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Geiger v. Minnesota Department of Human Services

United States District Court, District of Minnesota

March 25, 2015

CHARLES MICHAEL GEIGER, Plaintiff,
v.
MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, MINNESOTA SEX OFFENDER PROGRAM, LUCINDA JESSON, KEVIN MOSER, TERRY KNEISEL, TROY BASARABA, PAT GRUNDMEIER, SCOTT NIEMEYER, JOHN AND JANE DOE whose true names are unknown, NANCY JOHNSTON, AND MATTHEW BROWN, Defendants.

Charles Michael Geiger, MSOP-Moose Lake, 111 Minnesota 73, Moose Lake, MN 55767, pro se.

Aaron Winter, Assistant Attorney General, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JOHN R. TUNHEIM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff Charles Michael Geiger (“Geiger”) is a patient civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (“MSOP”). On May 19, 2014, Geiger filed this action against the Minnesota Department of Human Services (“DHS”), MSOP, and multiple individual officers and employees at DHS and MSOP (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that a security counselor at MSOP sexually assaulted Geiger while other security counselors looked on and failed to intervene. Defendants moved to dismiss Geiger’s complaint, and Geiger filed an Amended Complaint. On January 9, 2015, United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that the Court grant Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint as to DHS, MSOP, and all individual defendants except for Scott Niemeyer on Count I.

Neither party objected to the R&R within fourteen days of its entry, and on January 26, 2015, this Court entered an Order adopting the R&R. (Order Adopting R&R, Jan. 26, 2015, Docket No. 36.) Three days later, Geiger filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Defendants’ Request for Entry of Default and Default Judgment. Geiger’s filing appears to be a challenge to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that the Court deny Geiger’s motion for entry of a default under Rule 55. The Court will therefore construe the filing as an objection to that portion of the Magistrate Judge’s R&R.

Geiger is proceeding pro se. Because his objection, mailed from MSOP, arrived at the Court only three days after the deadline for filing objections to the R&R and the brief delay does not seem to have prejudiced Defendants, the Court will withdraw its previous Order adopting the R&R and evaluate Geiger’s current objection. After reviewing Geiger’s arguments, the Magistrate Judge’s R&R, and the record in this case, the Court concludes that default would not be appropriate. Accordingly, the Court will overrule Geiger’s objection, adopt the R&R, and grant Defendants’ motion to dismiss as to all defendants except Scott Niemeyer on Count I of Geiger’s Amended Complaint.

BACKGROUND

Geiger’s Amended Complaint alleges that on April 19, 2014, security counselors Pat Grundmeier and Matthew Brown were training security counselor Scott Niemeyer to conduct pat down searches of MSOP patients. (Am. Compl. ¶ 12, Aug. 8, 2014, Docket No. 27.) Three patients were in line for pat down searches, and Niemeyer said to Geiger, “I choose you first.” (Id. ¶ 13 (emphasis omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).) Geiger alleges that Niemeyer pinched his chest, groin, stomach, and buttocks. (Id.) Geiger further alleges that Niemeyer put his hands down Geiger’s pants, touched and grabbed his buttocks and groin area, and touched his penis and testicles. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Geiger claims that Niemeyer then used a security wand between Geiger’s legs, striking him in the groin and buttocks. (Id. ¶ 16.) Throughout this time, Geiger maintains that Grundmeier and Brown were present but did not say or do anything to prevent the abuse from occurring. (Id. ¶ 17.) Geiger’s original complaint alleged precisely the same underlying conduct as the source of his claims. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12, May 19, 2014, Docket No. 1.)

On July 8, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss Geiger’s original complaint. (Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss, July 8, 2014, Docket No. 18.) The next day, the Magistrate Judge ordered that if Geiger “wishes to respond to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 18], his Response is due by no later than Friday, August 8, 2014.” (Order, July 9, 2014, Docket No. 24 (emphasis omitted).) On August 8, Geiger filed an Amended Complaint that altered which officers Geiger named as defendants, removed references to a second plaintiff, and altered some language in the description of the counts in the Amended Complaint. (Am. Compl.)

In light of his July 9 Order setting a deadline for Geiger to respond to Defendants’ motion, the Magistrate Judge interpreted Geiger’s Amended Complaint as a response to that motion. On August 11, 2014, Magistrate Judge Brisbois ordered:

In accordance with the Court[’]s previously set briefing schedule, [Docket No. 24], the Court construes Plaintiff[’]s Amended Complaint, [Docket No. 27], as his response to Defendants[’] Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 18]. Thus, in accordance with the Court[’]s briefing schedule, [Docket No. 24], Defendants, if they choose to submit a reply memorandum, shall address the effect Plaintiff[’]s Amended Complaint has on the pending motion to dismiss, if any. Defendants[’] reply remains due on or before August 22, 2014.

(Order, Aug. 11, 2014, Docket No. 28.) Following these instructions, Defendants submitted a reply memorandum on August 22, 2014, explaining why they believed Geiger’s Amended Complaint would fail to survive the motion to dismiss. (Defs.’ Reply Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, Aug. 22, 2014, Docket No. 29.) Geiger applied for entry of default against all Defendants for failure to answer the Amended Complaint on December 18, 2014. (Pl.’s Req. for Entry of Default, Dec. 18, 2014, Docket No. 30.)

The Magistrate Judge briefly addresses Geiger’s application for entry of default in the January 9, 2015 R&R. He explained that “Defendants were not required to file a separate responsive pleading to Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint” because the court had interpreted the Amended Complaint as a response to Defendants’ motion to dismiss and instructed Defendants to reply accordingly. (R&R at 22, Jan. 9, 2015, Docket No. 35.) The Magistrate Judge recommended “that default pursuant to Rule 55 be held improper and denied as ...


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