United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
WILLIAM KEEFE, BRADLEY J. SCHMITZ, MALIA LAPORTA, P.S., M.S., MICHAEL O'GRADY, I.O., A.O., and M.O., Plaintiffs,
SCOTT WALKER, BRAD SCHIMEL, MARQUETTE COUNTY CHILD SUPPORT IV-D AGENCY, PAM UNGER, BERNARD N. BULT, JOSEPH R. KONRATH, CHAD HENDEE, MARQUETTE COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENTS, JOANNE KLOPPENBURG, JOSEPH RUF III, ALAN J. WHITE, SUSAN K. RAIMER, COLUMBIA COUNTY CHILD SUPPORT IV-D AGENCY, MARATHON COUNTY CHILD SUPPORT IV-D AGENCY, SCOTT CORBETT, TAMMY LEVIT-JONES, and TIMOTHY C. HENNEY, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
case was filed originally by pro se plaintiffs William Keefe,
Bradley Schmitz, Malia LaPorta, and Michael O'Grady, on
behalf of themselves and their children. Plaintiffs alleged
that they had been injured by various state of Wisconsin and
county officials' enforcement of child- and
spousal-support laws enacted under Title IV-D of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 651, et seq. In a
March 29, 2018 order, I dismissed plaintiffs' complaint
because many of their claims were implausible or barred, and
the few claims that might properly be brought in this court
did not belong together in the same lawsuit. Dkt. 2. I gave
plaintiffs a chance to clarify their claims and to explain
whether they would like to bring their claims in separate
lawsuits. Id. Only O'Grady responded, filing a
motion for reconsideration on various aspects of the March 29
order, Dkt. 4, and a proposed amended complaint naming only
himself as a plaintiff, Dkt. 5.
July 10, 2018 order, I explained that O'Grady's
response was problematic for two reasons. Dkt. 6. First,
O'Grady could not speak for his fellow unrepresented
plaintiffs. When multiple unrepresented plaintiffs file a
case together, all of the plaintiffs must sign each paper the
plaintiffs submit to the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11;
Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852, 855 (7th Cir.
2004). Because only O'Grady responded to the March 29
order, it was not clear whether the other plaintiffs wanted
to continue pursuing their claims. Second, O'Grady was
still subject to a filing bar imposed by the Court of Appeals
for the Seventh Circuit that prohibited him from filing any
documents in any case in this circuit until he paid off the
filing fees he had accumulated from previous frivolous
litigation. See O'Grady v. Habeck, No. 11-3881
(7th Cir. Apr. 24, 2012). In light of these two problems, I
gave all plaintiffs a new deadline by which to respond to the
March 29 order and I gave O'Grady a deadline to show that
he had paid off his debts and was no longer subject to a
has responded, submitting evidence that he has paid off all
of his filing fees and that the court of appeals vacated his
filing bar on August 13, 2018. Dkt. 11-1. None of the other
plaintiffs responded. Because plaintiffs Keefe, Schmitz, and
LaPorta failed to file an amended complaint or otherwise
respond to the March 29 order despite being given two
opportunities to do so, I conclude that they have abandoned
their claims. Therefore, I will dismiss them from this case
for failure to prosecute it.
leaves O'Grady's claims. On April 26, 2018,
O'Grady submitted a proposed amended complaint raising a
variety of infringements of his state and federal
constitutional rights. Dkt. 5. O'Grady's claims arise
from divorce, custody and support proceedings that were
initiated in Marathon County Circuit Court in 1997.
O'Grady and his wife, who have four children together,
were divorced in 1997. In 1998, Marathon County, as the real
party in interest under Wis.Stat. § 767.075, brought a
motion to increase O'Grady's child support
obligation. The court granted the county's motion and set
child support at a percentage of O'Grady's income,
subject to a specified monthly minimum.
1998, O'Grady has brought numerous legal challenges to
his child support obligations. In state court, he moved to
reduce his child support obligation, change custody
placement, and adjust child support arrearages, among other
things. O'Grady v. O'Grady, 721 N.W.2d 157,
2006 WL 2020931 (Wis. App. July 20, 2006); O'Grady v.
O'Grady, 701 N.W.2d 653, 2005 WL 1283560 (Wis. App.
June 1, 2005). In this court, he has filed multiple civil
actions seeking damages and declaratory relief relating to
the collection of child support, nearly all of which were
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or as
frivolous. O'Grady v. Carlson, Case No.
12-cv-388-bbc, Dkt. 23 (W.D. Wis. Nov. 16, 2012) (dismissed
as frivolous); O'Grady v. Marathon Cty. Child Supp.
Agency, Case No. 02-cv-708-bbc, 2003 WL 23274562 (W.D.
Wis. Jan. 6, 2003) (concluding that O'Grady was raising
only state law claims); O'Grady v. Marathon Cty.
Child Supp. Agency, Case No. 03-cv-700-bbc, 2003 WL
23142250 (W.D. Wis. Dec. 11, 2003) (holding that
O'Grady's claims were barred by
Rooker-Feldman doctrine). O'Grady has also filed
several unsuccessful civil actions in federal district court
in Minnesota relating to his divorce, custody, and child
support obligations, all of which appear to have been
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
O'Grady v. Anoka Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs, No.
CIV 07-3582 MJD/SRN, 2008 WL 1808261 (D. Minn. Apr. 21, 2008)
(dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under
Rooker-Feldman doctrine), aff'd, 333 Fed.Appx.
147 (8th Cir. 2009); O'Grady v. Marathon Cty. Child
Supp. Agency, 2006 WL 1715473, *2 (D. Minn. June 19,
2006) (same); O'Grady v. Johnson, 2006 WL
2403579, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 18, 2006) (dismissed for lack
of personal and subject matter jurisdiction).
his proposed amended complaint, O'Grady is again
attempting to challenge his child support obligations as
ordered by state courts. O'Grady's entire pleading is
based on state court decisions concerning his child support
obligations or actions taken by state and county officials to
enforce the state court orders. But as O'Grady is well
aware, judicial review of state-court decisions is generally
confined to the state appellate courts, with any subsequent
federal review limited to the United States Supreme Court. 28
U.S.C. § 1257; Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic
Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283 (2005). With the
exception of habeas corpus petitions, the federal district
courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to review state-court
rulings. Exxon Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at 283.
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, litigants may not bring
suit in federal district court “complaining of injuries
caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district
court proceedings commenced and inviting district court
review and rejection of those judgments.” Id.
at 284. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine also prohibits
lower federal courts from deciding matters
“inextricably related to state court decisions.”
EOR Energy LLC v. Illinois Envtl. Prot. Agency, 913
F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir. 2019) (citing Rooker v. Fidelity
Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923); District of
Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462,
482-86 (1983)). In this instance, it is readily apparent that
all of the claims in O'Grady's proposed amended
complaint seek “review and rejection” of various
Wisconsin state-court decisions. As relief on his claims,
O'Grady seeks a declaration that state and county
officials had no authority to bring claims against him in
state court and that the state court actions against him were
unconstitutional. He also seeks vacatur of several state
court orders and a return of money and property seized
pursuant to state court orders. A request that a federal
district court set aside or void a state-court judgment
“is a ‘most straightforward presentment' of
Rooker-Feldman.” 4901 Corp. v. Town of
Cicero, 220 F.3d 522, 528 (7th Cir. 2000).
contends in his amended complaint that his claims are
distinct from those he has raised in previous litigation and
that they are not barred by Rooker-Feldman because
he is challenging the constitutionality of how Wisconsin
counties collect child support under Title IV-D of the Social
Security Act, and not just how laws were applied to him. He
argues that because Wisconsin's executive and judicial
branches are involved in collecting child support,
Wisconsin's program violates the federal and state
doctrines of separation of powers. But this argument fails.
The federal Constitution does not mandate the separation of
powers at either the state or the local level. Whalen v.
United States, 445 U.S. 684, 689 n. 4 (1980);
Pittman v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., 64 F.3d 1098, 1102
(7th Cir. 1995). And sovereign immunity principles prohibit
federal courts from enjoining state officials under state
law. Pennhurst State School & Hospital v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984). Beyond his argument about
separation of powers, O'Grady's allegations relate
solely to actions taken against him as a result of state
court orders. Because O'Grady's claims arise directly
from, or are inextricably related to, prior state-court
rulings, his claims are barred by the
nearly 20 years, O'Grady has sought to challenge state
and county involvement in his divorce, child custody, and
child support proceedings. He has been told repeatedly that
lower federal courts cannot review state court orders and
decisions involving family affairs and that he cannot
challenge his child support obligations in federal court, but
he continues to file federal lawsuits attempting to do so.
This court will no longer consider any new cases, motions, or
other documents filed by O'Grady relating to his state
court divorce, child custody, or child support cases. The
court will deny without discussion any future motions
relating to his state court cases and will dismiss
immediately any new cases arising out of the state court
actions. If O'Grady continues to file similar cases or
motions, I will consider imposing broader filing sanctions
1. The claims brought by plaintiffs William Keefe, Bradley
Schmitz, and Malia LaPorta are DISMISSED for failure to
2. Plaintiff Michael O'Grady's proposed amended
complaint is DISMISSED for lack of subject ...