Sanctions Awarded For Frivolous Foray Into Federal Court


This case involves two litigants who lost a state court custody case.  They then sued everybody the could think of for violating their constitutional rights. Everybody included two state court judges, two guardians ad litem and five lawyers. The court dismissed the action and awarded sanctions.  One basis for the dismissal was the Rooker-Feldman doctrine which, to simplify, prohibits a litigant who lost in state court from trying to relitigate the same issue in federal court.

The rationale:

I agree with defendants that the claims that plaintiffs asserted in their complaint are legally frivolous. As discussed above, plaintiffs have not even attempted to assert an arguable basis for suing defendants Veith, Otto or Asher. Further, plaintiffs’ counsel should have known that plaintiffs’ claims were legally groundless. Plaintiffs’ counsel violated Rule 11(b)(2) by asserting claims that are not “warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law.” By failing to withdraw the frivolous claims after being warned by defendants, plaintiffs’ counsel caused both defendants and the court to expend significant time and resources in addressing the claims. Accordingly, I conclude that an appropriate sanction is to require plaintiffs’ counsel, Eliyahu Yuli Kaplunovsky, to pay the attorney fees and expenses defendants Veith, Otto and Asher incurred in defending against the frivolous claims. Brandt v. Schal Associates, Inc., 960 F.2d 640, 646 (7th Cir. 1992)(“When defending a spurious lawsuit attorneys’ fees are an inevitable ingredient in the expenses, and they represent one reasonable measure of sanctions aimed at deterring the perpetrator and compensating the victim.”).

via Pettengill v. Cameron, Dist. Court, WD Wisconsin 2018 – Google Scholar

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