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Order: pro se litigant must get approval to file future lawsuits in Chicago's federal court

By Kenneth Lowe | May 19, 2014

A Rockford woman who has filed a handful of pro se lawsuits since 2010 will no longer be able to do so without first getting approval from the executive committee of Chicago's federal court.

In an order handed down May 13 and signed by Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, the committee ordered the revocation of Emma Wiggin's electronic access to the Northern District's system and said her filings must receive its OK before they can be put on the docket.

"It is the judgment of the Executive Committee that reasonable and necessary restraints must be imposed upon Ms. Wiggins' ability to file new civil cases in this district pro se," the committee's order states.

U.S. Judge Frederick J. Kapala last month dismissed the latest of Wiggins' suits, filed April 11, saying it was frivolous and failed to state a claim. The executive committee notes in its order that Wiggins' four previous suits were terminated for the same reasons.

Her most recent suit named the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Rockford office and others as defendants, but what relief she sought and what exactly infractions she alleged were unclear.

"90's civilians stationed with govt. technology - unsupervised 20 yrs," Wiggins' handwritten complaint reads, in part. "No announcement MADE to Rockford residents & to millions of others in state of Illinois '90s-2014."

Her suit goes on to demand the return of "unauthorized government technology," and justice for a thorough list of people she alleges were wrongfully arrested or otherwise denied remedy by the law enforcement agencies in question.

Those organizations, written in a jumbled fashion at the top of the original suit, appeared to include the FBI, "Stat Police," Rockford Police Department, Winnebago County Sheriff's Police, Rockford Park District Police and the U.S. Army Reserves, though Wiggins, in a motion to reopen the case, said she only intended to sue the FBI and believes "the Clerk ... was told to print this document to appear as though [she] didn't know who she was suing."

Many of the "victims and/or wrong arrests" detailed in Wiggins' suit are not named, but described in evocative terms, including "Mexican couple," "NIU 2008 DeKalb," "OIG Madigan" and "3 females told they had cancer."

Following the April 14 dismissal of her latest suit, Wiggins filed a motion to reopen it April 22, attempting to clarify her claims that "citizens have federal government technology in their homes and apartments" and that "arrests are to be made."

The restriction levied on Wiggins, though not entirely that common, falls in line with the ongoing goal of the nation's federal court system to discourage frivolous filings in order to make way for legitimate litigation.

In Wiggins' case, it came after she filed five lawsuits that raised substantially similar claims in a substantially similar manner. The order shows Kapala was the judge assigned to all five of her cases.

Her previously dismissed cases include a Sept. 1, 2010 filing against the City of Rockford, Sept. 10 and Oct. 1, 2010 complaints against the city and its Public Safety Building, and a July 26, 2011 suit against the FBI.

Although the executive committee and Kapala noted that Wiggins paid the required filing fees, it appears they had enough after her fifth suit.

If she fails to comply with the order, the committee notes she could be held in contempt of court and punished accordingly.

The order won't affect Wiggins' ability to defend herself in criminal matters, file petitions for a writ of habeas corpus or other extraordinary writs, or restrict her ability to file in the federal appellate or supreme courts.

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