The 7th Circuit didn’t mince words Wednesday when it said it was “troubled” by a Madison lawyer’s conduct in a mortgage case.
The Chicago-based federal appellate court, in a per curiam decision, said attorney Wendy Alison Nora, who frequently represents defendants in foreclosure actions, “adopted an object-to-everything litigation strategy and buried the state court in a blizzard of motions.” The three-judge panel called Nora’s conduct “accusatory and antagonistic” and ordered her to show cause, within 30 days, why she should not be sanctioned.
In this case, Nora represented Sheila Spencer, who, according to the court, stopped paying her mortgage in 2008 and faced foreclosure when her bank, which later merged with PNC Bank, filed action the following year. Nora was hired midway through the litigation and, according to the decision, “began objecting to everything on Spencer’s behalf.”
According to the decision, Nora’s objections included 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); [and] that the court reporter had intentionally manipulated a hearing transcript at the judge’s direction.”
In 2013, Nora tried to remove the case to federal court, claiming that the “real party in interest” was Freddie Mac, according to the decision. Western District of Wisconsin Judge Barbara Crabb remanded the case back to state court and awarded attorney’s fees to PNC. Nora then filed a motion to reconsider, but the judge threw that out as frivolous and awarded PNC $4,928.47 in costs and attorney’s fees.
Upon appeal, the 7th Circuit judges called Nora’s appeal “frivolous.” According to the decision, Nora tried to make herself a party to the case, since she accused Crabb and defense counsel of engaging “in a campaign of libel” against her. She also claimed opposing counsel engaged in “actionable civil fraud and racketeering [that] may constitute state and federal criminal misconduct.”
The appellate judges dismissed that appeal, though, as well as the arguments on behalf of Spencer. They said PNC is entitled to fees as well, and ordered them to submit a fee statement within 14 days.
According to the decision, “Because Nora has never presented any colorable basis for federal jurisdiction over this years-old state-court foreclosure case, we suspect that the removal was part of a strategy designed to gum up the progress of the case.”
PNC Bank’s attorney, James Carrig of Niebler, Pyzyk, Roth & Carrig LLP, Menomonee Falls, did not immediately return a phone call Thursday.
Nora, reached Thursday, said she is going to seek a full hearing to argue against sanctions. She also said that her litigation in this case, as well as other similar ones, is to challenge mortgage servicers for what she says are forged documents.
“I truly believe all of these courts have been deceived and they don’t want to hear that they’ve been deceived,” Nora said. “And who does? They are pretty smart people.”
But whether Nora is right or wrong, it’s clear the court, which pointed out “this is not the first time Nora has litigated a meritless appeal in this court,” has had enough. The 7th Circuit’s decision pointed out her history of similar tactics and again referred to “the flood of motions Nora filed soon after her appearance in state court” for the case they were deciding.
In 1990, the Minnesota Supreme Court suspended her law license for pursuing a claim against a bank that one judge said surpassed “the imaginative into the depths of absurdity.” Her license was reinstated there in 2007.
Nora graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1975. She primarily works in Madison, but has an office in Minneapolis.
And Wisconsin’s Office of Lawyer Regulation is pursuing a one-year suspension of her law license for her work in a mortgage case for which she was a defendant. The OLR alleges Nora continuously fought the claim, even trying to get Dane County Judge Juan Colas removed from the case by filing a discrimination lawsuit against him in federal court.
Nora has fought those allegations as well, responding to the OLR complaint by writing that the, “OLR is not acting to protect the public from any misconduct … (and) it is attempting to protect the Wisconsin law firms from their misconduct by which they have committed and continue to commit fraud upon the courts …”
According to court records, a referee’s decision in the case is forthcoming.Follow @eheisigWLJ