Cindy Lou v. Wolf, Jennelle
ORDER dismissing Cindy Lou Hilsgen's 4 petition for writ of habeas corpus The clerk of court is directed to enter judgment for respondent and close this case. The clerk of court is directed to unseal all documents and ensure redaction of Hilsgen's minor children's names. Signed by District Judge James D. Peterson on 4/16/2018. (jef),(ps)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
CINDY L. HILSGEN, on behalf of B.J., N.N., and C.J.,1
OPINION & ORDER
Cindy Lou Hilsgen, appearing pro se, has filed this civil action styled as a petition for
habeas corpus, in which she asks this court to remove her minor children from state-court
ordered out-of-the-home placement. She also seeks a stay of ongoing state family-court
proceedings. Hilsgen followed her original petition, brief, and motion to stay with amended
versions of those documents. Dkt. 4–6. I will consider the amended versions as the operative
This court may conduct a preliminary review of this petition under the rules governing
habeas petitions and under the court’s own inherent authority. See Rules 1 and 4 of the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases; see also Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. 1999)
(“district courts have the power to screen complaints filed by all litigants, prisoners and nonprisoners alike, regardless of fee status.”). After reviewing the documents Hilsgen has filed, I
will dismiss the case.
Hilsgen refers to herself in the caption as “Cindy Lou” without a last name, and signs the
petition as Cindy Lou Ruprecht. I have amended the caption to include her last name of
Hilsgen, as she refers to herself in her other currently pending case before the court, No. 18cv-102-jdp. The clerk of court has redacted the full names of her children from the petition.
This is the second time Hilsgen has filed a writ of habeas corpus at least in part for the
purpose of undoing state-court-ordered placement of her children. In a March 6, 2018 order, I
dismissed the portion of Hilsgen’s habeas petition asking for change of placement of her
children. See Dkt. 7 in case no. 18-cv-102-jdp. I explained in that order that this court cannot
review state-court parental-rights or child-custody decisions in a federal habeas proceeding. Id.,
at 2 (citing Lehman v. Lycoming Cty. Children’s Servs. Agency, 458 U.S. 502, 511–12 (1982);
Leonard v. Vandehey, No. 08-cv-109-bbc, 2008 WL 4079236, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Feb. 28, 2008)).
Much of the authority Hilsgen cites in her materials predate the Lehman case, but that Supreme
Court ruling governed her previous case and it governs this one. Moreover, under the “domestic
relation exception,” federal courts generally lack jurisdiction over disputes challenging divorce,
custody, or alimony decrees, even if those disputes might otherwise fall under diversity or
federal question jurisdiction. Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 703 (1992).
The proper place for Hilsgen to litigate the custody of her children is in the state court
system. From the information she provides in her filings, it appears that the circuit court
proceedings are still ongoing. She should argue her case there. This case will be dismissed, and
should Hilsgen file any further habeas-type actions about her children’s custody, I will
summarily dismiss them.
Hilsgen has also asked that her documents be filed under seal because of her children’s
names being included in her material. The clerk of court appears to have redacted her children’s
names, leaving only the initials, while also provisionally sealing the documents. I will direct the
clerk to unseal those documents after ensuring that the children’s full names have been
IT IS ORDERED that:
1. Cindy Lou Hilsgen’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, Dkt. 4, is DISMISSED. The
clerk of court is directed to enter judgment for respondent and close this case.
2. The clerk of court is directed to unseal all documents and ensure redaction of
Hilsgen’s minor children’s names.
Entered April 16, 2018.
BY THE COURT:
JAMES D. PETERSON
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