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La Bri v. Finn

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

July 23, 2019

JEFFREY LA BRI, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL FINN, JENNIFER VAN KIRK, MARK SANDERS, SHERYL DOLEZAL, EPHRAIM FRANKEL, and ALAN JAFFE, Defendants.

          ORDER

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

         This case arises from an acrimonious divorce proceeding between Plaintiff Jeffrey La Bri and his ex-wife, Angela Strunsee (“Strunsee”). On January 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968, and Wisconsin medical malpractice and child abuse statutes, all of which were purportedly committed by various actors involved in his divorce. (Docket #2). Defendants consist of Jennifer Van Kirk (“Van Kirk”) and Mark Sanders (“Sanders”), Plaintiff's former attorneys in the divorce proceedings; Ephraim Frankel (“Frankel”), Alan Jaffe (“Jaffe”), and Sheryl Dolezal (“Dolezal”), mental health professionals that were involved in the divorce proceedings; and Michael Finn (“Finn”), the court-appointed guardian ad litem (“GAL”) to Plaintiff's son, Christian. Defendants filed various motions to dismiss for want of jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, immunity, and failure to state a claim. (Docket #8, #15, #19, #37, and #50). Finn also filed a motion to stay discovery pending the resolution of the motions to dismiss. (Docket #21). On March 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to supplement pleadings and to add a new defendant, (Docket #55), which Defendants opposed on futility grounds, (Docket #59). The motions to dismiss are now fully briefed, and for the reasons explained below, will be granted. For similar reasons, Plaintiff's motion for leave to supplement the pleadings and to add a new defendant will be denied.

         1. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) provides for dismissal of complaints which, among other things, fail to state a viable claim for relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a claim, a complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In other words, the complaint must give “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). The allegations must “plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level[.]” Kubiak v. City of Chicago, 810 F.3d 476, 480 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). In reviewing the complaint, the Court is required to “accept as true all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. at 480-81. The Court is obliged to give a pro se plaintiff's allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         2. RELEVANT ALLEGATIONS

         The following facts are gleaned from the amended complaint. Plaintiff and his ex-wife, Strunsee, live next door to each other and share custody over their teenage son, Christian. The custody arrangement was without incident until around 2015, when Christian and his mother began to fight. One night, in November 2015, Christian presented himself to Plaintiff's house with a scratch on his arm, and claimed that Strunsee had attempted to remove him from her vehicle and leave him by the side of the road. Plaintiff took a photograph of the scratch and called his attorney. His call resulted in a court hearing before Judge Michael Bohren, in Waukesha County Circuit Court, who appointed a GAL, Finn, and temporarily ordered full custody to Plaintiff. Judge Bohren left the decision for future custodial placement to Finn. Throughout these initial proceedings, Christian stayed with Plaintiff. Plaintiff was committed to reuniting his son with Strunsee and helping them move past the conflict.

         Finn met with Plaintiff, Strunsee, and Christian in late 2015 in order to evaluate the situation. After interviewing the parties and reading a letter that Plaintiff helped Christian write, Finn determined that Christian should see a therapist, Frankel, and that his mother should drive him to therapy. Finn suspected that Plaintiff had coached Christian to say negative things about Strunsee, and put little stock in Christian's fears of driving with her.

         Plaintiff did not find this result satisfactory, and reached out to Strunsee, Finn, and Frankel in an attempt to change Finn's decision about who should drive Christian to therapy. However, Strunsee, Finn, and Frankel did not respond to him. He determined that their decision to ignore him was part of a larger conspiracy directed at harming him. (Docket #2 at 6). Plaintiff continued to offer to drive Christian to therapy in lieu of his mother, but his offers were not taken.

         In 2016, Finn asked psychologist Dolezal to conduct psychiatric testing on Plaintiff, Strunsee, and Christian. Plaintiff reluctantly complied with the request. However, when he attended his session with Dolezal, he felt that she was hostile and biased against him. He was offended by the suggestion that he struggled with substance abuse, anger, and narcissistic tendencies. Dolezal wanted to discuss Plaintiff's domestic violence conviction, which Plaintiff thought was unnecessary. He maintains that the allegations giving rise to the conviction were merely a “pre-divorce strategy” used by Strunsee to “gain control and gain custody” of Christian. Id. at 7. He provided Dolezal with names of people who would vouch for his character. He claims that she never followed up with the names that he gave her, and her “actions to make sure certain contradictory evidence was never included in her report were direct conspiracy actions and RICO Enterprise” [sic]. Id.

         In May or June of 2016, Strunsee filed a motion to re-open the custody placement proceedings. The next day, Dolezal's report came out, which recommended 100% custody with Strunsee. In light of this timing, Plaintiff believes that Dolezal improperly shared her findings with Strunsee before reporting them to the court, which was a “specific planned out implemented and deliberate conspiracy to create a way through the legal system to have [Plaintiff's] child removed from his custody and his home.” Id. Nevertheless, it appears that Christian continued to stay with Plaintiff.

         In October 2016, at Plaintiff's encouragement, Christian agreed to return to his mother's custody under the original shared custody schedule. Plaintiff wrote two lengthy emails to Finn, Strunsee, and Frankel apprising them of his productive talk with Christian, but did not hear back from any party. Plaintiff felt that he was helping Christian reunite with his mother, and was baffled at the lack of response. Around this time, Finn ordered a split custody arrangement that was similar to the prior arrangement. However, the first weekend that Christian was supposed to spend with Strunsee, they had an argument and Christian returned to his father's house. To Plaintiff's dismay, this fortified Finn's suspicion that Plaintiff was manipulating Christian. Finn ordered full custody to Strunsee. Plaintiff requested an emergency custody hearing.

         In November 2016, Judge Bohren reinstated shared custody. In December 2016, however, Judge Bohren made a final award of full legal and physical custody to Strunsee based on Dolezal's report and a letter that Frankel had written. Plaintiff believes that this placement was predicated on the “buzz-word” concept of “parental alienation, ” (i.e., when one parent tries to alienate a child from the other parent), and is therefore invalid. Plaintiff was ordered to complete a seven-step therapy program designed by Dolezal, which Plaintiff believed was entirely inappropriate.

         There was an issue regarding which therapist Plaintiff would see to complete the seven-step program, which further antagonized Plaintiff. The Court recommended Chuck Adams (“Adams”), with whom Plaintiff was already acquainted. Finn suspected that Adams would not be impartial to Plaintiff, and requested that Judge Bohren use another therapist, Casey Holtz (“Holtz”). Plaintiff was very annoyed at this, and agreed to only see Holtz three times. The three sessions went well, however, and Plaintiff was left with the impression that shared custody would resume. Unfortunately, Finn determined that Plaintiff had not adequately completed the first step of Dolezal's plan, and would need to see a new therapist. Plaintiff interpreted this as another mechanism in the RICO Enterprise to delay progress, and became very upset. Id. at 11.

         In July 2017, Plaintiff received an additional custody hearing, in which he subpoenaed his son to tell Judge Bohren that he wanted 50/50 custody. However, there were issues with service, and Christian never testified-nor was he even brought to court. Additionally, Holtz did not testify. Finn later told Judge Bohren that Holtz had requested to withdraw from the case because Plaintiff had threatened him. Plaintiff hotly disputes that this occurred, and believes that Christian would corroborate his claim that the sessions with Holtz went well.

         Judge Bohren chastised Plaintiff for his defiance and his refusal to follow Dolezal's seven-step plan, as well as for his actions towards Holtz. Judge Bohren did not credit anything that Plaintiff said in his defense. Instead, he suspended review of the case for an entire year, effectively issuing full custody to Strunsee.

         Plaintiff was “very angry” and “very upset, ” and drafted an email to Finn and the other parties stating that he would not back down, and would come “after every one of them.” Id. at 12. Then he “passed out from exhaustion and stress, ” only to awaken at two in the morning to an argumentative response from Finn. Id. Plaintiff fired off another missive in his defense, believing that Finn would “try to twist his comments around into something else in order to get him in trouble.” Id. The next day, the Hartland Police Department called to interview Plaintiff about the emails. Plaintiff assuaged their concern that there was a threat of physical violence. Several hours later, three Waukesha sheriff deputies came to his house without a warrant and told him that he was in trouble for threatening a judge. Plaintiff asked them to leave. Three days later, an arrest warrant issued, and Plaintiff voluntarily turned himself in. He believed that there would be no consequences because he knew the relevant penal statute “like the back of his hand” and had not ...


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