United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
ORDER AND RECOMMENDATION
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
pending before the court is Reginald Pickett's Request to
Proceed in District Court without Prepaying the Filing Fee.
(ECF No. 2.) Having reviewed Pickett's request, the court
concludes that he lacks the financial resources to prepay the
fees and costs associated with this action. Therefore,
Pickett's Request to Proceed in District Court without
Prepaying the Filing Fee will be granted.
that determination is only half of the court's inquiry.
Because the court is granting Pickett's Request to
Proceed in District Court without Prepaying the Filing Fee,
the court must proceed with the second step of the analysis
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and determine whether the
complaint is legally sufficient to proceed.
sought to ensure that no citizen would be denied the
opportunity to commence a civil action in any court of the
United States solely due to poverty. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992) (quoting Adkins v.
E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 342
(1948)). However, Congress also recognized that “a
litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the
public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive
to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive
lawsuits.” Id. (quoting Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)). In order to balance
these competing concerns, before the court can allow a
plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis, the court is
obligated to determine that the case (1) is not frivolous or
malicious, (2) does not fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, and (3) does not seek monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2). Thus, although “a pro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)), a pro
se complaint must meet these minimal standards before the
court shall grant a plaintiff leave to proceed in forma
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Denton, 504 U.S. at 31;
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. Although factual
allegations must be weighed in favor of the plaintiff, that
does not mean that the court is required to accept without
question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations.
Denton, 504 U.S. at 32. Thus, a court may dismiss a
claim as frivolous if it is “clearly baseless, ”
“fanciful, ” “fantastic, ”
“delusional, ” “irrational, ”
“wholly incredible, ” or “based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at
32-33. A court may not dismiss a claim as frivolous simply
because “the plaintiff's allegations are
might not be frivolous or malicious but nonetheless fail to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted and therefore
be subject to dismissal. In determining whether a complaint
is sufficient to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), the court applies the same
well-established standards applicable to a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 611 (7th Cir. 2000).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Although the allegations in a complaint need not be detailed,
a complaint “demands more than an unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading
that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of
further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation
marks, citation, and brackets omitted). The complaint must be
sufficiently detailed “to 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)) (quotation marks and ellipses omitted).
complaint contains well-pleaded, non-frivolous factual
allegations, the court should assume the veracity of those
allegations and “then determine whether they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679. “Determining whether a complaint
states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
the standards set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) in
mind, the court turns to the allegations raised in
Pickett's complaint, which relates to a state court
matter involving Pickett's child. Paul Van Grunsven is
the judge who presided over the matter. Karen Kotecki is the
appointed guardian ad litem in the matter. It is unclear what
role Carmen Pickett has in this matter. Pickett alleges that
Van Grunsven “violated the constitution on my rights to
free speech under the code of (First
Amendment)….” (ECF No. 1 at 2.) He contends
Judge Van Grunsven “will not let me speak in
conjunction of GAL everything she speaks judge approves
….” (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Pickett alleges,
“state civil procedure is not being followed by judge
nor GAL in this case breaking many rules of the constitution
and violateing [sic] my rights as a citizen.” (ECF No.
1 at 3.) He asks that this court “thoroughly review
case” and asks the judge to “follow the rules of
law and stop violating the constitution ….” (ECF
No. 1 at 4.) He would like this court to order Judge Van
Grunsven “to evaluate cases with primary authority and
not persuasive authority.” (ECF No. 1 at 4.)
Van Grunsven is entitled to absolute immunity for his
judicial actions. See Richman v. Sheahan, 270 F.3d
430, 434 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Mireles v. Waco,
502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991); Forrester v. White, 484
U.S. 219, 225-29 (1988)). Similarly, guardians ad litem
“are absolutely immune from liability for damages when
they act at the court's direction.” Cooney v.
Rossiter, 583 F.3d 967, 970 (7th Cir. 2009). “They
are arms of the court, much like special masters, and deserve
protection from harassment by disappointed litigants, just as
judges do.” Id. Moreover, the complaint lacks
sufficient details as to the alleged actions of Kotecki or
Carmen Pickett to plausibly state any sort of claim against
Pickett's complaint fails to state a claim because, in
effect, he is asking a federal court to upset the order of a
state court. Cf. Johnson v. Orr, 551 F.3d 564, 568
(7th Cir. 2008) (“To determine whether
Rooker-Feldman bars a claim, we look beyond the four
corners of the complaint to discern the actual injury claimed
by the plaintiff.”). District courts lack such
authority. See, e.g., Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi
Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). Thus, the
court lacks jurisdiction over Pickett's claims. See
Frederiksen v. City of Lockport, 384 F.3d 437, 438 (7th
Cir. 2004). Although narrow exceptions exist for certain
extreme cases, see Loubser v. Thacker, 440 F.3d 439,
441-42 (7th Cir. 2006), or when the federal claim is distinct
from the decision of the state court, see Johnson v.
Orr, 551 F.3d 564, 568 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing
Centres, Inc. v. Town of Brookfield, Wis., 148 F.3d
699, 702 (7th Cir. 1998), Pickett's complaint does not
contain details sufficient to plausibly come within such an
exception to the general rule that a federal civil rights
lawsuit cannot be used to upset the order of a state court.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the plaintiff's
Request to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying the
Filing Fee (ECF No. 2) is granted.
IS RECOMMENDED that Pickett's complaint and this
action be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
IS FURTHER RECOMMENDED that the court certify that
any appeal would not be taken in good faith. S ...