United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY DISTRICT JUDGE
se plaintiff Tabatha Frerks seeks immediate injunctive
relief and damages from a judgment of foreclosure entered
against her in state court. One of the documents that she
attaches to her Emergency Motion for Immediate Restraining
Order and Injunction purports to be a notice of removal of
Portage County Circuit Court Case No. 2015CV000007, a state
foreclosure proceeding. A district court is obligated to
conduct limited screening to confirm that subject matter
jurisdiction exists. See Buchel-Ruegsegger v.
Buchel, 576 F.3d 451, 453 (7th Cir. 2009) (noting that
federal courts have a duty to evaluate their own
jurisdiction, “sua sponte if necessary”)
(citation omitted). In addressing any pro se
litigant's complaint, the court must construe the
allegations generously. See Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 521 (1972). Even under this lenient standard,
however, the court plainly lacks subject matter jurisdiction
to address the pending motion or the underlying merits of
this lawsuit. Accordingly, the case will be dismissed.
28, 2016, defendant Denis M. Wyssbrod obtained a judgment of
foreclosure against Frerks and her company, TC General, for
parcels of land located in Portage County, Wisconsin. Frerks
also names as defendants: Portage County Circuit Court Judge
Todd P. Wolf, who entered the order permitting the state
foreclosure action to proceed; Anderson O'Brien and
Skrenes & Golla, LLP, Wyssbrod's law firms, both of
which were involved in that proceeding; and Robert Konkol,
Richard Fuller and Amy Jahnke, all attorneys working at those
foreclosure action apparently arose out of the Frerks'
failure to make monthly interest payments on a series of
mortgage loans received from Wyssbrod. Frerks now seeks an
immediate stay of the state court's orders appointing a
receiver and authorizing foreclosure.
state courts, which have subject matter jurisdiction over a
broad assortment of causes and claims, this court's
jurisdiction is limited only to “cases or
controversies” that are “authorized by Article
III of the [United States] Constitution and the statutes
enacted by Congress pursuant thereto.”
Buchel-Ruegsegger v. Buchel, 576 F.3d 451, 453 (7th
Cir. 2009) (quoting Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch.
Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986)). Given its limited
jurisdiction, “[a] federal court is the wrong forum
when there is no case or controversy, or when Congress has
not authorized it to resolve a particular kind of
dispute.” Morrison v. YTB Intern., Inc., 649
F.3d 533, 536 (7th Cir. 2011) (explaining that
“subject-matter jurisdiction is a synonym for
of the limits on federal judicial power, this court also has
a duty to determine that subject-matter jurisdiction exists
before reaching the merits of any case, even if the parties
do not raise the issue. See Buchel-Ruegsegger, 576
F.3d at 453. Moreover, if a district court determines at any
time that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it
“must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).
a federal district court has the authority to hear two types
of cases: (1) those in which a plaintiff alleges a violation
of his rights under the Constitution or federal law; or (2)
those in which a citizen of one state alleges a violation of
his or her rights under state law by a citizen of another
state, provided the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331-32. According to the
pleadings and exhibits, this case does not implicate a
federal question, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, nor does it involve
a suit by the citizen of one state against citizens of
another, 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
federal subject matter jurisdiction were present,
review would still be barred at this late stage of the state
court foreclosure proceedings. To the extent that Frerks
alleges injury arising out of a state court order entered
against her, review of her allegations is severely
constrained by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See
Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16
(1923); District of Columbia Ct. of App. v. Feldman,
460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983). In particular, the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents a party
“complaining of an injury caused by [a] state-court
judgment” from seeking redress in a lower federal
court. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Indus. Corp.,
544 U.S. 280, 291-92 (2005). Moreover, a litigant may not
avoid the Rooker-Feldman doctrine simply by casting
his complaint in the form of a civil rights action, as Frerks
would appear to be attempting to do here. See Ritter v.
Ross, 992 F.2d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 1993). Instead,
litigants who feel that a state court proceeding has violated
their federal constitutional rights must appeal that judgment
through the state court system, and then as appropriate to
the United States Supreme Court. See Young v.
Murphy, 90 F.3d 1225, 1230 (7th Cir. 1990). There is no
opportunity for a “reset” or “do
over” at the federal district court level. Id.
Frerks' request for relief in this court from the state
court judgment of foreclosure is precluded from review by a
doctrine alternately called “abstention” or
“nonintervention, ” which is based on traditional
principles of “equity, comity, and federalism.”
SKS & Assoc. v. Dart, 619 F.3d 674, 677 (7th
Cir. 2010). In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971), the United States Supreme Court held that federal
courts must “abstain from taking jurisdiction over
federal constitutional claims that seek to interfere with or
interrupt ongoing state proceedings.” SKS&
Assoc., 619 F.3d at 677 (citing FreeEats.com, Inc.
v. Indiana, 502 F.3d 590, 595 (7th Cir. 2007)).
Similarly, in Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315
(1943), and Louisiana Power & Light Co. v. City of
Thibodaux, 360 U.S. 25 (1959), the Supreme Court
counseled against a federal court sitting in diversity
jurisdiction from interfering in a complex or important area
of state law, in which a multi-party foreclosure action
certainly falls. Burford, 319 at 331;
Thibodaux, 360 at 27; see also Colorado River
Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S.
800 (1976) (counseling against a federal court interfering
with a parallel state litigation).
these reasons, Frerks' complaint must be dismissed
because it fails to articulate a valid basis for subject
matter jurisdiction in federal court. Her recourse, if any at
this late date, is in state court.