United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
ORDER ADOPTING RECOMMENDATION (DKT. NO. 6), DENYING
MOTION FOR ORDER GRANTING IMMEDIATE STAY OF EXECUTION OF WRIT
OF RESTITUTION (DKT. NO. 3) AND DISMISSING CASE
PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
March 6, 2019, the plaintiff-a landlord-filed this case in
Racine County Circuit Court, alleging that the defendant-a
tenant-failed to pay rent for several months. Dkt. No. 1. The
plaintiff asked the state court to order repossession of the
property and monetary damages. The state court issued a
judgment against the defendant on March 25, 2019.
Id. The next day, the defendant asked the state
court to reconsider its judgment; the court declined to do so
on March 27, 2019. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 22, 43. The state court
issued a writ of restitution, ordering the sheriff to remove
the defendant and his personal property-to evict him-within
ten days. Id. at 42. On March 28, 2019, the
defendant filed a notice of removal to federal court, a
motion to stay the writ of restitution and a motion to
proceed in federal court without prepayment of the filing
fees. Dkt. Nos. 1, 2, 3. Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph
granted the motion to proceed without prepayment of filing
fee, but recommended that this court dismiss the case for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Dkt. Nos. 5, 6. The
deadline for objecting to that recommendation has passed,
with no party objecting.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), if a party does not
object to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation,
the district court reviews the recommendation for clear
error. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Johnson v. Zema Sys.
Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999) (citations
omitted). This court must decide only whether Judge
Joseph's report and recommendation are clearly erroneous.
The court concludes that they are not.
Joseph first concluded that the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine precluded this court from reviewing or interfering
with the state court's judgment. Dkt. No. 6. The
Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that lower federal
courts do not have jurisdiction to review decisions of state
courts in civil cases. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi
Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283-84 (2005);
Hemmer v. Ind. State Bd. of Animal Health, 532 F.3d
610, 613 (7th Cir. 2008). Rooker-Feldman deprives
federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction where a party,
dissatisfied with a result in state court, sues in federal
court seeking to set aside the state-court judgment and
requests a remedy for an injury caused by that judgment.
See Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 283-84; All Nations
Church v. City of Chi., 486 F.3d 286, 292 (7th Cir.
2007). If the injury the party complains of resulted from, or
is inextricably intertwined with, a state court judgment,
lower federal courts cannot hear the claim. Taylor v.
Fed. Nat'l Mortgage Ass'n., F.3d 529, 532-33
(7th Cir. 2004). A litigant may not attempt to circumvent the
effect of Rooker-Feldman and seek a reversal of
state court judgment simply by casting the complaint in the
form of a civil rights claim. Holt v. Lake Cty. Bd. of
Comm'rs., 408 F.3d 335, 336 (7th Cir. 2005).
defendant alleges that he has been injured by the state
court's adverse judgment and the fact that it granted the
writ of restitution. Under Rooker-Feldman, this
court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction to review the
state court judgment. The defendant cannot side-step this
problem by styling his claim as a civil rights claim. Judge
Joseph did not commit clear error when she concluded that
Rooker-Feldman deprives this federal court of
Joseph also concluded that even if Rooker-Feldman
hadn't deprived this court of jurisdiction, the court
does not have diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§1332 because the amount in controversy does not appear
to meet or exceed the $75, 000 threshold required for federal
jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 6 at 5. This court agrees; Judge
Joseph's conclusion that the court does not have
diversity jurisdiction is not clearly erroneous.
Joseph also concluded that this federal court does not have
federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331,
because the defendant's claims do not “arise under
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. §1331. Federal question
jurisdiction attaches when federal law creates the cause of
action asserted, or when a state law claim
“‘necessarily raise[s] a stated federal issue,
actually disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may
entertain without disturbing any congressionally approved
balance'” of federal and state power. Merrill
Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. v. Manning, 136
S.Ct. 1562, 1569-70 (2016) (quoting Grable & Sons
Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545
U.S. 308, 314 (2005)). The federal question must be an
essential element of the plaintiff's complaint to provide
grounds for removal. People v. State of Ill. v.
Kerr-McGee Chem. Corp., 677 F.2d 571, 575 (7th Cir.
1982). District courts must narrowly construe the removal
statute and resolve any doubts about the propriety of
removing a case against allowing removal. Wirtz Corp. v.
United Distillers & Vintners N. Am., Inc., 224 F.3d
708, 715 (7th Cir. 2000).
complaint does not state a federal question. It is an
eviction action, and a routine state-court eviction action
does not “necessarily raise a stated federal issue,
actually disputed and substantial.” Judge Joseph noted
that for the first time in his motion to reconsider, the
defendant appeared to try to assert a defense on the
basis of federal housing regulations, but concluded that an
issue raised for the first time in a defense was neither
necessary nor actually disputed. Dkt. No. 5 at 4. The court
agrees; this conclusion was not clearly erroneous.
this case does not belong in federal court, and this federal
court has no jurisdiction to hear it.
court ADOPTS Judge Joseph's
recommendation that this court dismiss the case for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 6.
court DENIES the defendant's motion for
order granting immediate stay of execution of writ of
restitution entered by Racine County Circuit Court on March
27, 2019. Dkt. No. 3.
court ORDERS that this case is
clerk will enter judgment accordingly.
order and the judgment to follow are final. A dissatisfied
party may appeal this court's decision to the Court of
Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by filing in this court a
notice of appeal within thirty (30) days of
the entry of judgment. See Fed. R. of App P. 3, 4.
This court may extend this deadline if a party timely
requests an extension and shows good cause ...