United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge
Stacy Bourdeau filed this civil action in state court,
asserting a plethora of claims, all of which rest on the
allegation that defendants Credit Acceptance Corporation and
its law firm garnished plaintiff's wages without filing a
transcript of judgment in Minnesota in violation of Wis.Stat.
§ 806.24. Based on this omission, plaintiff claims
defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et
seq., the Wisconsin Consumer Act (“WCA”),
Wis.Stat. § 421 et seq., and plaintiff's
due process rights. Plaintiff also asserts claims for abuse
of process under Wisconsin common law and for conversion
under both Wisconsin and Minnesota common law. Finally,
plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to
address violations of the Commerce Clause and the Full Faith
and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. (Compl.
(dkt. #1-2) ¶¶ 40-67.)
defendants removed the lawsuit to federal court, plaintiff
filed a motion for remand (dkt. #7), which the court will now
grant for reasons set forth below. Because there are good
grounds to award plaintiff her fees and costs for having to
bring this motion, the court will also set a briefing
schedule to determine both.
not the first time Bourdeau has filed suit against these same
defendants challenging the same underlying action. Indeed,
this court previously dismissed a similar complaint filed by
Bourdeau as barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Bourdeau v. Credit Acceptance
Corp., No. 14-cv-144 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 12, 2015 (dkt.
#28); see also Kobilka v. Cottonwood Financial Wisconsin,
LLC, et al., 14-cv-268 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 12, 2015) (dkt.
#16) (companion case explaining the reasoning for dismissal
in greater detail).
this court's ruling in Case No. 14-cv-144, Bourdeau filed
this new complaint in state court asserting the same claims
as before and adding two new claims for declaratory judgment
and injunctive relief for violations of the Commerce Clause
and Full Faith and Credit Clause. In an odd reversal of
roles, the defendants removed her claims supposedly based on
this court's federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. Plaintiff promptly moved to remand to state
court under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (Dkt. #10.)
In response, defendants argue that because the newly-added
claims are not “inextricably
intertwined” with defendants' state court
garnishment action, the court has subject matter jurisdiction
over at least those claims.
to deciding the present motion, plaintiff's claims are
again premised on her theory that defendants failed to file a
transcript of judgment in Minnesota purportedly in violation
of Wis.Stat. § 806.24 before garnishing her wages.
(Compl. (dkt. #1-2) ¶¶ 47-48.) Still, defendants
press in their opposition to the motion to remand that her
claims under the so-called “Dormant” Commerce and
the Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the Constitution
challenge the defendants' actions against
“any Wisconsin resident that are earned and
payable outside of the state, ” and as such, are
“for alleged actions that are not related to the
Judgment against her, but that were supposedly incurred by
other Wisconsin residents who may have had out-of-state wages
garnished by Defendants.” (Defs.' Opp'n (dkt.
court is not convinced. Even if these new claims extend
beyond plaintiff and touch on defendants' garnishment
actions against other individuals, the claims nonetheless
would require this court to review the state court's
garnishment of Bourdeau's wages. See Exxon
Mobile Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280,
284 (2005) (explaining that Rooker-Feldman doctrine
applies generally to “cases brought by state-court
losers complaining of injuries caused by state court
judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of
those judgments”); Harold v. Steele, 773 F.3d
884, 885 (7th Cir. 2014) (“the state court judgment is
the source of the injury of which plaintiffs complain in
federal court, ” challenge to state court garnishment
order not reviewable for alleged violation of federal Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act as barred by
Rooker-Feldman). Indeed, in order for Bourdeau to
have standing to present her challenge under the Dormant
Clause and Full Faith and Credit Clause, the claims
necessarily must concern her injury.
of the reasons previously explained by this court in prior
orders, therefore, Bourdeau's avenue of relief lies in
state court, not in a federal court action challenging
defendants' request for a garnishment notice or the state
court's action of issuing the requisite forms listing an
out-of-state employer. Because the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over this action, it must grant plaintiff's
motion to remand.
addition to seeking remand, plaintiff requests fees and costs
incurred in having to seek remand. (Pl.'s Mot. (dkt. #8)
4.) Section 1447(c) allows an award of “just costs and
any actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred, as a
result of the removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)
(emphasis added). A district court may award fees and costs
under this provision, however, only where the removing party
lacked an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal.
See Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132,
136 (2005). In Lott v. Pfizer, Inc., 492 F.3d 789
(7th Cir. 2007), the Seventh Circuit elaborated on this
As a general rule, if, at the time the defendant filed his
notice in federal court, clearly established law demonstrated
that he had no basis for removal, then a district court
should award a plaintiff his attorney's fees. By
contrast, if clearly established law did not foreclose a
defendant's basis for removal, then a district court
should not award attorney's fees.
Id. at 793.
their opposition, defendants contend that the removal of this
action was not contrary to clearly established law,
perversely citing Rooker-Feldman under the
misapprehension that this court could exercise subject matter
jurisdiction long enough to deice the two new claims and then
dismiss the remainder under Rooker-Feldman.
Regardless, defendants fail to cite any case law in
support of their argument that a claim seeking relief beyond
the individual plaintiff somehow brings her claim outside of
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. While application of
the doctrine may be nuanced under certain circumstances, the
limits of federal court jurisdiction under the doctrine are