Argued August 5, 2014
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 13-cv-21-bbc -- Barbara B. Crabb, Judge.
For PNC BANK, successor by merger to NATIONAL CITY BANK, successor by merger to NATIONAL CITY BANK OF INDIANA, a division of: which was FNMC, Plaintiff - Appellee: James J. Carrig, Attorney, Niebler, Pyzyk, Roth & Carrig, Llp, Menomonee Falls, WI.
For WENDY ALISON NORA, individually and in her capacity as counsel for SHEILA M. SPENCER, Appellant: Wendy Alison Nora, Attorney, Access Legal Services, Minneapolis, MN.
For SHEILA M. SPENCER, individually, Defendant - Appellant: Wendy Alison Nora, Attorney, Access Legal Services, Minneapolis, MN.
Before BAUER, POSNER, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.
Sheila Spencer stopped paying her mortgage in 2008 and soon faced a foreclosure action in Wisconsin state court. The case progressed normally until Spencer retained attorney Wendy Nora, who adopted an object-to-everything litigation strategy and buried the state court in a blizzard of motions. When a hearing on a summary judgment motion loomed in state court, Nora removed the case to federal court on several suspect grounds. Finding no objectively reasonable basis for removal, the district court remanded the case and awarded attorney's fees and costs to the mortgage lender. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Spencer and Nora both appeal the fees and costs award. We conclude that the appeal is frivolous. We dismiss Nora's appeal because the district court did not order her to pay anything. We affirm the district court's award as to Spencer because she has not offered even a colorable argument that removal was reasonable. We also order Nora to show cause why she should not be sanctioned for litigating a frivolous appeal.
This was once a typical state-court foreclosure case. Spencer bought a house in Marshfield, Wisconsin in 2005 and took out a mortgage loan. She stopped making payments on the mortgage late in 2008, and the lender brought a foreclosure action in April 2009 in Wisconsin state court. The lender then merged with PNC Bank, N.A., which continued to pursue a foreclosure judgment. After Spencer filed for bankruptcy and received an automatic stay, PNC obtained relief from that stay, and the foreclosure case proceeded toward summary judgment. Two days before the scheduled summary judgment hearing, her attorney moved to withdraw, citing irreconcilable differences with Spencer.
Spencer then retained Nora to represent her, and Nora began objecting to everything on Spencer's behalf. For example, Nora asserted that the court lacked jurisdiction because PNC had not been substituted as a party properly; that the judge, PNC's lawyers, and the court clerk had colluded to conceal the contents of a court order (she demanded that the judge recuse himself); that the court reporter had intentionally manipulated a hearing transcript at the judge's direction; that opposing counsel had inappropriately filed a " formal motion" for a hearing, rather than conferring via telephone; and that an opposing attorney's appearance should be stricken because, Nora argued, the case caption improperly identified PNC as a party. Although the substantive theory of the case seemed to evolve with each filing, Nora's core argument was that the party identified as the lender on the mortgage note was a " trade name," not a legal entity, so neither PNC nor anyone else had standing to sue based on the note. Nora's filings consisted of lengthy arguments unsupported by evidence. Despite Nora's objections the case moved forward, and in December 2012 the court scheduled a summary judgment hearing for the next March.
In January 2013, nearly four years after the suit was filed, Nora removed the case to federal court. She proposed various bases for removal, most of which she has abandoned on appeal. The only ground for removal she continues to stand behind is that federal jurisdiction existed under 28 U.S.C. § 1349 because the " real party in interest" is Freddie Mac, which is majority-owned by the federal ...