Conrad, Catherine v. Bell, Moore & Richter, S.C. et al
ORDER dismissing this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The clerk of court is directed to enter judgment accordingly. Signed by District Judge Barbara B. Crabb on 8/30/2011. (jef),(ps)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - CATHERINE CONRAD,
OPINION AND ORDER
BELL, MOORE & RICHTER, S.C.,
BILL ABBOTT, BILL WILLIAMS,
MARK FUHRMAN, JESSICA ZERBST.
KELLY STOHR, CHANTELLE RINGE
and ABC INSURANCE COMPANY,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Pro se plaintiff Catherine Conrad is suing defendant Bell, Moore & Richter, S.C. and
several lawyers employed at the firm. Plaintiff is asserting claims for malpractice and breach
of contract, alleging that defendants failed to give her adequate legal advice regarding her
intellectual property rights. Because plaintiff is proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, I must
screen her complaint to determine whether it states a claim upon which relief may be
granted. Having reviewed the complaint, I conclude that it must be dismissed for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
In every case filed in federal court, the first task is to determine whether subject
matter jurisdiction exists, even if none of the parties raise that issue. McCready v. White,
417 F.3d 700, 702 (7th Cir. 2005) ("Ensuring the existence of subject matter jurisdiction is
the court's first duty in every lawsuit."); DeBartolo v. Healthsouth Corp., 569 F.3d 736, 740
(7th Cir. 2009) (“Subject-matter jurisdiction is not an issue that can be brushed aside or
satisfied by agreement between the litigants.”). Federal courts have limited jurisdiction,
which means that they may hear a case only if Congress has authorized it. Generally, a
federal court may exercise jurisdiction over a case in one of two situations: (1) the plaintiff
brings a claim that arises under federal law, 28 U.S.C. § 1331; or (2) the plaintiff and
defendants are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy is greater than
$75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Malpractice and breach of contract are claims that arise under state law. Tallmadge
v. Boyle, 2007 WI App 47, ¶ 15, 300 Wis. 2d 510, 522, 730 N.W.2d 173, 179; Abbott v.
Marker, 2006 WI App 174, 295 Wis. 2d 636, 722 N.W.2d 162. Although defendants’
representation in the prior proceedings may have involved some federal claims, that is not
enough when plaintiff is asserting only state law claims in this case. See, e.g., Singh v. Duane
Morris LLP, 538 F.3d 334 (5th Cir. 2008) (no federal question in legal malpractice action
filed by former client against lawyer who had represented him in previous trademark
infringement suit); Custer v. Sweeney, 89 F.3d 1156 (4th Cir.1996) (legal malpractice claim
did not arise under federal law even though underlying lawsuit was brought under ERISA);
Diaz v. Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502 (11th Cir. 1996) (district court did not have subject matter
jurisdiction over legal malpractice claim of prisoner against attorney who had represented
class of prisoners suing prison officials on Eighth Amendment claims).
With respect to § 1332, plaintiff does not include any allegations suggesting that the
parties are citizens of any state other than Wisconsin, so diversity jurisdiction is not present
either. Accordingly, plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject matter
IT IS ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
The clerk of court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.
Entered this 30th day of August, 2011.
BY THE COURT:
BARBARA B. CRABB
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