Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 24, 2019

WI Appeals Court Dismisses Appeal of Denial to Site Bible Camp Citing Claim Preclusion

This post was authored by Zhao Sun, Touro Law Center

Eagle Cove appeals denials by Oneida County and the Oneida County Board of Adjustment  years ago to rezone certain real property on Squash Lake or to grant a conditional use permit on that property so that Eagle Cove could develop a year-round Bible camp.

Eagle Cove previously litigated numerous claims relating to these denials in federal court, including a claim for a violation of Eagle Cove’s religious liberties under article I, section 18 of the Wisconsin Constitution. The federal district court, exercising both federal question and supplemental jurisdiction, dismissed all of Eagle Cove’s civil claims on their merits, including its claim under the Wisconsin Constitution. The court declined, however, to take supplemental jurisdiction of a certiorari claim Eagle Cove had advanced against the board of adjustment, preferring to have that claim adjudicated in state court given the limited scope of certiorari review.

Eagle Cove subsequently commenced the present action, seeking not only certiorari review but also advancing a variety of civil claims under the Wisconsin Constitution. The circuit court dismissed the non-certiorari claims based upon its conclusion that claim preclusion applied, insofar as Eagle Cove brought or could have brought the civil claims as part of its federal action. Eagle Cove appeals this determination and the denial of its motion for reconsideration, in which it asserted that claim preclusion should not apply because of an intervening change in the case law governing one of its federal law claims.

The issue here is whether the circuit court properly gave the federal judgment preclusive effect. The court reasoned that: 1. All elements of claim preclusion are present. 2. The exceptions to claim preclusion argued by Eagle Cove are inapplicable. 3. Sanctions were warranted against Eagle Cove for prosecuting a frivolous action against the Town.

The court concludes the circuit court properly dismissed Eagle Cove’s non-certiorari claims and denied its motion for reconsideration. The parties in the federal action were the same as in this action, the federal litigation resulted in a judgment on the merits, and the claims in the two actions all arise out of the same transaction. Accordingly, Eagle Cove was required to bring all of its claims in that action. Further proceedings in state court are limited to Eagle Cove’s certiorari claim, which the district court dismissed without prejudice.

The Town of Woodboro cross-appealed, asserting Eagle Cove’s commencement and continuation of the state court action against it was frivolous. Applying Wis. Stat. § 895.044 (2017-18), the court agreed that Eagle Cove’s action against the Town was frivolous. Because Eagle Cove did not withdraw or correct the frivolous filings after being served with a motion for sanctions, the court concluded the circuit court was required to award the Town damages consisting of the actual costs it incurred as a result of the frivolous action. The court affirmed the circuit court’s decision in all other respects, but the court reversed on the issue of sanctions and remand the matter to the circuit court for a determination of damages.

Eagle Cove Camp v. City of Oneida, 2019 WL 6121352 (WI App. 11/19/2019).


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