Niemotka, Allison v. Trammell, Nia et al
ORDER that plaintiff Allison Niemotka's complaint is DISMISSED for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The clerk of court is directed to close this case. Signed by District Judge Barbara B. Crabb on 4/26/2021. (lam),(ps)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ALLISON NIEMOTKA,
JUDGE NIA TRAMMELL, KATHERINE HARRELL
AND CLARE ALSCHULER,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Pro se plaintiff Allison Niemotka has filed a proposed complaint challenging three
recent child support orders issued by defendant Judge Nia Trammell in the Circuit Court for
Dane County, Wisconsin in case no. 2020FA1035 and seeking disbarment of the judge,
defendant Claire Alschuler (assistant corporation counsel) and defendant Katherine Harrell
(guardian ad litem). I understand plaintiff to be alleging that the state court improperly
ordered payment of her child support award to Harrell as part of her fees.
Because plaintiff is proceeding without prepayment of the filing fee, her complaint
must be screened under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) to determine whether it is frivolous, malicious,
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks money damages from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. Having read the allegations of the proposed
complaint generously, as I am required to do for pro se litigants, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 521 (1972), I conclude that plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed without prejudice
because this court plainly lacks subject matter jurisdiction over them.
A threshold question in any case is whether the court has jurisdiction over any of the
claims that plaintiff is trying to bring. Federal courts have limited jurisdiction, which means
that they may hear a case only if Congress or the Constitution authorize it. As a result, I
must determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, even if none of the parties raise
the issue. McCready v. White, 417 F.3d 700, 702 (7th Cir. 2005).
Child support, child custody and alimony decisions fall within the areas of family or
domestic relations, which is governed exclusively by state law. Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504
U.S. 689, 703 (1992) (federal courts lack jurisdiction over domestic relations cases in which
the relief sought would “involve[e] the issuance of a divorce, alimony, or child custody
decree”); Rose v. Rose, 481 U.S. 619, 625 (1987) (quoting In re Burrus, 136 U.S. 586,
593-94 (1890)) (“[T]he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent
and child, belongs to the laws of the States and not to the laws of the United States.”);
Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 435 (1979) (“Family relations are a traditional area of state
concern.”); De Sylva v. Ballentine, 351 U.S. 570, 580 (1956) (“[T]here is no federal law of
domestic relations, which is primarily a matter of state concern.”). Indeed, federal courts
must refrain from exercising jurisdiction over claims that would interfere with
domestic-relations issues that belong in state court. Struck v. Cook County Public Guardian,
508 F.3d 858, 859 (7th Cir. 2007).
Moreover, lower federal courts are precluded by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine from
reviewing state-court judgments. That doctrine prevents a party “complaining of an injury
caused by [a] state-court judgment” from seeking redress in a lower federal court. Exxon
Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291-92 (2005) (citing D.C. Court of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983)); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413,
416 (1923)). For the most part, litigants who feel that a state court proceeding has violated
their federal rights must assert those rights in state court and then appeal that decision
through the state court system and, as appropriate, to the United States Supreme Court.
Golden v. Helen Sigman & Associates, Ltd., 611 F.3d 356, 361-62 (7th Cir. 2010) (holding
that Rooker-Feldman barred review of claims related to a state court divorce and child
custody proceedings); T.W. by Enk v. Brophy, 124 F.3d 893, 898 (7th Cir. 1997) (applying
Rooker-Feldman to Wisconsin child-custody decision).
Because plaintiff is challenging the child support decisions reached in a state circuit
court, she cannot proceed with her claims in federal court. This court also lacks the
jurisdiction and authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings or disbar any of the defendants
for their actions in case no. 20FA1035, as plaintiff requests.
See WI SCR Ch. 21
(responsibility of Wisconsin Supreme Court to supervise practice of law through lawyer
regulation system). Therefore, I am dismissing the complaint for lack of subject matter
IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff Allison Niemotka’s complaint is DISMISSED for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction. The clerk of court is directed to close this case.
Entered this 26th day of April, 2021.
BY THE COURT:
BARBARA B. CRABB
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