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Case: 1:13-cv-04924 Document #: 127 Filed: 06/03/16 Page 1 of 7 PageID #:471

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
EASTERN DIVISION
ANNABEL MELONGO,
Plaintiff,
v.
ASA ROBERT PODLASEK; ASA JULIE
GUNNIGLE; INVESTIGATOR KATE OHARA
(Star No. 423); INVESTIGATOR JAMES DILLON
(Star No. 1068); INVESTIGATOR ANTONIO
RUBINO (Star No. 5043); INVESTIGATOR RICH
LESIAK (Star No. 5000); UNKNOWN COOK
COUNTY SHERIFF OFFICERS; DR. MATTHEW
S. MARKOS; ASST. ATTY. GENERAL KYLE
FRENCH; COOK COUNTY SHERIFF THOMAS
DART; COOK COUNTY; INVESTIGATOR
RANDY ROBERTS; SCHILLER PARK DET.
WILLIAM MARTIN; VILLAGE OF SCHILLER
PARK; CAROL SPIZZIRRI,
Defendants.

No. 13-cv-4924
Judge John Z. Lee

DEFENDANT SPIZZIRRIS MOTION FOR LAW CLERK, JULIA RICKERT,


TO RECUSE HERSELF OR, IF IMPRACTICABLE OR IMPOSSIBLE,
FOR JUDGE JOHN Z. LEE TO RECUSE HIMSELF
NOW COMES Defendant, CAROL SPIZZIRRI, by and through her attorney, Donald J.
Angelini, Jr. of the law firm of Angelini & Ori, LLC, and for her Motion for Law Clerk, Julia
Rickert to Recuse Herself or, if Impracticable or Impossible, for Judge John Z. Lee to Recuse
Himself, states as follows:

PROCEDURAL HISTORY
1. Plaintiff, ANNABEL MELONGO (Plaintiff Melongo), originally filed this Complaint
on July 10, 2013. ECF 1. At the time the original Complaint was filed, Defendant,
CAROL SPIZZIRRI (Defendant Spizzirri), was not a named Defendant. ECF 1.
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2. On November 5, 2014, Plaintiff Melongo filed her Second Amended Complaint, which
was the first time Defendant Spizzirri was added as a defendant. ECF 48. Defendant
Spizzirri was served on November 19, 2014 (ECF 78), vacated any default entered
against her on August 11, 2015 (ECF 93), and answered the Second Amended Complaint
on August 18, 2015 (ECF 95).
3. All parties and the Court are well aware of the numerous delays in this matter, and this
motion is not intended to further delay the final disposition of the case. It is, however,
intended to ensure impartiality as the case proceeds to its final disposition.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND
4. In approximately the second week of May 2016, counsel for Defendant Spizzirri became
aware that Julia Rickert (Ms. Rickert), one of the three law clerks employed by the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, specifically in Judge
John Z. Lees courtroom, was a former temporary employee of the Save-A-Life
Foundation (SALF). See Exhibit A for a page of Judge Lees Judges Information
webpage listing Ms. Rickert as a law clerk.
5. Upon information and belief, there is only one Ms. Rickert licensed to practice law in the
State of Illinois, and she is the same Ms. Rickert who is Judge Lees current law clerk
and former employee of SALF. See Exhibit B for the Lawyer Search Results of the
Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois. If, of
course, the Ms. Rickert quoted in the below-referenced exhibits are not the same Ms.
Rickert who is now Judge Lees law clerk, Defendant Spizzirri will withdraw this
motion.

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6. Defendant Spizzirri founded and operated SALF, and SALF contracted certain
employees through a temporary employment agency known as Manpower. Manpower
placed Ms. Rickert at SALF for a second term in approximately February 2007.
7. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Rickert apparently wrote a letter to then State Senate President,
Emil Jones, and filed a complaint with the Illinois Inspector General requesting an
investigation of SALF. See Exhibit C for a May 30, 2007 article written by ABC reporter,
Chuck Goudie. Plaintiff Melongo even attached this article as an exhibit to her June 17,
2009 Motion to Dismiss Indictment.
8. Additionally, the video report that corresponds to Chuck Goudies article attached as
Exhibit C is available online and includes Chuck Goudies interview of Ms. Rickert
regarding her complaints made to State Senator Jones and the Inspector General, as well
as the specifics of her allegations. See www.vimeo.com/1602289 starting at 02:30 for the
relevant portion of the video report. A disk of the video is also attached as Exhibit D.

REQUEST FOR THE RECUSAL OF JULIA RICKERT


9. Given this factual background, Defendant Spizzirri, with all due respect to Ms. Rickert,
requests that she recuse herself from any involvement whatsoever in the proceedings of
this case. This recusal should extend to all aspects of her job, including but not limited to
research, drafting, discussions with Judge Lee, discussions with other chambers staff,
and substantive contact with counsel for any party.
10. A law clerk should avoid conflicts of interest in the performance of official duties, and
such conflicts arise when a judicial employee knows that he or she might be so personally
affected by a matter that a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would
question the judicial employees ability to properly perform official duties in an impartial
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manner. Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees, 320 Canon 3(F)(1). Specifically, a
judicial employee should refrain from any official activity if he or she has a personal bias
against a party before them. Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees, 320 Canon 3
(F)(2)(a)(i).
11. Additionally, when a judicial employee knows that a conflict of interest may be
presented, he or she should promptly inform his or her appointing authority, and the
appointing authority, after determining a conflict or appearance of a conflict exists,
should take appropriate steps to restrict the judicial employees performance of official
duties. Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees, 320 Canon 3 (F)(3).
12. Given the few instances where a law clerk may have a bias or conflict, it not surprising
that case law in this jurisdiction is light on the subject. However, the several other
jurisdictions to have taken up the issue consistently recognize that a clerks conflict or
bias should be treated similar to a conflict or bias of a judge. Undeniably, law clerks have
a close relationship with their supervising judge. Hall v. Small Business Admin., 695 F.2d
175,179 (5th Cir. Miss. 1983). In fact, law clerks are likely to act as sounding boards
during the progression of the case, and a clerks position allows unparalleled access and
ability to direct the proceedings. Id. Where a judicial employee has a past experience
with a defendant, the clerk and defendant have an extrajudicial relationship that raises
questions of potential bias or conflict. Spangler v. Sear, Roebuck & Co., 759 F. Supp.
1327, 1331-1332 (S.D. Ind. 1991). Where there is specific evidence that would lead a
reasonable person to believe that prejudice exists, recusal of the judicial employee is
proper. Id.

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13. Although SALF is not a direct defendant in this action, it is well known by all parties that
Defendant Spizzirri was the founder and operator of SALF, many of the alleged facts of
this matter occurred either at SALF or were related to SALF, voluminous documents
produced in discovery will reference SALF, and dispositive motions or evidence at trial
will focus on SALF. Defendant Spizzirri and SALF are too significantly intertwined for
Ms. Rickert to be conflicted as to SALF but not as to Defendant Spizzirri. Neither
Defendant Spizzirri nor her counsel know for certain whether Ms. Rickert is biased or
prejudiced against Defendant Spizzirri, nor do they know for certain whether or not she
could proceed in a neutral manner. However, a reasonable person could believe that Ms.
Rickert is prejudiced, conflicted, or biased against Defendant Spizzirri, and for the
protection of Defendant Spizzirri and the integrity of these proceedings, it is important
for all parties to know Ms. Rickert is not involved.

REQUEST FOR THE RECUSAL OF JUDGE JOHN Z. LEE


14. Defendant Spizzirri and her counsel realize that, depending on certain circumstances and
the operation of chambers, it may be impossible or impracticable for the Court to enforce
Ms. Rickerts recusal and ensure she is not involved in any way with this case. Defendant
Spizzirri does not question the impartiality of Judge John Z. Lee in these proceedings,
especially if Ms. Rickert is removed from involvement. However, if Judge Lee is unable
to ensure Ms. Rickerts complete recusal, Defendant Spizzirri, with utmost respect to
Judge Lee, requests that he recuse himself.
15. Any justice, judge, or magistrate of the United States shall disqualify himself in any
proceedings in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 28 USCS
455(a). Such disqualification is proper in circumstances where a reasonable person
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would be convinced the judge was biased. Brokaw v. Mercer Count, 235 F.3d 100, 1025
(7th Cir. 2000). As indicated above, courts look to the close relationship between a judge
and his or her clerk. A reasonable person could be convinced that, if Ms. Rickerts
recusal is not immediate and complete, she may have an impact on Judge Lee as this
matter progresses. Such impact could occur where she performs research, drafts a
memorandum, drafts an opinion or portion of an opinion, or act as a sounding board for
Judge Lee regarding the case. If Ms. Rickert cannot be totally removed from
involvement, appointing a new judge would ensure the integrity of the matter for all
parties.
16. Defendant Spizzirri makes absolutely no attempt at arrant judge-shopping by
requesting this recusal. See Sullivan v. Conway, 157 F.3d 1092, 1096 (7th Cir. 1998). In
fact, she and her counsel immensely respect Judge Lee and prefer he remain as the judge
presiding over this matter. But if Judge Lee cannot adequately remove Ms. Rickert from
involvement, it is in the interest of justice that Judge Lee recuse himself to ensure Ms.
Rickert is not involved in this case any longer.
WHEREFORE, Defendant, CAROL SPIZZIRRI, respectfully requests that law clerk,
Julia Rickert, recuse herself from these proceedings entirely and the Court ensure she is
completely removed from all involvement or, in the alternative, if it is impossible or
impracticable for the Court to ensure Ms. Ricket has no involvement, that Judge Lee recuse
himself as the presiding judge over this matter.

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Dated: June 3, 2016

Respectfully Submitted,

_/s/ Donald J. Angelini, Jr.__


Donald J. Angelini, Jr.
Angelini & Angelini
155 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 400
Chicago, Illinois 60601
P: 312.621.0000
F: 312.621.0001
dangelini@angeliniorilaw.com
Counsel for Defendant, Carol Spizzirri.

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