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Beaulieu v. Preece

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 14, 2014

WALLACE JAMES BEAULIEU, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES E. PREECE, Beltrami County District Court Judge, TERRY HOLTER, Beltrami County District Court Judge, SHARI RAE SCHLUCHTER, Beltrami County District Attorney, PAUL RASMUSSEN, Assistant Beltrami County Attorney, VANCE B. GRANNIS III, Assistant Beltrami County Attorney, LARRY KIMBALL, Indian Legal Assistance Program, DWIGHT STEWART, Beltrami County Sheriff, and BETH ZELLER, Beltrami County Deputy Sheriff, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JANIE S. MAYERON, Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Plaintiff's application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, ("IFP"), as permitted by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). (Docket No. 2.) The matter has been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation under 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will recommend that plaintiff's IFP application be denied, and that this action be dismissed without prejudice, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a civilly committed detainee at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, ("MSOP"), in Moose Lake, Minnesota. He was civilly committed after a Minnesota state district court found that he had sexually assaulted four different victims between 1990 and 2002. Beaulieu v. Minnesota Dept. of Human Services, 825 N.W.2d 716, 718 (Minn. 2013).[1] In the 1990 matter, plaintiff was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree assault, and kidnapping. Id .; see also Beaulieu v. State, No. A12-289 (Minn.App. 2012), 2012 WL 5896784 (unpublished opinion) at *1, rev. denied, Feb. 19, 2013.

Plaintiff is now attempting to sue several individuals who were involved in the prosecution, adjudication and affirmation of his 1990 state court criminal case. The named defendants in this action include two state court judges, (James E. Preece and Terry Holter), three prosecutors, (Shari Rae Schluchter, Paul Rasmussen, and Vance B. Grannis III), a court-appointed attorney, (Larry Kimball), and two law enforcement officials, (Dwight Stewart and Beth Zeller). (Complaint, [Docket No. 1], pp. 3-5.) Plaintiff claims that defendants violated his federal constitutional rights during the course of his 1990 state court case. ( Id., pp. 6-9.) According to plaintiff's Complaint, defendants failed to disclose certain allegedly exculpatory evidence, which could have exonerated plaintiff from the criminal charges involved in his 1990 state court case. (Id.)

Plaintiff further alleges that his 1990 criminal conviction was "used as Evidence of Harmful Sexual Conduct' for purposes of plaintiff's [current] civil commitment." ( Id., p. 9, ¶ 20.) This allegation is confirmed by the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision in Beaulieu v. Minnesota Dept. of Human Services, supra . In other words, plaintiff's civil commitment was based, at least in part, on his conviction in the 1990 criminal case cited in his current complaint.

Plaintiff presently is requesting "declaratory and injunctive relief ordering the State of Minnesota to Exonerate plaintiff of the Crime of Criminal Sexual Conduct at issue in this matter, and Expunge plaintiff[]s record of, and destroy all existing records maintained by any agency of this conviction." (Complaint, p. 11, "Relief.") Plaintiff is also seeking a judgment for compensatory damages in the amount of $12.2 million, and punitive damages in the amount of $12 million. (Id.)

II. DISCUSSION

An IFP application will be denied, and the action will be dismissed, when an IFP applicant has filed a complaint that fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Atkinson v. Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1128 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam). In this case, Plaintiff is seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights. However, plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable § 1983 cause of action, because his claims are barred by the Supreme Court's decisions in Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973), and Heck v. Humphey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

Plaintiff's complaint is fatally defective, because he is expressly challenging the validity of a judgment entered against him in a Minnesota state court criminal case. He claims that his federal constitutional rights were violated during the course of the 1990 state court case described in his complaint, and he is explicitly requesting that the conviction entered against him in that case be "Expunge[d]."

It is well settled, however, that habeas corpus is the exclusive means by which federal courts can review state criminal convictions. In Eutzy v. Tesar, 880 F.2d 1010, 1011 (8th Cir. 1989), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals plainly stated that "we accept as fundamental the fact that Congress intended habeas corpus to be the exclusive federal remedy for all who seek to attack state court convictions, " citing Preiser, 411 U.S. at 500, (emphasis added). Because plaintiff is seeking to vacate a judgment entered against him in a state criminal case, his exclusive federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.

Even if plaintiff were seeking only money damages, he could not bring a lawsuit in federal court if a judgment in his favor would imply that a prior state criminal conviction is invalid. In Heck, the Court held:

"[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid..., a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.... A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983."

512 U.S. at 486-87 (footnote omitted); see also, Sheldon v. Hundley, 83 F.3d 231, 233 (8th Cir. 1996) ("Heck requires favorable termination of the action in an authorized state tribunal or a federal habeas corpus court, even ...


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