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Richards v. Ritchie

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 30, 2015

LEONARD J. RICHARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD MARK RITCHIE, Minnesota Secretary of State (the

Leonard J. Richards, No. 149837, MCF-Stillwater, pro se.

Margaret E. Jacot, Assistant Attorney General, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, District Judge.

Plaintiff Leonard J. Richards ("Richards") is an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, Minnesota ("MCF-Stillwater"). Richards initiated this prisoner civil rights action against the State of Minnesota and state officer defendants Mark Ritchie, Brad Anderson, Bert Black, Thomas Roy, Mark Dayton, and Thomas Nelson, in their individual and official capacities ("state defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the United States Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"). Richards also brings pendent state law claims under the Minnesota Constitution. On May 21, 2014, the state defendants filed a motion to dismiss Richards's claims against them. On May 27, 2014, Richards filed a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and for a Preliminary Injunction ("TRO/PI Motion"). On January 30, 2015, United States Magistrate Judge Janie S. Mayeron issued a Report and Recommendation ("First R&R"), recommending the Court dismiss all of Richards's claims except claims seeking dismissal under the ADA asserted against the State of Minnesota for damages or injunctive relief and against Roy in his official capacity for injunctive relief. On the same day, the Magistrate Judge issued a second Report and Recommendation ("Second R&R"), recommending the Court deny Richards's TRO/PI Motion.

Richards objected to both R&Rs on various grounds. Because Richards has failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted for any of his claims except the ADA claim against the State of Minnesota and Roy, the Court will adopt the First R&R, allowing the ADA claim against the State of Minnesota and Roy to proceed. The Court will dismiss all other claims. After considering Richards's objections, the Court concludes that Richards is unlikely to succeed on the merits, and the Court will adopt the Second R&R, denying Richards's TRO/PI Motion.

BACKGROUND

I. RICHARDS'S 2010 ELECTION CAMPAIGN AND THE RESULTING RETALIATION

Richards attempted to seek votes as a write-in candidate for Governor of Minnesota in the 2010 election, while he was imprisoned at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault ("MCF-Faribault").[1] (First Am. Compl. ("FAC") ¶ 60, Apr. 10, 2014, Docket No. 28.)[2] In the course of his campaign, Richards mailed a copy of his "political tract, " entitled "MARK BRANDT DAYTON, " to an employee of MCF-Faribault. ( Id. ¶¶ 61-62.) As a result, Richards claims that Faribault prison officials retaliated against Richards. ( Id. ¶ 70.)

On October 19, 2010, Richards contends that he was placed in punitive segregation because a prison employee objected to Richards's political tract. ( Id. ¶ 72.) Richards was originally charged with "threatening, " but the charge was changed to a minor charge of "disorderly conduct." ( Id. ) According to Richards, disorderly conduct is "a notorious garbage charge' wielded against prisoners who are politically active or who litigate to improve conditions in prisons and in society generally...." ( Id. ) Richards appealed his punitive segregation and disorderly conduct charge to the prison warden, but the warden dismissed Richards's claim. ( Id. ¶ 73.) Richards alleges that the discipline charge was mere pretext, meant solely to stop him from attracting away votes from Dayton in the 2010 election. ( Id. ¶ 79.) Richards was released from punitive segregation on November 18, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 76.)

During the thirty days he spent in punitive segregation, Richards alleges that he was denied necessary medical care. ( Id. ¶ 75.) Richards was told that he would receive the denied care only when he was released from punitive segregation. ( Id. ) Richards alleges that the denial of medical care was meant "to quell any resistance [he] might mount to the State of Minnesota's crushing of his First Amendment rights to political expression and political association and his right to substantive and procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment." ( Id. )

II. RICHARDS'S PAROLE HEARING

Richards was considered for parole in February 2011. ( Id. ¶ 81.) At the February 14, 2011 hearing, which was conducted by videoconference, Richards states that Tom Roy, the Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections, was the sole voting member of the parole panel. ( Id. ) Although Roy had previously spoken with other life-sentenced prisoners before parole hearings, Roy did not speak with Richards before the hearing. ( Id. ) Before the hearing, Richards objected to Roy's close connection with Governor Dayton, Richards's gubernatorial opponent. ( Id. ¶ 82.) Richards claims that Roy refused to recuse himself or to consider Richards's objections. ( Id. ) Richards was denied parole. ( Id. )

III. RICHARDS'S CELIAC DISEASE

Richards was diagnosed with celiac disease[3] by the Minnesota Department of Corrections ("DOC") in 2011. ( Id. ¶ 114.) Richards received an initial biopsy, which showed that he had suffered damage to his small intestine due to the disease. ( Id. ¶¶ 96-97.) Despite that fact, Richards never received a follow-up endoscopy, with a biopsy, to determine whether his small intestine was healing. ( Id. ¶ 96.) Richards also wanted, but did not receive, genetic testing to ascertain whether celiac disease had actually caused the damage to his small intestine or whether other diseases could be to blame. ( Id. ¶ 97.)

On December 23, 2011, Richards obtained a disability accommodation under the ADA. ( Id. ¶ 98.) This accommodation required the prison to give Richards a gluten-free diet. ( Id. ) Richards contends, however, that the prison repeatedly failed to give him gluten-free food. ( Id. ¶¶ 78, 88.) Instead, the DOC used Richards's celiac disease to retaliate against him for his 2010 campaign against Dayton for Governor of Minnesota. ( Id. ¶ 94.) In November 2011, for example, Richards claims that the Food Service Director at MCF-Faribault told Richards, "[d]octors have invented the gluten problem, " ( Id. ¶ 94(a)), and refused to give him gluten-free sustenance, ( Id. ¶ 94(c).)

The DOC later supplemented Richards's disability accommodation to include gluten-free dental materials. ( Id. ¶¶ 91, 101.) As a part of this program, the DOC gave Richards gluten-free toothpaste, dental floss, and materials for use in the prison dental clinic. ( Id. ¶ 102.) Dental care is an essential part of the treatment for Richards's celiac disease. ( Id. ¶¶ 113, 115.) In November 2012, Richards was transferred to the Medical Unit at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights ("MCF-OPF") for "alleged needed medical care." ( Id. ¶ 103.) At MCF-OPF, Richards was denied gluten-free tooth paste and dental floss. ( Id. ¶ 104.) The deprivation occurred despite the fact that Richards's disability accommodation covered "off-site (e.g. medical) trips." ( Id. ¶ 105.) Consequently, Richards could not provide himself with dental self-care necessary to preserve his natural teeth. ( Id. ¶ 104.)

Later in the month, Richards was transferred to MCF-Stillwater.[4] ( Id. ¶ 107.) At MCF-Stillwater, Richards paid out of pocket for gluten-free toothpaste and dental floss from the prison clinic. ( Id. ¶ 108.) The prison clinic at MCF-Stillwater stopped making gluten-free toothpaste and dental floss available to Richards in September 2013, however.[5] ( Id. ¶ 109.) Being deprived of "reliable, uninterrupted access to necessary dental self-care materials" has caused damage to Richards's teeth. ( Id. ¶ 117.)

IV. RICHARDS'S 2014 ELECTION CAMPAIGN

In 2013, Richards considered an additional run for public office. On December 31, 2013, Richards mailed a letter to Mark Ritchie, Secretary of State for the State of Minnesota, and Brad Anderson, Election Administrator to Ritchie, to ask about the requirements for running for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Ritchie and Anderson did not respond, which left Richards:

(A) uncertain of his fundamental constitutional rights to ballot access in the year 2014 (and in subsequent election years) for the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor and (B) in imminent danger of losing the opportunity to exercise his fundamental constitutional rights to political expression and association in the year 2014 by means of an on-ballot candidacy for either of those offices.

( Id. )

Richards continued to inquire about the possibility of a run for office. On January 11, 2014, for example, Richards wrote to Bert Black, Data Practices Compliance Officer to Ritchie, requesting a copy of the constitution of the American Fund - a political party Richards had founded.[6] ( Id. ¶ 41.) Richards included in his letter a check for $1.00, to pay for delivery of an uncertified copy of the constitution. ( Id. ¶¶ 41-42; see also id., Ex. 1 (Richards Letter to Bert Black).) Although Black did not respond, Anderson wrote to Richards and said that the Secretary of State's Office would return the $1.00 to him. ( Id. ¶¶ 41-42.) Richards claims he has never received his $1.00. ( Id. )

On May 20, 2014, Richards mailed a "Notice of Candidacy" to the Secretary of State's Office. (Pl.'s Deprivations & Notice of Candidacy Decl. at 5, May 27, 2014, Docket No. 48.) Richards intended to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in Minnesota's Sixth District, and the notice declared that he met the qualifications for running for that office. ( Id. ) The candidacy notice also included Richards's name, the office he was seeking, his chosen political party, and his legal address. ( Id. )

On May 28, 2014, Richards received a letter from Black, returning his Notice of Candidacy. (Aff. of Bert Black ("Black Aff."), Ex. A, July 14, 2014, Docket No. 67.) The letter explained the requirements of candidacy, including the need to submit an affidavit and either a filing fee or petition. ( Id. ) Black also sent Richards the Secretary of State's Office's "2014 Guide for Candidates." ( Id. at 4-5.) As of the time of Black's Affidavit, the Secretary of State's ...


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