United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Kenneth S. Daywitt, et al., Plaintiffs,
State of Minnesota, et al., Defendants.
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint or in the Alternative Stay the Case, [Docket No. 36]. On February 24, 2015, the Honorable Michael J. Davis, Chief United States District Judge for the District of Minnesota, referred the present motion to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Order of Referral [Docket No. 37]). The Court held a motion hearing on April 16, 2015, and at that time the Court instructed the parties to meet and discuss two outstanding, threshold issues: (1) Plaintiffs' failure to serve a number of individual Defendants, and (2) Defendants' motion to stay the present case in light of Plaintiff Daywitt's concurrent claims in Karsjens, et al. v. Minnesota Department of Human Services, et al., No. 11-cv-3659 (DWF/JJK) (D. Minn.). (Minute Entry [Docket No. 47]). The Court instructed the parties to file a joint letter with the Court clarifying the two issues, and the Court took Defendant's motion under advisement on April 30, 2015, upon receipt of the parties' joint letter, [Docket No. 48].
For reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends GRANTING in part and DENYING in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint or in the Alternative Stay the Case, [Docket No. 36].
Plaintiffs Kenneth S. Daywitt and Merel E. Bishop ("Plaintiffs"), individuals civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), initiated the present case on October 28, 2014. (Compl. [Docket No. 1]). On February 10, 2015, after Defendants filed responsive motions, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint, [Docket No. 25], pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B).
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, generally, have violated and continue to violate Plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and have interfered and continue to interfere with Plaintiffs' religious rights, in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq. (First Amended Compl. [Docket No. 25], ¶ 2). Specifically, Plaintiffs allege one count of violation of the First Amendment against Defendants Jesson, Johnston, Moser, Basaraba, Zimmerman, Benoit, Kulas, Ninneman, Anderson, Monson, Wolfgram, Fahland, Vargason, Kottke, Stecyk, Shelton, and Wagner in their individual capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; one count of violation of the First Amendment against the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, MSOP, and Defendants Jesson, Johnston, Moser, Basaraba, Zimmerman, Benoit, Kulas, and Ninneman in their official capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; one count requesting declaratory and injunctive relief against the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, MSOP, and the individual Defendants in their official capacities; and one count of violation of RLUIPA against the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, MSOP, and the individual Defendants in their individual and official capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc. (Id. at Counts 1-4). Plaintiffs demand money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988, and 2000cc. (Id. ¶ 1).
Plaintiffs practice Orthodox Judaism. (Id. ¶ 10). Plaintiffs allege that their religious beliefs require Plaintiffs to wear a yarmulke at all times and a suit coat "while in public." (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that MSOP Policy 303.020 (Client Hygiene/Dress Code) ("the Policy") violates Plaintiffs' constitutional and religious rights because it prohibits Plaintiffs from complying with these aspects of their religion. The Policy provides, in relevant part, that MSOP clients may not possess or wear any clothing resembling an MSOP staff uniform or any clothing "possibly causing them to be mistaken for any MSOP employee[, ]" including blazers, sport coast, or suits. (Cariveau Aff. [Docket No. 39], Ex. 1). However, as of November 4, 2014, MSOP Policy 303.020 permits Plaintiffs to wear a yarmulke at all times. (Id.; First Amended Compl. [Docket No. 25], ¶ 14).
Plaintiffs allege that the inability to comply with aspects of their religion while civilly committed "substantially interferes with and substantially burdens Plaintiffs' ability to practice their Jewish faith... [and] causes Plaintiffs to experience depressed mood, emotional distress, feelings of inadequacy, diminished self-esteem, and diminished quality and enjoyment of life." (Id. ¶¶ 11, 12). Plaintiffs argue that the restrictions have "no rational or reasonable security basis." (Id. ¶ 19).
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have reprimanded, criticized, and disciplined Plaintiffs for exercising their religious right to wear a yarmulke and/or suit coat. (Id. ¶¶ 21-23). Plaintiffs have received "numerous" Behavioral Expectation Reports as a result of wearing a yarmulke or suit coat in violation of the Policy. (Id. ¶ 23). Plaintiffs generally allege that the seventeen (17) individually identified Defendants are "directly responsible for the violations of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights... [and] are responsible for creating, implementing, and enforcing MSOP policies and procedures related to Plaintiffs' constitutional and/or religious rights[.]" (Id. ¶ 8).
II. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE STAY THE CASE, [DOCKET NO. 36]
Defendants move the Court for an order dismissing Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [Docket No. 36]). In the alternative, Defendants move the Court for an order staying Plaintiffs' claims pending resolution of Karsjens, No. 11-cv-3659 (DWF/JJK). (Id.)
A. Standards of Review
1. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may move to dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges the Court's subject matter jurisdiction and prompts the Court to examine whether it has the authority to decide the claim(s). Uland v. City of Winsted, 570 F.Supp.2d 1114, 1117 (D. Minn. 2008). "A court must dismiss an action over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction." Pomerenke v. Bird, No. 12-cv-1757 (DSD/JJG), 2014 WL 30363, at *1 (D. Minn. Jan. 3, 2014) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3)).
A Rule 12(b)(1) motion may challenge the sufficiency of a pleading on its face or the factual truthfulness of its allegations. See Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993); Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729, n.6 (8th Cir. 1990). In the event the motion challenges the pleading's factual allegations, courts may consider materials outside of the pleadings, and no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the pleading's factual allegations. Osborn, 918 F.2d at 729-30, n.6.
2. Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief May be Granted
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When evaluating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, "[courts] look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Riley v. St. Louis County of Mo., 153 F.3d 627, 629 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing Double D Spotting Serv., Inc. v. Supervalu, Inc., 136 F.3d 554, 556 (8th Cir. 1998)), cert. denied 525 U.S. 1178 (1999). Courts draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Maki v. Allete, Inc., 383 F.3d 740, 742 (8th Cir. 2004).
"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulistic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, " and "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-67). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 664.
Courts undertake the "context-specific task" of determining whether a plaintiff's allegations "nudge" its claims against a defendant "across the line from conceivable to plausible." See id. at 679-81. The plaintiff must "plead[ ] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id .; see also Farnam Street Fin., Inc. v. Pump Media, Inc., No. 09-cv-233 (MJD/FLN), 2009 WL 4672668, at *3 (D. Minn. Dec. 8, 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
3. Staying the Case
A federal district court's power to stay an action pending on its docket is "incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." Skidmore v. ACI Worldwide, Inc., 2008 WL 4186247, at *1 (D. Neb. Sept. 9, 2008) (citing Landis v. North Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936); see Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1109 (9th Cir. 2005) ("A district court has discretionary power to stay proceedings in its own court under Landis."); Capitol Indem. Corp. v. Haverfield, 218 F.3d 872, 874 (8th Cir. 2000)). However, the party requesting a stay must demonstrate hardship or inequity attributable to being forced to move forward if there is "even a fair possibility that the stay for which he prays will work damage to someone else." Lockyer, 398 F.3d at 1109; Jones v. Clinton, 72 F.3d 1354, 1364 (8th Cir. 1996) ("Traditionally, an applicant for a stay has the burden of showing specific hardship or inequity if he or she is required to go forward."). "Accordingly, the court must balance the consequences of imposing a stay on the opposing party against the consequences of proceeding on the movant." Skidmore, 2008 WL 4186247, at *2 (citing Jones, 72 F.3d at 1365).
Federal courts have considered and weighed various factors when determining whether to stay a particular case. TE Connectivity Networks, Inc. v. All Systems Broadband, Inc., No. 13cv-1356 (ADM/FLN), 2013 WL 4487505, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 20, 2013). However, the decision is generally practical and largely discretionary. Id.
B. Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and/or injunctive relief arising from Policy 303.020's no-longer-in-effect yarmulke prohibition are necessarily moot.
As a threshold issue, any and all claims for declaratory and/or injunctive relief arising from the Policy's no-longer-in-effect yarmulke prohibition are necessarily moot. "In general, a pending claim for injunctive relief becomes moot when the challenged conduct ceases and there is no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be repeated." Beaulieu v. Ludeman, 690 F.3d 1017, 1024 (8th Cir. 2012). When an inmate is no longer subject to challenged conditions, claims arising from the conditions are necessarily moot. Smith v. Hundley, 190 F.3d 852, 855 (8th Cir. 1999) (citing Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 402 (1975) (the question for determining whether a request for declaratory relief has become moot is whether the facts alleged show a substantial controversy " of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment ")). "A court properly dismisses a claim as moot if it has lost its character as a present, live controversy of the kind that must exist if [the court is] to avoid advisory opinions on abstract questions of law.'" Beaulieu, 690 F.3d at 1024 (citation omitted) (emphasis added).
A narrow exception to the general rule applies when (1) the challenged condition is too brief in duration to be fully litigated prior to cessation or expiration; and (2) it is reasonably likely that the complaining party will be subject to the same action again. Smith, 190 F.3d at 855.
In the present case, Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint explicitly recognizes that as of November 4, 2014, Policy 303.020 permits MSOP residents, including Plaintiffs, to wear yarmulkes at all times. (First Amended Compl. [Docket No. 25], ¶ 14). The challenged conduct has ceased. Plaintiffs have not demonstrated, much less sufficiently pled, that the narrow exception to the general rule applies in the present case. To the contrary, Plaintiffs' counsel concedes that claims for declaratory and/or injunctive relief arising from Policy 303.020's nolonger-in-effect yarmulke prohibition are necessarily moot and subject to dismissal. (Letter to Magistrate Judge [Docket No. 48], at 1).
In this respect, the Court recommends GRANTING Defendants' motion to dismiss and DISMISSING any and all claims for declaratory and/or injunctive relief arising from the Policy's no-longer-in-effect yarmulke prohibition as moot.
C. Plaintiffs have not served nine (9) of the individual Defendants.
The Court takes this opportunity to address a second threshold issue. Defendants represent, and the present record before the Court indicates, that Plaintiffs have not served Defendants Anderson, Monson, Wolfgram, Fahland, Vargason, Kottke, Stecyk, Shelton, and Wagner. (Defs.' Mem. [Docket No. 38], at n.1). Although the parties have indicated that these Defendants intend to waive service and join in the present motion, Plaintiffs have yet to demonstrate service or waiver of service. (Letter to Magistrate Judge [Docket No. 48], at 1).
Plaintiffs have not formally joined Defendants Anderson, Monson, Wolfgram, Fahland, Vargason, Kottke, Stecyk, Shelton, and Wagner in the present case, and, as a result, these Defendants do not join in the present motion before the Court. The present motion does not and cannot move to dismiss or otherwise address Plaintiffs' claims as alleged against these not-yet-served Defendants. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' claims as alleged against Defendants Anderson, Monson, Wolfgram, Fahland, Vargason, Kottke, Stecyk, Shelton, and Wagner are not subject to the present Order and Report and Recommendation. In fact, due to the present apparent lack of service as of the date of this Order and Report and Recommendation, there is no action the Court could take at this time in regard to these not-yet-served Defendants.
D. Count 1: Violation of the First Amendment as alleged against Defendants Jesson, Johnston, Moser, Basaraba, Zimmerman, Benoit, Kulas, and ...