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Karsjens v. Jesson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 9, 2014

Kevin Scott Karsjens, David Leroy Gamble, Jr., Kevin John DeVillion, Peter Gerard Lonergan, James Matthew Noyer, Sr., James John Rud, James Allen Barber, Craig Allen Bolte, Dennis Richard Steiner, Kaine Joseph Braun, Christopher John Thuringer, Kenny S. Daywitt, Bradley Wayne Foster, Brian K. Hausfeld, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Lucinda Jesson, Dennis Benson, Kevin Moser, Tom Lundquist, Nancy Johnston, Jannine Hebert, and Ann Zimmerman, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

Daniel E. Gustafson, Esq., David A. Goodwin, Esq., Karla M. Gluek, Esq., and Raina Borrelli, Esq., Gustafson Gluek PLLC, counsel for Plaintiffs.

Aaron Winter, Ricardo Figueroa, Adam H. Welle, Nathan A. Brennaman, and Scott H. Ikeda, Assistant Attorneys General, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, counsel for Defendants.


DONOVAN W. FRANK, District Judge.


This matter is before the Court on Defendants' request for a jury trial (Doc. No. 589) and Plaintiffs' request for a bench trial (Doc. No. 590) for the first phase of trial ("Phase One") scheduled to begin on February 9, 2015. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Defendants' request and grants Plaintiffs' request.


At the August 21, 2014 Scheduling Conference, the Court proposed bifurcating the proceedings into phased bench and jury trials, based on the nature of the issues presented, in order to promote efficiency and expediency. (Doc. No. 593.) Following the Scheduling Conference, the Court ordered the parties to file simultaneous briefs on whether the Seventh Amendment provides a right to a jury trial on the issues proposed for Phase One. (Doc. No. 586.) The parties filed briefs on August 29, 2014 (Doc. Nos. 589, 590) and response memoranda on September 2, 2014 (Doc. Nos. 594, 595).


I. The Scope of Phase One

The Court proposes that the following issues be addressed in Phase One: (1) whether the civil commitment statute is unconstitutional on its face; and (2) whether the civil commitment statute is unconstitutional as applied. These systemic constitutional issues encompass the nature and duration of civil confinement, including the following nonexhaustive list of sub-issues: whether periodic independent reviews are provided; whether risk or dangerousness is evaluated during reviews; whether less restrictive alternatives are required; whether the treatment provided is constitutionally infirm; whether the systemic conditions of confinement are unconstitutional; and whether the reduction in custody and discharge procedure is constitutionally infirm. Phase One will not include inquiry into individual class member cases and, therefore, will not reach issues of damages or individual injunctive relief. Phase One will also not foreclose a number of issues, including issues related to qualified immunity and individual circumstances.

II. The Seventh Amendment Right to a Jury Trial for Phase One

A. Legal Standard

The Seventh Amendment provides that "[i]n suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved...." U.S. Const. amend. VII. "Suits at common law" refer to suits in which legal rights are to be ascertained and determined, in contrast to those where equitable rights alone are recognized, and equitable remedies are administered. Granfinanciera, S.A. v. Nordberg, 492 U.S. 33, 41 (1989); see also City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes, 526 U.S. 687, 719 (1999) (holding that "[i]t is settled law that the Seventh Amendment does not apply" in "suits seeking only injunctive relief" or "suits seeking only equitable relief").

"The law is well settled that whether plaintiffs are entitled to a jury trial cannot be determined solely on the basis of allegations contained in the complaint, " but must be resolved "by an appraisal of the basic nature of the claims or issues presented, and the type of relief sought." Klein v. Shell Oil Co., 386 F.2d 659, 663 (8th Cir. 1967); see also In re Vorpahl, 695 F.2d 318, 322 (8th Cir. 1982) (providing that "[t]he right to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment depends on the nature of the issue to be tried"). Specifically, courts must apply a two-part test to determine whether a Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial exists: (1) whether the action before it is comparable "to 18th-century actions brought in the courts of England prior to ...

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