month ($394 plus $557), which was increasing to $963 ($406 plus $557) beginning in January. Id. at 3-4. Nevertheless, the Court is satisfied that Akbar is indigent regardless of which number applies. His income is less than $1,000 a month. So, the Court assumes that Akbar qualifies for IFP from a financial perspective. Still, the Court must prescreen the complaint before it can be accepted for filing. See 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B). If the complaint is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant, then the Court must dismiss the complaint or those claims. See id.; see also Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 214 (2007); Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). Courts screen complaints under section 1915(e)(2)(B) in the same manner that they review motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011). The complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). The statement also must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," which means that the pleaded facts must show there is "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When screening a pro se plaintiff's complaint, courts construe the plaintiff's allegations liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). Courts also must "accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inference in the plaintiff's favor." Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016). Here, Akbar sued Defendant Sherelene Harris, "Acting Administrator to specifically perform official duties of the Estate of Napoleon Harris." See Cplt., at 1 (Dckt. No. #1 ). Akbar brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Harris violated the Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution. Id. Akbar claims that Harris acted "dishonestly and without remorse in managing and distributing" money from the Estate. Id. at 3. He contends that Harris breached her fiduciary duty to him, and that she committed a breach of contract. Id. at 4. Akbar seeks "compensatory damages in the amount of $35,625 x two," as well as punitive damages of $10,000. Id. at 5. The Court spots a few problems with the complaint. For starters, to bring a section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant acted under the color of state law. See Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999); see also DiDonato v. Panatera, 24 F.4th 1156, 1159 (7th Cir. 2022). "When a plaintiff brings a section 1983 claim against a defendant who is not a government official or employee, the plaintiff must show that the private [actor] acted under the color of state law." Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 822 (7th Cir. 2009). Akbar fails to plead facts suggesting that Harris acted under the color of state law. Instead, he contends that Harris acted improperly in a private capacity, as the administrator of an estate. See Cplt., at 1-3. For that reason alone, Akbar's section 1983 claim fails. Additionally, a section 1983 claim requires a violation of federal law. See Brown v. Randle, 847 F.3d 861, 865 (7th Cir. 2017) ("[Section] 1983 does not authorize federal courts to order state officials to pay damages for violations of state law; remedies in 1983 suits are for violations of federal law only."). Akbar makes a passing reference to the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. See Cplt., at 1. But his complaints alleges impropriety in a state probate proceeding, not a violation of the Constitution. Id. at 4. To the extent that Akbar seeks to bring state-law claims about a probate proceeding, this Court may lack subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has recognized a narrow probate exception in cases in which federal jurisdiction would otherwise be proper. See Marshall v. Marshall, 547 U.S. 293, 308 (2006). The exception applies to claims seeking to probate a will or administer an estate. Id. at 311; see also Jones v. Brennan, 465 F.3d 304, 306 (7th Cir. 2006) (opining that a complaint about the maladministration of an estate is "tantamount to asking the federal district court to take over the administration of the estate" and "clearly would violate the probate exception."). Because Akbar's claims allege misconduct in distributing property from an estate, the probate exception may apply. Moreover, the Court may lack diversity jurisdiction over state-law claims in the case at hand. Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity of citizenship between all plaintiffs, on the one hand, and all defendants, on the other. See 28 U.S.C. 1332(a); Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Centers, Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. 1332(a). For the purposes of diversity jurisdiction, "the legal representative of the estate of a decedent shall be deemed to be a citizen only of the same State as the decedent." See 28 U.S.C. 1332(c)(2). Therefore, Defendant Sherelene Harris is treated as a citizen of the same state as the decedent, Napoleon Harris. Akbar does not plead Napoleon Harris's citizenship. See generally Cplt. Nor does Akbar plead his own citizenship. See id. Therefore, the Court cannot determine whether Akbar and Harris are citizens of the same state. In sum, the complaint does not allege a cognizable claim under section 1983. Defendant Harris is a private actor, who did not act under the color of law. And Akbar appears to seek damages for violation of state law, whereas section 1983 requires a violation of federal law. For these reasons, the application to proceed in forma pauperis is denied. But the Court will give Akbar another chance. The Court grants Akbar leave to file an amended complaint by May 17, 2024. If he fails to comply, the Court will dismiss the complaint and close the case. Mailed notice. (jjr, )
February 16, 2024 Filing 6 MINUTE entry before the Honorable Steven C. Seeger: There is no need for a certificate of service for a court filing when all parties of record receive a copy through CM/ECF. Under the Local Rules, "[a] certificate of service is required only when service of a document filed on the Court's E-Filing system is made on a recipient who is not an E-Filer listed on the docket of the proceeding." See L.R. 5.5(a); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(d)(1)(B) ("No certificate of service is required when a paper is served by filing it with the court's electronic-filing system."). The Court handles service through CM/ECF. In effect, the CM/ECF header is the certificate of service. Save yourself the work, and the trouble. Mailed notice. Mailed notice (jjr, )
February 16, 2024 Filing 5 MINUTE entry before the Honorable Steven C. Seeger: An initial status report is due by May 1, 2024. Counsel must read the Standing Order entitled "Initial Status Conferences and Joint Initial Status Reports" on the Court's website. The parties must confer as required by Rule 26(f) about the nature, scope, and duration of discovery. The parties must submit two documents to the Court. First, the parties must file the Joint Initial Status Report under Rule 26(f) on the docket. A Word version of the Joint Initial Status Report is available on the Court's website. All parties must participate in the preparation and filing of the Joint Initial Status Report. The Court requires a joint report, so a filing by one side or the other is not sufficient. Second, the parties must email a Word version of a proposed Scheduling Order under Rule 16(b) to the Court's proposed order inbox. Lead counsel for the parties must participate in filing the initial status report. Plaintiff must serve this Order on all other parties. If the defendant has not been served with process, plaintiff's counsel must contact the Courtroom Deputy at jessica_j_ramos@ilnd.uscourts.gov to reschedule the initial status report deadline. Plaintiff should not file the Joint Initial Status Report before the defendant(s) has been served with process. The parties must discuss settlement in good faith and make a serious attempt to resolve this case amicably. All counsel of record must read and comply with this Court's Standing Orders on its webpage. Please pay special attention to the Standing Orders about Depositions and Discovery. Mailed notice. (jjr, )
February 15, 2024 MAILED copy of the Clerk's Notice entry along with the Joint Consent Form to Plaintiff. (smb, )
February 15, 2024 CLERK'S NOTICE: Pursuant to Local Rule 73.1(b), a United States Magistrate Judge of this court is available to conduct all proceedings in this civil action. If all parties consent to have the currently assigned United States Magistrate Judge conduct all proceedings in this case, including trial, the entry of final judgment, and all post-trial proceedings, all parties must sign their names on the attached #Consent To# form. This consent form is eligible for filing only if executed by all parties. The parties can also express their consent to jurisdiction by a magistrate judge in any joint filing, including the Joint Initial Status Report or proposed Case Management Order. (smb, )
February 15, 2024 CASE ASSIGNED to the Honorable Steven C. Seeger. Designated as Magistrate Judge the Honorable Jeffrey Cole. Case assignment: Random assignment. (Civil Category 3). (smb, )
February 13, 2024 Filing 3 APPLICATION by Plaintiff Jamal A. Akbar for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Exhibits) (smb, )
February 13, 2024 Filing 2 CIVIL Cover Sheet (smb, )
February 13, 2024 Filing 1 RECEIVED Complaint and No copies by Jamal A. Akbar (smb, )

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