Amin Ijbara Equity Corporation and Amin Ijbara, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Village of Oak Lawn, Jean Galzin, and Larry Deetjen, Defendants-Appellees.
June 2, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 13 C 9337 -
Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Judge.
POSNER and Sykes, Circuit Judges, and Yandle, District
Ijbara owned a strip mall in the Village of Oak Lawn,
Illinois, but defaulted on his mort- gage payments,
precipitating a foreclosure. He blames this misfortune on Oak
Lawn officials, accusing them of waging a campaign of
regulatory harassment that included frivolous inspections and
citations for nonexistent or trumped-up building-code
violations, which cost him money and scared off prospective
tenants. He filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging that this abuse of power violated his right to equal
protection of the law.
district judge dismissed the suit as time-barred. She held
that Ijbara's claim accrued when the foreclosure action
was filed, or at the very latest, when the judge presiding in
that action appointed a receiver to take control of the mall.
Ijbara's suit, filed almost three years later, missed the
two-year limitations deadline. Ijbara resists this
conclusion, arguing that his claim did not accrue until the
state court entered final judgment in the foreclosure action.
If he's right, the suit was timely and dismissal was
improper. He is not right. Ijbara confuses the eventual
consequences of a constitutional violation with the
constitutional injury that starts the limitations
clock. Ijbara was well aware of his injury and its cause long
before the entry of final judgment in the foreclosure
proceeding. We affirm.
the following narrative from Ijbara's amended complaint,
the operative pleading in the case, and accept the factual
allegations as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss.
Ijbara owned a strip mall in Oak Lawn known as Central
Plaza. In March 2010 two of Ijbara's tenants,
James Baker and Gregory Haraf, approached him about renewing
their lease. Baker and Haraf operated a convenience store in
the mall and had a license to sell liquor. Ijbara refused to
renew their lease unless they stopped selling liquor and
agreed to carry only groceries, meat, and produce. This
naturally upset Baker and Haraf; they threatened to complain
to their friends in village government if Ijbara didn't
change his mind. Ijbara stuck to his guns.
week later, Larry Deetjen, Oak Lawn's village manager,
and David Heilmann, the mayor, sent a team of fire inspectors
to examine the mall's sprinkler system. The inspectors
issued a citation finding code violations and requiring
Ijbara to install an expensive new system. He did so, but the
inspectors were not satisfied and withheld their approval
until additional work was performed, raising the cost from
$22, 000 to $35, 000. Village officials also required Ijbara
to upgrade the mall's existing water pipes-at a cost of
$12, 600-even though the water pipes were code compliant and
functioning normally. Later Ijbara heard from one of his
tenants that village officials were preparing to order him to
repave the mall parking lot (at an estimated cost of $100,
000) and install a new roof (another $100, 000), both
November 2010 Heilmann called Ijbara to pressure him to renew
the convenience store's lease with no restriction on
liquor sales. Ijbara refused to budge. In January 2011 Oak
Lawn inspectors issued several more baseless building-code
citations. Village officials also slow-walked or blocked the
issuance of business licenses to prospective tenants in the
mall. Ijbara's existing tenants were pestered with
groundless citations for ordinance violations.
concerted harassment gradually reduced the mall's
revenues to a trickle, and Ijbara was unable to make his
mortgage payments. On February 22, 2011, his lender initiated
foreclosure proceedings in state court, and on April 22 the
judge presiding in that action appointed a receiver to take
possession of and manage the property. The judge's order
authorized the receiver to collect all rents relating to the
property; tenants were directed to send their rental payments
to the receiver. On July 3, 2012, the judge entered final
judgment of foreclosure.
filed this § 1983 suit for damages on December 31, 2013.
His original complaint raised many claims, but the amended
complaint trimmed that number and he now presses only one: a
class-of-one equal-protection claim against the Village of
Oak Lawn and two of its officials, Deetjen, the village
manager, and Jean Galzin, the code enforcement officer.
defendants moved to dismiss the case. See Fed. R.
Crv. P. 12(b)(6). They argued that the suit was untimely
under the two-year statute of limitations applicable to
§ 1983 actions in Illinois. The district judge agreed,
holding that Ijbara's claim accrued, at the very latest,
on April 22, 2011. That's when the state court appointed
a receiver to assume management of the mall. The judge
reasoned that Ijbara was surely aware of his injury by that
date. Because he filed this suit more than two years later,
the judge dismissed it as time-barred.