Kraemer v. Grant County

892 F.2d 686 (7th Cir. 1990)


  • Kraemer hired attorney Lawton in the 1986 because her dead boyfriend’s parents had conspired with the sheriff to steal her belongings and evict her from her house after the death of her boyfriend.
  • Lawton asked Kraemer to write a detailed letter explaining her situation with the Bakers (boyfriend’s parents) and a later problem she had with the Grant County police for driving without a license.
  • On the strength of Kraemer’s letter, Lawton filed an administrative claim against the county and hired a private investigator to look into Kraemer’s allegations.
  • The investigator found little.
  • The claim survived a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).
  • Through discovery, Lawton found several lengthy conversations between the sheriff and the Bakers that indicated the sheriff had been involved in some way.

Procedural History:

  • Claim survives motion to dismiss
  • Bakers request plaintiffs pay legal costs, it was not proper for Kraemer due to her poverty, but ordered Lawton to pay $3K under Rule 11 because he should have known there was little factual or legal basis for the allegation
  • Lawton filed motion to amend, but it was denied.



Whether Lawson performed reasonable inquiry into the facts of a conspiracy case before filing the complaint.


Lawson performed reasonable inquiry into the facts of a conspiracy case before filing the complaint because under the circumstances of a conspiracy claim against hostile defendants, there are little facts available until the time of discovery, and the research that Lawson did was as much as he could.


“If discovery is necessary to establish a claim, then it is not unreasonable to file a complaint so as to obtain the right to conduct that discovery.

Rule(s) of Law:

Rule 11

Frantz v. US Powerlifting Federation (1987): “Rule 11 should not bar the courthouse door to people who have some support for the complaint but need discovery to prove their case.


* The higher courts should give deference to the lower court on Rule 11, but not complete deference.

* Lawson had to prove conspiracy, which can be difficult because in these cases most of the information is held by hostile defendants who will not give up the information unless they are compelled to do so through discovery.

* Rule 11 was not meant to undermine zealous advocacy and this is especially true in civil rights cases involving unpopular defendants.

Court’s Order: