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Coleman v. Department of Labor Review Commission

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 26, 2018



          J. P. Stadtmueller, U.S. District Judge

         Over two years ago, Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint against the Labor and Industry Review Commission of Wisconsin (the “Commission”). (Docket #1). He consented to the jurisdiction of Magistrate Judge William E. Duffin, who screened his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and ordered him to amend it. (Docket #4, #5). Magistrate Duffin then screened the amended complaint and, finding the earlier deficiencies were not resolved, dismissed the case. (Docket #7).

         Plaintiff appealed. (Docket #9). On June 16, 2017, the Court of Appeals vacated the dismissal. Coleman v. Labor & Indus. Review Comm'n of Wis., 860 F.3d 461, 475 (7th Cir. 2017). The court held that magistrate judges may not dispose of claims in cases like this one, where only one side has consented to the magistrate's jurisdiction. Id. The Seventh Circuit remanded the case so that it might be screened by a district judge. See id.

         The Court of Appeals' mandate issued on July 10, 2017. (Docket #21). The next day, Magistrate Duffin reissued his earlier screening of the amended complaint as a report and recommendation to this Court. (Docket #22). However, the mandate was recalled shortly thereafter while the parties sought certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. See (Docket #27). That petition was denied, and the Seventh Circuit reissued its mandate on January 17, 2018. (Docket #30).

         Shortly after the mandate was reissued, Plaintiff filed objections to Magistrate Duffin's report and recommendation. (Docket #28, #29). It now becomes the duty of this branch of the Court to review the recommendations of the magistrate against Plaintiff's objections. The Court reviews a party's specific written objections to a report and recommendation de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         To set Plaintiff's objections in context, the Court recounts the facts of his case as he represented them to the Court of Appeals, followed by an excerpt of Magistrate Duffin's report and recommendation. Plaintiff told the Seventh Circuit on appeal that after he was terminated from his employment at a local high school, he brought a claim for racial discrimination in both the federal district court and before the Equal Rights Division (“ERD”) of the Commission. See (Docket #29 at 9-11). The district court case, Tracey Coleman v. ABM Industries, Case No. 14-CV-435-WEC (E.D. Wis.), was dismissed with prejudice by joint stipulation of the parties. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) from the ERD dismissed the agency proceeding because Plaintiff missed certain deadlines. (Docket #29 at 9-11). Plaintiff responds that he never received letters notifying him of those deadlines or the potential for dismissal. Id. The same day his case was dismissed, Plaintiff requested that the Commission review that dismissal, but it declined. Id.

         Few of these facts are found in the amended complaint. Instead, in two pages of scattered, largely incoherent factual allegations, Plaintiff appears to complain about not receiving some letters from the ERD and being “denied a fair trial.” (Docket #6 at 3-4). He claims that he “did not miss the deadlines” and seems to want the Court to order the Commission to take up his appeal from the ALJ's decision. See Id. For relief, he requests that the Court “resolve this” because he has suffered anxiety and stress. Id. at 6.

         Keeping in mind the threadbare nature of Plaintiff's allegations as presented to Magistrate Duffin, the Court now reproduces the majority of the magistrate's report and recommendation:

On August 18, 2015, plaintiff Tracey Coleman, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint naming the Labor and Industry Review Commission as the defendant. (ECF No. 1.) Accompanying Coleman's complaint was a petition and affidavit to proceed without prepayment of fees and/or costs, commonly referred to as a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). (ECF No. 2.) After Coleman consented to the full jurisdiction of a magistrate judge, the court reviewed his complaint and motion to proceed IFP.
The court granted Coleman's motion to proceed IFP. But “[b]ecause Coleman ha[d] not adequately explained the nature of the dispute with the defendant Labor and Industry Review Commission, the court [wa]s unable to determine whether it is a dispute over which the court has jurisdiction.” (ECF No. 5 at 5.) Therefore, the court ordered Coleman to submit an amended complaint, providing additional details sufficient for the court to determine whether Coleman's lawsuit may be properly brought in federal court. (ECF No. 5.) Coleman has done so. (ECF No. 6.) The court must now review his amended complaint and determine whether it is sufficient to proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
In the amended complaint, Coleman now names the “Department of Labor Review Commission” as the defendant. Similar to the initial complaint, the court reads the amended complaint as relating to Coleman's dissatisfaction with the “Department of Labor and Review's” actions regarding Coleman's efforts to appeal a decision of an administrative law judge. (ECF No. 6 at 3.) Coleman alleges that the trial was not fair. (ECF No. 6 at 3-4.)
As the court noted in its last decision, a federal court does not have the authority to resolve every type of dispute. A federal court can resolve a dispute only if it is one of the sorts of cases federal courts are specifically authorized to resolve. This authority to resolve only particular types of disputes is often referred to as jurisdiction. As with his initial complaint, Coleman's amended complaint does not present any plausible basis whereby this court might have jurisdiction over Coleman's dispute with the “Department of Labor Review Commission.” As a preliminary matter, the court is unaware of any entity by the name, “Department of Labor Review Commission.” The portion of the complaint where Coleman was instructed to provide the defendant's name and address is blank, and thus the court is provided with no means of further identifying this defendant (making service of the complaint and any further proceedings impossible). The name “Department of Labor Review Commission” is used only in the caption of the amended complaint. Perhaps Coleman intended the defendant to be the “Labor and Industry Review Commission, ” which was named as the defendant in the initial complaint and is a Wisconsin administrative agency dealing with unemployment insurance, worker's compensation, and discrimination.
From the scant details in the amended complaint, the court speculates that Coleman's complaint might relate to a decision regarding unemployment compensation. One of Coleman's factual assertions is “the plaintiff has been looking for eployment [sic] in the month of April 2015” (ECF No. 6 at 4 (capitalization adjusted)), and the court is aware that whether a claimant was looking for work is often a matter disputed in unemployment compensation hearings. But this court is without jurisdiction to hear disputes regarding unemployment compensation (or most determinations of state administrative agencies).
Liberally construing Coleman's complaint, as the court must in light of Coleman's pro se status, the court is unable to discern any plausible claim for relief that may be heard in federal court. Therefore, this court must recommend dismissal of Coleman's complaint. Having previously alerted Coleman to the deficiencies in his complaint and afforded him the opportunity to amend it, the court finds that further amendment is unlikely to ...

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