United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge.
Louis Hermann and Karen Elaine Hermann, who reside in Otter
Creek, Wisconsin, bring this lawsuit alleging that various
Dunn County officials conspired to wrongfully foreclose on
their home and then rejected their offer to buy the real
Hermanns have paid the full filing fee for this action, and
therefore the complaint does not have to be screened under
the in forma pauperis statue, 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
But this court has the inherent authority to screen the case
on its own. See Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 490 U.S.
296, 307-08 (1989) (in forma pauperis statute
“authorizes courts to dismiss a ‘frivolous or
malicious' action, but there is little doubt they would
have power to do so even in the absence of this statutory
provision.”); Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783
(7th Cir. 1999) (“district courts have the power to
screen complaints filed by all litigants, prisoners and
non-prisoners alike, regardless of fee status.”). I
directed the Hermanns to hold off on serving any of the
defendants until I completed review of the complaint.
reviewing the complaint, I must construe the Hermanns'
pro se pleading generously. See Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). After reviewing the complaint, I
will allow plaintiffs to serve the defendants they have
properly identified. But I will dismiss the John Doe
defendants because the Hermanns do not state any claims for
relief against them. I will also address other issues raised
by the Hermanns' submissions thus far.
explain that they owned a parcel of land in Otter Creek,
Wisconsin, but that “defendants” (who are
identified in the complaint as the state of Wisconsin, Dunn
County, the Dunn County Sheriff's Office, Sherriff Dennis
P. Smith, county treasurer Megan Mittlestad, corporation
counsel Nicholas P. Lange, and the Dunn County
“Planning, Resources, and Development Committee,
” and “Does 1 through 10”) initiated
foreclosure proceedings against them because they failed to
stay current on their taxes. Although plaintiffs do not
mention the case number for this action, they say that a
“tax judgment” was issued against them on
September 16, 2013. Electronic state court records show that
which corresponds to the judgment in Dunn County case no.
2013CV20, which appears to have been an in rem tax
foreclosure lawsuit under Wis.Stat. § 75.521.
were later removed from their home pursuant to what they call
a “false order to vacate” on December 12, 2016.
This order corresponds to a default judgment entered in Dunn
County case no. 2016CV210. The sheriff (who I take to be
defendant Smith) left a “notice to vacate” at
plaintiffs' door on December 16. The notice gave them 10
days to vacate.
met with defendant Lange and stated that they were willing to
pay off their taxes. Neither Lange nor Mittlestad would
accept the payment. But Lange said that plaintiffs could
possibly repurchase the land and that he would direct their
request to the county Planning, Resources, and Development
Committee. The committee would not meet until January 10, so
Lange said that plaintiffs would still need to vacate the
property, which they did. The committee ultimately did not
agree to plaintiffs' offer to repurchase the land.
I will clarify the plaintiffs' status in this lawsuit.
Although the Hermanns name themselves as plaintiffs in the
caption of their complaint, they also include “timothy
louis hermann” and “karen elaine hermann”
in the caption as “private American nationals”
who are “3rd Party Interveners, ” Dkt.
1, at 1. The first heading in plaintiffs' complaint is
“Motion to Intervene.” Id. Judging from
this and the contents of the complaint, the Hermanns appear
to be ascribing legal significance to the all-lowercase
spelling of their names and their status as interveners. But
to be clear, there is none. I do not include their lowercase
names or their purported intervener status in the caption,
and they should not include that language in their future
submissions. They are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit because
they are the ones who initiated this suit seeking redress.
at the outset of their complaint they state the following:
Comes now, the grantee/beneficiary/heirs to the trust,
timothy louis and karen elaine of the house of Hermann, 3rd
party Interveners for the Plaintiffs, hereinafter
“Petitioners”, both being righteous freeholders
on the land, non-statutory, non-commercialized, private
American nationals of the union states of America, privately
residing and privately domiciling within a non-military
occupied private estate, not subject to the jurisdiction of
the UNITED STATES or any of its political subdivisions
including federal, state or municipal jurisdictions and
hereby moves the court in regards to the real land known as:
[the description of their foreclosed-upon property].
Id. at 1-2. The complaint is larded with
descriptions of frivolous “sovereign
citizen”-type theories of government illegitimacy.
See, e.g., United States v. Hilgeford, 7
F.3d 1340, 1342 (7th Cir. 1993) (argument that individual is
sovereign citizen of state who is not subject to jurisdiction
of United States and not subject to federal taxing authority
is “shopworn” and frivolous); Bechard v.
Rios, No. 14-CV-867-WMC, 2014 WL 7366226, at *1 (W.D.
Wis. Dec. 24, 2014) (case dismissed where plaintiff
“maintain[ed] that the social security number that
issued along with his birth certificate . . . is really an
identification number for a German-owned insurance
policy.”). Plaintiffs should be aware that none of
these theories support any viable claims, and should not be
included in their future submissions. The real question is
whether the facts plaintiffs allege will support any
the major thrusts of the complaint seems to be the
Hermanns' belief that the foreclosure and eviction orders
issued by the Dunn County court are void. To the extent that
any of their constitutional, Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act, conspiracy, or fraud claims depend on the validity of
the state court judgments, those claims likely will end up
being dismissed under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
which “essentially precludes lower federal court
jurisdiction over claims seeking review of state court
judgments or over claims that are ‘inextricably
intertwined' with state court determinations.”
Remer v. Burlington Area Sch. Dist., 205 F.3d 990,
996 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Rooker v. Fidelity Trust
Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923); D.C. Ct. of App.
v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 n.16 (1983)). The doctrine
“is based upon recognition of the fact that inferior
federal courts generally do not have the power to exercise
appellate review over state court decisions.” Garry
v. Geils, 82 F.3d 1362, 1365 (7th Cir. 1996). If the
Hermanns believe that the state court did not act properly,
their recourse is in the state appellate system, not in the
federal district court. But plaintiffs' ...