United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller, U.S. District Judge.
17, 2017, the Court issued an order dismissing this action
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Novoselsky v.
Zvunca, No. 17-CV-427-JPS, 2017 WL 3025870, at *1 (E.D.
Wis. July 17, 2017). A month later, Defendants Jeanine L.
Stevens (“Stevens”) and F. John Cushing, III
(“Cushing”) (collectively, “Movants”)
filed a motion for sanctions against Plaintiff David Alan
Novoselsky (“Novoselsky”). (Docket #35). Movants
argue that Novoselsky's complaint was frivolous and is
sanctionable under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, 28
U.S.C. § 1927, and the Court's inherent authority.
The motion is fully briefed and, for the reasons stated
below, the Court will grant Movants their reasonable
attorney's fees and expenses under Rule 11.
history between these parties is long and troubled. For
brevity's sake, the Court will confine itself to the
facts necessary to the disposition of the present motion. The
interested reader may consult the prior decisions of this and
other courts for further background information. See
generally Novoselsky, 2017 WL 3025870; Zvunca ex
rel. Klein v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 530 Fed.Appx. 672
(10th Cir. 2013); Cushing v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.,
991 N.E.2d 28 (Ill. Ct. App. 2013).
filed the complaint in this case on March 22, 2017. (Docket
#1). The complaint concerned primarily a sanctions award
entered against him by Judge Propes of the Circuit Court of
Cook County, Illinois in favor of Movants-specifically, $75,
000 to Stevens and $25, 000 to Cushing. Id. He
alleged that did not owe the sanctions either to Movants or
the estate of Claudia Zvunca (the “Estate”), his
former client. Id.
filed a motion to dismiss May 22, 2017. (Docket #16). The
motion raised the following grounds for dismissal:
a. the Declaratory Judgment Act does not confer jurisdiction,
as Novoselsky had claimed;
b. there was no subject matter jurisdiction because the
amount in controversy was not satisfied as to any defendant
for purposes of diversity jurisdiction;
c. there was no subject-matter jurisdiction in the district
court under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine;
d. personal jurisdiction did not exist over Cushing and
f. venue was improper in this District.
(Docket #17 at 8-19). After filing the motion, Movants'
counsel sent Novoselsky a safe harbor letter on May 25, 2017
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c)(2), outlining the
alleged legal deficiencies in the complaint and asking him to
withdraw the filing. (Docket #35-1).
did not withdraw his complaint. Instead, he filed a brief in
opposition to the motion to dismiss on June 12, 2017. (Docket
#23). He variously argued that:
a. the Declaratory Judgment Act is a stand-alone basis for
b. the Complaint satisfied the amount in controversy
requirement because the two sanctions awards could be
c. the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not
deprive the district court of subject-matter jurisdiction
because the relief sought was not a reversal of the
state-court sanctions order;
d. personal jurisdiction existed over Cushing and Stevens
because they filed adversary proceedings in this Court
against Novoselsky in connection with his bankruptcy
e. venue is proper in this District because sufficient
relevant events occurred here.
Id. at 4-11. Movants take issue with the merit of
these arguments, but that will be addressed later on.
Movants' motion to dismiss was pending, Novoselsky filed
two motions of his own. On June 29, 2017, he moved for leave
to file a sur-reply. (Docket #31). The Court denied the
motion in its dismissal order, describing the proposed
sur-reply as “cit[ing] no law whatsoever; it consists
of eight pages of Novoselsky's stream-of-consciousness
musings. . .which adds nothing to the record and has no
effect on the disposition of the case.”
Novoselsky, 2017 WL 3025870, at *4 n.2. Next, on
July 13, 2017, Novoselsky filed a motion asking the Court to
stay consideration of the motion to dismiss because he
planned to seek relief from another state-court order in the
bankruptcy court. (Docket #32). The Court dismissed the case
four days later, and Movants did not respond to the July 13
motion before the dismissal was entered.
Court's dismissal order focused on the lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction over Novoselsky's claims
under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Novoselsky, 2017 WL 3025870, at *3-5. The Court did
not opine on Movants' contentions that the
amount-in-controversy requirement was not satisfied, that
personal jurisdiction was lacking as to them, or that venue
was improper in this District. Id. at 2 (“The
Court will address only subject-matter jurisdiction, as it
must be the first item of business for a federal court and
review of the pertinent authorities demonstrates that
subject-matter jurisdiction is lacking in this case.”).
Rule of Civil Procedure 11 imposes a set of duties on those
who file papers with the court. It also provides for an
appropriate sanction to be imposed if those duties are
violated. Rule 11(b) states, in pertinent part, that
[b]y presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or
other paper--whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later
advocating it--an attorney or unrepresented party certifies
that to the best of the person's knowledge, information,
and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such
as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase
the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are
warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for
extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for
establishing new law[.]
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1)-(2). The Rule grants a court
discretion to impose an appropriate sanction for violations
of these obligations, which may include “nonmonetary
directives; an order to pay a penalty into court; or, if
imposed on motion and warranted for effective deterrence, an
order directing payment to the movant of part or all of the