United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
D. PETERSON District Judge
plaintiff Valerie Kreger-Mueller brings this proposed civil
action against several defendants, including county employees
and departments. Dkt. 1 and Dkt. 4. In an August 2, 2016,
order, I reviewed her initial complaint and amended complaint
and concluded that they did not meet the pleading
requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Dkt. 6. I
offered Kreger-Mueller an opportunity to file a second
amended complaint and include additional facts so that I
could understand the nature of her claims. Kreger-Mueller has
filed a second amended complaint. Dkt. 12.
second amended complaint contains many disjointed allegations
against a number of people, including some who are not named
as defendants. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)
requires a complaint to include “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” A complaint “must be presented with
intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to
understand whether a valid claim is alleged and if so what it
is.” Viacom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merchant Servs.,
Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775 (7th Cir. 1994).
Kreger-Mueller's allegations are vague and conclusory. I
cannot divine any cognizable claims from these allegations,
but I will allow Kreger-Mueller one final opportunity to
submit a complaint that states a claim for relief.
Kreger-Mueller alleges that various Dane County Circuit Court
judges ruled against her. These allegations concern
judges' judicial conduct. Judges have absolute immunity
from liability for judicial conduct. Richman v.
Sheahan, 270 F.3d 430, 434 (7th Cir. 2001). Judicial
immunity “confers complete immunity from suit, not just
a mere defense to liability.” Dawson v.
Newman, 419 F.3d 656, 660 (7th Cir. 2005). Court
commissioners performing “functions integral to the
judicial process” are also immune from liability.
Dellenbach v. Letsinger, 889 F.2d 755, 763 (7th Cir.
1989). This means that Kreger-Mueller cannot proceed against
any judge or court commissioner with any claim arising out of
their official decisions or actions.
Kreger-Mueller alleges that defendants City of Middleton
Police Department, City of Middleton Police Commission Board,
Dane County Child Protective Services, and David Flores
deprived Kreger-Mueller of her parental rights when Court
Commissioner Hanson awarded Flores primary placement and sole
custody of Kreger-Mueller's daughter in an ex parte
order. The biological parent of a child has a fundamental
right, protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, to parent that child. See Lassiter v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 452 U.S. 18, 27 (1981). A
parent may be deprived of that right only if she is afforded
notice and an opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time in
a meaningful way. In cases involving the termination of
parental rights or the removal of a child from the parental
home, this would usually require a hearing. Ellis v.
Hamilton, 669 F.2d 510, 512 (7th Cir. 1982). When the
state provides adequate remedies to the parent, there is no
due process violation. Id. at 515. Wisconsin allows
for review of ex parte orders regarding child custody and
placement, and this review provides an adequate remedy for an
erroneous order. See, e.g., Jones v. Jones,
142 Wis.2d 943, 419 N.W.2d 573 (Ct. App. 1987) (reviewing a
Dane County Court Commissioner's ex parte order granting
custody of a child and concluding that court hearings
concerning the order after it was entered satisfied
Kreger-Mueller alleges that Dane County Circuit Court Judge
Shelley Gaylord has stayed a motion for sole custody and
primary placement of Kreger-Mueller's daughter. So it
appears that Kreger-Mueller is pursuing the available state
remedies and thus has no due process claim under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Only if Kreger-Mueller has been
completely shut out of the process, such that she has had no
meaningful opportunity to be heard concerning her parental
rights, may she be able to state a claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for the violation of her Fourteenth Amendment
rights. If Kreger-Mueller wants to pursue this claim in her
third amended complaint, she must allege that she has no
remedy at all, not just that she is dissatisfied with the
results. She should tell a more complete story about what led
to Commissioner Hanson's order and what steps she has
taken to reverse that order. She should explain how each
named defendant has blocked her access to a means of
challenging the termination of her parental rights.
it appears that Kreger-Mueger asserts failure to investigate
claims against some defendants on behalf of her daughter.
These claims must be dismissed because, as I have explained
multiple times, Kreger-Mueller cannot represent her child pro
se. See Dkt. 6 and Dkt. 14. To assert her
child's rights in this lawsuit, the child must be
represented by a lawyer.
still has not stated a claim under Rule 8. She has yet to
tell me exactly what the defendants did to violate her
constitutional rights. At this point, the only conceivable
claim that she has alleged is that some defendants are
blocking her from challenging the termination of her parental
rights. I will give her a final opportunity to amend her
complaint and to describe how each defendant violated her
rights. She should exclude extraneous information and focus
on only those allegations that support a claim. If her third
amended complaint does not solve the problems identified in
this order, her case will be dismissed for failure to state a
claim. This is her last chance.
Kreger-Mueller alleges that officers from the Middleton
Police Department violated her Fourth Amendment rights by
falsely arresting her on August 23, 2016, and September 1,
2016. This claim appears to be unrelated to the child custody
proceedings at the heart of Kreger-Mueller's complaint,
and so it does not belong in the same lawsuit. Under Rule 20,
multiple claims against multiple defendants may be joined in
one lawsuit only if they arise out of the same transaction or
occurrence and present questions of law or fact that are
common to them all. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605,
607 (7th Cir. 2007). Kreger-Mueller should not include these
allegations in her third amended complaint unless she can
show how the alleged false arrests are connected to the child
custody proceedings. Whether Kreger-Mueller brings these
claims in this lawsuit or another one, she will not be able
to proceed with them under the facts she currently alleges,
as she has not named the individual officers as defendants,
nor has she alleged that the Middleton Police
Department's policy or practice caused the alleged false
arrests. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City
of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978).
1. Plaintiff Valerie Kreger-Mueller's second amended
complaint is DISMISSED, without prejudice, for failure to
comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.
2. Plaintiff may have until November 10, 2016, to submit a
third amended complaint more clearly detailing her claims
against defendants. If plaintiff submits a third amended
complaint as required by this order, I will take that
complaint under advisement for screening. If plaintiff fails
to respond to this order by the deadline, I will dismiss the