In Jung v. Cottonwood Financial Wisconsin, LLC, 2014 WL 4796756 (W.D.Wis. 2014), Judge Peterson barred Plaintiff’s FDCPA claim based on wrongful garnishment due to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Jung’s complaint and the parties’ supplemental materials support defendants’ position that the Rooker–Feldman doctrine applies in this case. Jung alleges that defendants violated both federal and Wisconsin law by using the garnishment notice to collect wages from an out-of-state employer. Dkt. 21, ¶¶ 58–78. But a state court has already considered the merits of this issue, either implicitly, through Jung’s repeated failure to raise it, or explicitly, through denying her motion to file a supplemental complaint. Jung did not object to the garnishment until after defendants had recovered the full amount of their judgment, but “[t]he claims raised in district court need not have been argued in the state judicial proceeding for them to be barred by the Rooker–Feldman doctrine.” Levin v. Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Comm’n of the Supreme Court of Ill., 74 F.3d 763, 766 (7th Cir.1996). Jung affirmatively alleges that defendants “prepared, filed with the [Wisconsin] court and served on Plaintiff and her employer various legal documents including but not limited to an earnings garnishment, and earnings garnishment exemption notice, and other documents.” Dkt. 21, ¶ 40. Wisconsin law requires judgment creditors to submit a notice to the court before garnishing a debtor’s wages, and provides that the clerk of court will issue garnishment forms for the creditor to serve on the debtor and garnishee. Wis. Stat. § 812.35. After receiving notice, Jung had the right to “assert any defense to the earnings garnishment, by completing the answer form and delivering or mailing it to the garnishee.” Id. § 812.37(1). But Jung did not answer or otherwise object; in fact, she later consented to an extension of the initial garnishment period, even after defendants had completed several of what she now alleges to have been unlawful garnishments. Defendants are therefore correct to argue that the state court’s approval of the garnishment encompassed the very issues Jung now seeks to litigate in this court. There is an exception to the Rooker–Feldman doctrine for claims brought by federal plaintiffs who allege that they did not “have a reasonable opportunity to raise the issue in state court proceedings.” Long, 182 F.3d at 558. But Jung does not invoke the exception; nor can she, as the record confirms that she had ample opportunity to raise the issue of extra-territorial garnishment in the Wisconsin courts. Thus, even if this court were to construe Jung’s brief as suggesting that she was unable to present her position to a state court, the record would flatly contradict applying any such exception to the Rooker–Feldman doctrine in this case. Whatever the legality of defendants’ collection efforts, they first had to satisfy the state court that they were entitled to garnish Jung’s wages from an out-of-state employer. Jung had several opportunities to object, but failed to do so. Jung’s failure to object, however, is not the only reason why the Rooker–Feldman doctrine now bars her claims. She has, in fact, already received a written decision from the state court addressing the substance of her federal complaint. Specifically, in asking the state court for permission to file supplemental pleadings, Jung argued that defendants’ extra-territorial collection efforts violated state law. Dkt. 15–4, at 11–13. The state court commissioner acknowledged Jung’s argument but rejected it as a basis upon which to allow her to file a supplemental complaint. Jung did not appeal the decision to the circuit court judge or through the state appellate system. Again, this court could not consider the claims Jung asserts in her federal complaint without questioning the wisdom of a state court decision.