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Eggenberger v. West Albany Township

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 9, 2015

Bernard Eggenberger, Plaintiff,
v.
West Albany Township, a Minnesota governmental entity, and John W. Moechnig, West Albany Township City Clerk in his official capacity or his successor, Defendants

For Bernard Eggenberger, Plaintiff: Erick G Kaardal, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., Mpls, MN.

For West Albany Township, a Minnesota governmental entity, John W. Moechnig, West Albany Township City Clerk in his official capacity or his successor, Defendants: Jamie L Jonassen, Jessica E Schwie, Jardine Logan & O'Brien PLLP, Lake Elmo, MN.

Page 861

ORDER

JOAN N. ERICKSEN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Bernard Eggenberger claims that Defendant West Albany Township in Wabasha County, Minnesota violated his state and federal constitutional rights by refusing him access to and copies of the township's public documents. This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted and the claims dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Eggenberger is a resident of West Albany Township and a self-described political activist who seeks to expose irregularities in West Albany's governance. To that end, he has publicly criticized the township's government and reported the township's

Page 862

conduct to authorities such as the Minnesota State Auditor, among other activities.

Eggenberger broadly alleges that West Albany Township has denied him access to inspect or to obtain copies of public government data. More specifically, Eggenberger alleges that the township has rejected his requests for government data, " including copies of minutes of the Township Board" and " copies of the Township Board's journal of recorded votes," even " when he has offered to make his own photostatic copies." [1] He also alleges that, " [o]n one occasion, after providing the Township with the requested funds to conduct a search for and to obtain copies of public government documents, the Township returned the check to Eggenberger and denied his request to the public government data requested." West Albany " has in the past provided citizens other than Eggenberger with copies of government data upon request." Eggenberger does not allege that West Albany Township denied him access to township proceedings or hearings. He also does not allege that the township denied him access to read, transcribe, or take his own pictures of the documents he seeks.

Eggenberger filed suit in state court. Defendants removed the action to this Court on October 24, 2014. The first two claims of the amended complaint are for violations of Minnesota's Constitution. The third claim alleges a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The fourth and fifth claims are First Amendment retaliation claims. On November 26, 2014, Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for judgment on the pleadings is reviewed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Clemons v. Crawford, 585 F.3d 1119, 1124 (8th Cir. 2009). A court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true and grant all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Crooks v. Lynch, 557 F.3d 846, 848 (8th Cir. 2009). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, " [a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). " To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 ...


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