United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
STADTMUELLER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiffs, Michael and Christopher Stoller, filed a pro
se complaint alleging that the defendants, Walworth
County and various public officials in that county, have
engaged in a “devious scheme” to
“unlawfully sell tax delinquent real estate” for
a profit. (Docket #1 at 1). This matter comes before the
Court on the plaintiffs' petition to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Docket #2).
the payment of any filing fee, the Court must dismiss an
action filed in forma pauperis if the Court
determines that the plaintiff's allegation of poverty is
untrue, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(A), or if
the action is “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
explained below, the plaintiffs' complaint fails to state
a claim and will therefore be dismissed pursuant to Section
STANDARD OF REVIEW
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d
895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). The court may, therefore, dismiss a
claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are
clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
“Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a
synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully
construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v.
McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109- 10 (7th Cir. 2003)
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts, and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers
“labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter
that, accepted as true, “is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by,
first, “identifying pleadings that, because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
of its responsibility to construe pro se pleadings
liberally, see Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 969
(7th Cir. 2006), the Court will endeavor to describe the
facts alleged in the plaintiffs' Complaint and identify
any plausible claims based thereon.
plaintiffs both live in Cook County, Illinois, but own
property in Walworth County, Wisconsin. (Docket #1 at 6, 16).
The thrust of the plaintiffs' Complaint is that Walworth
County and the named county officials have engaged in a
practice whereby they sell tax-delinquent property based on
“sham” appraisals, as opposed to
“legitimate” appraisals that meet the standards
of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice,
in order to “recover inflated market values, in direct
competition with private real estate sellers.”
Id. at 4.
became relevant to the plaintiffs in August 2017 when they
received a letter from defendant Valerie Etzel
(“Etzel”), the Walworth County treasurer,
informing them that Walworth County took possession of a
tax-delinquent parcel of land bordering the plaintiffs'
property. Id. at 16. According to the plaintiffs,
the parcel is “unbuildable” and therefore only
has value to the plaintiffs as adjacent landowners.
Id. The plaintiffs believe the value of the parcel
is $2, 500, though they do not say how they arrived at that
figure. Id. The county appraised the parcel at $11,
400. Id. The delinquent real estate taxes on the
parcel were about $2, 700. Id. The plaintiffs made a
bid on the parcel for $2, 500. Id. at 17. Walworth
County rejected the bid on the ground that it was below the
appraised value. Id. According to the plaintiffs,
the appraisal for this parcel, as well as every other
property listed on the 2017 Walworth County tax foreclosure
list, was a “sham.” Id. at 17-18.
these allegations, the plaintiffs seek to bring several
claims: (1) violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968
(“RICO”), (2) conspiracy to violate RICO, (3)
unfair competition, (4) unjust enrichment, (5) committing a
violation against elderly and disabled persons in violation
of Wis.Stat. § 100.264, (6) making fraudulent
representations in violation of ...