Cosgriff v. Winnebago County, No. 17-1396 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The Cosgriffs reside in South Beloit, Roscoe Township, Winnebago County, Illinois. They installed a $50,000 pool at their home. When township employees came to the home to reassess its property value after the pool addition, one of the Cosgriffs’ dogs bit one of the employees. That employee and Roscoe Township sued the Cosgriffs. The Cosgriffs started a petition campaign encouraging taxpayers to notify the township that its employees should not trespass on private property. The Cosgriffs’ next property assessment was significantly higher than their last. The Cosgriffs challenged the increased assessment before the Winnebago County Board of Review, which ruled in favor of the Cosgriffs and substantially reduced the assessment. The Cosgriffs then sued Winnebago County and individual defendants, alleging that the defendants acted unconstitutionally when they increased the Cosgriffs’ property assessment because the Cosgriffs spoke out against township employees trespassing on private property. The district court dismissed the Cosgriffs’ 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, reasoning that comity principles barred federal courts from hearing these claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Because the Cosgriffs challenge the administration of a local tax system under section 1983, their claims fall outside the scope of the statute. Available state remedies are plain, adequate, and complete.